"IF you want to fill 'em with air, bomb 'em; if you want to fill 'em with water, torpedo 'em." Such was the succinct appraisal of the torpedo made by a veteran pilot. And the superiority he recognized over bombs could be extended to cover the wide range of projectiles, for no weapon in the war proved half as destructive to enemy capital ships as the "fish." Yet for every complimentary comment, a host of damning ones echoed back from the war zones. United States torpedoes were variously described as running too deep, not exploding, exploding too soon, or not packing enough punch when they did explode.
The indictment unfolded point by point during the first 2 years of war. As each defect was exposed, the morale of the submariners who risked their lives to take the war to the enemy suffered, the enemy was given further respite from the full potential of torpedo warfare, and the Bureau of Ordnance was faced with the task of uncovering and correcting the mistakes of peacetime. Considering the extreme complexity of torpedoes, the job would have been a challenge under almost any circumstances, and the problem was compounded by the Bureau's reluctance to accept the fleet evaluation of its weapons. This reluctance was born not of any petty attempts to cover past errors, but from misplaced confidence in its own past work. And that confidence was occasionally bolstered even when the inadequacies of torpedoes were being exposed, because the evidence that came in from fleet commands was often contradictory.
When torpedoes were finally improved to the point where they became reliable weapons, the reasons underlying their earlier failure were apparent. During the interwar period when time was available for research, the Bureau's approach to the torpedo problem was not properly scientific. Evaluation was almost invariably inadequate and tests were unrealistic. Economy was properly a goal, but improperly applied. Security, a necessary concern of the armed forces, became such a fetich that measures designed to protect a device from enemy eyes actually hid its defects from those who made the regulations. Ironically, some of those defects were
already known to the foreign powers who later became our allies or enemies.
Production planning in the prewar years was also faulty. Torpedoes were designed for meticulous, small-scale manufacture. When military requirements demanded that they be supplied in large numbers, a series of new problems were exposed. There were simply no realistic plans available for providing the weapons in adequate quantity. The old ordnance motto, "The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war," hung dutifully in many an office and shop, but the sweat was apparently as misplaced as the general confidence in the Navy's torpedoes. The ebbing of that confidence became a vital part of torpedo history. Brutal facts and technical details were no more significant than the attitudes of those who interpreted the facts and directed the technical developments.
In 1937, when the international crisis began to deepen in both Europe and Asia, the United States had 3 general torpedo types ready for combat service--1 for submarines, 1 for surface vessels, and 1 for aircraft. All shared certain common characteristics. After being dropped from a plane or ejected from tubes by compressed air or gaseous pressure, steam for their propulsion turbines was generated by forcing a spray of water through an alcohol torch. An excess of combustion air at high pressure augmented the steam supply. Steering was controlled gyroscopically, while a pendulum-hydrostat device, regulated by water pressure, governed depth control. Although their military characteristics differed widely, each type carried roughly a quarter ton charge of explosive which could be detonated by contact or magnetic influence. Obsolescent torpedoes--Marks 7, 9, 11, and 12--were added to the stockpile through conversion and modification in 1941 and 1942, when quantity rather than quality seemed the vital problem, but the burden of torpedo warfare had to be borne by the latest models in stock and production on December 7, 1941--the Marks, 8, 10, 13, 14, and 15.
Surface ships were normally equipped with the Mark 15 type torpedo, a rugged and relatively reliable performer. Based on a designed originally conceived in 1918 for the Mark 11, this $10,000 weapon was characterized by a unique three-speed feature designed to gibe it the greatest possible adaptability to various tactical situations. External speed settings gave a speed-range choice of 28 knots to 15,000 yards, 34 knots to 10,000 yards, or 46 knots to 6000 yards. In addition to the obvious tactical advantages of so flexible a weapon, designers had been influenced by the Bureau's desire to concentrate in one model the military features of torpedoes required
Torpedo Mark 15 was a rugged and relatively reliable performer.
for cruisers, destroyers, and submarines. This goal, while logistically attractive, proved unobtainable; long range, a must for destroyers, required a weight and length prohibitive for submarines and aircraft. Nonetheless, the ideal was most nearly achieved in the Mark 15 type.
Most of the kinks inevitable to torpedoes deprived of actual combat trials had been ironed out of the Mark 15 before the United States entered World War II. Early models were built with a new type, top-bearing turbine mounting, but recurrent lubrication difficulties induced the Bureau to revert to the older, overhung type. This conversion was completed before declaration of the national emergency, so surface vessels had a promising weapon when war finally broke. Even the supply problem--one of the greatest the Bureau faced after wartime expenditures dwarfed peacetime production plans for war--became critical for the Mark 15 less quickly than for the other standard types. Pressure on existing stock was relieved by the tendency to reduce surface ship concentration on torpedo warfare. Also, Mark 8 torpedoes, an earlier low-speed type, were issued to cruisers, "four-piper" destroyers and, later, to destroyer escorts. The increasing emphasis on planes had the same effect, since the demand for more antiaircraft guns reduced the deck space available for torpedo tubes. Thus,at the outset of the war, the Bureau was less concerned about the supply of destroyer
torpedoes than about meeting requirements for aircraft and submarines.
Even before the end of 1942, however, that relatively happy picture had changed. Torpedo tubes were installed on destroyer escorts, and overall expenditures in the first year of war exceeded expectations. Looking ahead, the Bureau anticipated a shortage in the fleet by the following spring. Some relief was achieved by conversion work on Torpedoes Mark 11 and 12, but nothing short of new production schedules gave adequate promise of meeting requirements. The whole problem was further complicated by existing priorities on submarine and aircraft torpedoes, which left scanty facilities for an expansion of the Mark 15 productions schedule. Retooling of plants engaged in other work threatened prohibitive delays which, always costly, were especially undesirable while the war picture was still changing. Meshing the new problem into the overall procurement pattern, the Bureau chose the new Naval Ordnance Plant at Forest Park, Ill., as the principal producer.
Difficulty followed difficulty in rapid succession. Spring brought no new torpedoes. When the first Forest Park Mark 15 was finally proved in the early sumer of 19843, defects were numerous and depth failure consistent. In common with most torpedoes, the Mark 15 had earlier shown a deep running tendency, but now the behaviour was accentuated. Even when the problems resulting from placing a new plant into production on an emergency basis were ironed out, manufacture stayed in low gear.This stemmed largely from previous acceptance of the notion that torpedoes could be built only by craftsmen who knew the proper trade secrets. These secrets, instead of being properly committed to writing on drawings and in specifications, were largely matters of memory or notes in some foreman's little black book at the Newport Station.
Until all production information was drawn together in a usable form, manufacturers were severely handicapped. By fall, 1943, the problem had grown to urgent proportions. Germany still possessed powerful surface units against which convoys needed torpedo carrying escorts as protection, so the Bureau reluctantly made a major shift in its procurement schedules. The experienced Newport Station was switched from work on aircraft torpedoes to production of the Mark 15. By the middle of 1944 this particular crisis was over, partly because of the combined output of the two stations and partly because the gradual disappearance of suitable targets led to further armament changes in the fleet. Torpedo tubes were removed from many destroyer escorts, light
cruisers, and some destroyers. On others, the tube load was reduced. By the end of the year, Mark 15 torpedoes were in excess supply. Within a month, however, the Bureau was aware that quantity had been gained at the expense of quality. Defects common to rapid and inexperienced production of a complex mechanism had been multiplied by shortages of critical materials. Because cadmium was in short supply, the interiors of air flask sections and water compartments of the Forest Park torpedoes were plated with zinc. Almost immediately, zinc oxide deposits began to clog water strainers, causing a flood of complaints to reach the Bureau. Erratic runs and engine failures were frequent.
In an attempt to correct this situation the Bureau of Ordnance sponsored experiments to determine the feasibility of using the "Cronak" process to inhibit the troublesome zinc corrosion. Although the process had been designed for that specific purpose, the experiments on the Mark 15 torpedoes were a failure, probably because the zinc had started to corrode before the inhibitor was applied. An interim treatment using a sodium chlorate solution in the water compartments proved successful as a temporary expedient, but extensive reworking was inevitable. Even though the war was in a critical stage, the Bureau had to recall torpedoes and authorize new facilities to strip the offending zinc and replate the flask and water compartments with cadmium or coat them with baked Heresite, a new phenolic resin product.
Once that was accomplished, destroyers were again in possession of an effective torpedo. Of approximately 11,000 Mark 15 torpedoes procured during the war, in keeping with varying armament requirements and shipbuilding schedules, almost 9000 were still in store when Japan capitulated. Production was necessarily geared to stated requirements, but the surplus vindicated the original Bureau assumption that war tactics would reduce the use of torpedoes by surface vessels. Lacking both concealment and speed, as compared with submarines and planes, these ships could rarely maneuver into a position for effective torpedo firing.
As expected, submarines were the best and most effective customers for torpedoes. During the course of the war, some 5 million tons of enemy shipping were sunk and another 21/2 million tons damaged by the submarines' principal weapon. Although some newer torpedoes were introduced toward the end of the war and some older models converted at the start, United States submarines fought and won their war with 3 torpedoes--the Marks 10, 14, and 18. But if submariners were the best customers, they were by all odds the most critical. Maneuvering for a war shot
placed men and machine in such jeopardy that infallible performance seemed a justifiable demand. When far from infallible performance was achieved, protests flowed in to the Bureau. When performance fell short of even the normal expectations for so complex a weapon,the criticism became a howl of protest with a paradoxical dual effect: Torpedo development was stimulated, yet made increasingly difficult. Once suspicion was engendered, improving a weapon was hardly less difficult than selling the new modification.
Of the three principal torpedo types used by submarines, the Mark 10 was the oldest, the best understood, the least used, and therefore the least criticized. About 30 years old at the start of the war, this torpedo was built for the R and S Class vessels that could not fire the longer Mark 14 type. Doubling as a reserve weapon for PT boats and for new fleet-type submarines, the Mark 10 was a 2215 pound, 21-inch torpedo with steam turbines capable of driving it 3500 yards at 36 knots. The Mark 3 exploder, a simple contact device, was used to detonate the warhead of 497 pounds of TNT or, later, of 485 pounds of Torpex. As a product of the depression, tests on the Mark 10 had been mainly characterized by economy. Within a month after the Pearl Harbor attack, the ultimatum cost of unrealistic torpedo testing became evident. For the Mark 10 the price was a common one--deep running.
Without waiting for basic corrections of the fault, the Bureau of Ordnance informed the fleet in January 1942, that the type would run 4 feet deeper than set. No repercussions resulted. Very few warshots had been made with the Mark 10 before the Bureau instructions arrived in the Pacific, and a predictable error posed no problem to submarines. By the summer of 1943, when supply was no longer the pressing problem it had once been, the Bureau of Ordnance abandoned production of the Mark 10. To take its place a shorter modification of the Mark 14 was built for use on the R and S Class submarines. Increased interchangeability of parts and the abandonment of an unnecessary type--always Ordnance goals--justified the move. Earlier in the war any such added emphasis on the Mark 14 type would have been unpopular with the fleet, for this was the torpedo around which the great debate was centered.
At the outbreak of the war the Mark 14 was the most recent type placed in quantity production. Longer, faster, heavier, and longer ranged than the Mark 10, the Mark 14 approached the multispeed feature of the destroyer torpedo. Submarines could choose between two speed settings: high, 46 knots to 4500 yards, or low,
31.5 knots to 9000 yards. The low speed setting was so seldom used early in the war that a new torpedo, the Mark 23--essentially a Mark 14 with the lower power setting eliminated--was introduced as a substitute.
Good results were expected of the Mark 14. Although never tested in combat before the attack on Pearl Harbor, extensive proving at the Newport range indicated the torpedo's readiness for war. Until the spring of 1945, supply was a problem, but during the first two years it seemed almost insignificant beside the nightmare of improving a faulty weapon. A long succession of complaints poured in from submarine commands: The torpedo ran deep, the detonators were faulty, the arming distance was too great, the magnetic exploder was undependable, the anticountermining device was improperly designed, the firing spring was too weak, and, even when the torpedo exploded properly, it lacked the punch submariners desired. The situation would have been bad if discovery of all of the defects at the outset had required a redesign of the weapon; what was worse, however, was the diabolical way in which each defect concealed another. No sooner was one kink ironed out before another was exposed. Correction had to be gradual and at the expense of the fleet's confidence in the weapon supplied them. The whole situation was aggravated by differing concepts of what the torpedo was and should be.Even while it worked night and day to improve the weapon, even when it acknowledged the defects pointed out by the service, the Bureau of Ordnance felt that the Mark 14 was a good torpedo. Perfection was desired, but not expected. The fleet, on the other hand, felt entitled to an infallible weapon and remained critical of anything less.
The first major defect exposed by service use was the common one of deep running. Several factors contributed to that tendency. Torpedo depth control was governed by a device known as the Uhlan gear. Before its introduction, pendulum control had been paramount; no greater angle of dive or climb than 1° was permitted by the depth mechanism. With the adoption of the Uhlan gear, the hydrostatic element became paramount, making recovery in depth rapid, almost immediate, in marked contrast to the older system that permitted torpedoes to run most of their range before recovering from the initial dive. The new device was admirable, but its good possibilities were at first canceled by an error in its placement in the torpedo. Formerly, the hydrostat which controlled depth had been carried well forward on the torpedo. With the introduction of the new mechanism it was decided to remove
the depth control mechanism aft, nearer the rudders it controlled and in an area where space requirements were less critical. The new mounting was also at a slight angle to the torpedo's axis, and for reasons not suspected, prevented the device from reacting properly to depth. Still another reason for poor depth performance was overloading the head of the torpedo. In answer to demands for additional "punch," the Bureau made successive additions to the warhead, increasing the explosive charge from 507 pounds of TNT to 668 pounds of Torpex. Each change, no matter how small or desirable, altered the running characteristics of the torpedo. The center of gravity shifted and new stresses were placed on the head.
A certain variation of performance among individual torpedoes was expected, and for that reason each torpedo sent to service was accompanied by a detailed log showing the ranging results of that particular weapon.Guided by that information, a torpedo officer could presumably calculate the proper settings. But consistent depth failures did not show up in the logs because the depth and roll recorder, the instrument designed to collect the data, was improperly used. The device recorded depth as a function of pressure, but the configuration of the torpedo at the point of water intake to the instrument exposed it to a pressure differing from that at the true running depth of the torpedo. Both the depth mechanism and the measuring device checked each other, but both were improperly placed. Before the introduction of sonic instruments at the proving range, the actual performance of a recorder in a running torpedo could only be check by firing the weapon through one or more nets. Such tests were occasionally made, but the procedure was arduous, costly and undependable. Nets failed to hang straight down in the least current and the distance from the top of the net to any given strand was not the same in the water as it was when the net was hung in the air or laid out on the ground. Thus, when contradictory evidence was gathered from recorders and net firings, the results of the latter were discounted.
Still another reason for the failure to expose deep running was the disparity between combat and proving conditions. In order to pack the most goods into the smallest package, conventional torpedoes were built with a considerable negative buoyancy. But that characteristic had to be altered for test shots so that the weapons could be quickly and cheaply recovered. Exercise heads, filled with some liquid that could be expelled at the end of a run, were fitted to each torpedo to provide buoyancy. For years the
exercise head closely approximated the warhead which it temporarily replaced, but that condition was altered when the Bureau began increasing the explosive charges. Testing conditions became more and more unrealistic, obscuring the effect of the heavier warhead on depth performance. Occasional shots were made with dud loaded warheads, but they were too infrequent to expose the inadequacy of the exercise heads. Thus, despite extensive proving, depth failures did not appear in the logs upon which torpedo officers depended.
Even during fleet exercises the error in depth could not be detected. To prevent impact damage to the weapon and target ship, practice shots were always set to run under the target. Concern over saving the torpedoes was so great that no one stopped to wonder just how far under the target the torpedoes were running. The Bureau of Ordnance depended on Newport to check actual depth performance, and Newport depended on the misused depth and roll recorder to collect that data. The unreliability of the recording instrument remained hidden for years--consistently erring in exactly the same manner as the control in the torpedoes. No one at Newport guessed that a defect was hidden by the very instrument designed to expose it.
The fleet possessed less blind confidence in the Station's procedures, however, and even though their normal exercises failed to expose the deep running tendency, there were warning exceptions. In 1938, for example, a destroyer command engaging in battle practice off Coronado, Calif., found that half its torpedoes failed to function properly. When many surfaced in 90 feet of water with the exercise heads covered with mud, deep running was obvious. A heated exchange of letters followed, and the Bureau dispatched a torpedo officer to the scene to investigate the failures. Unfortunately for the future, evidence of poor maintenance or rough handling impressed the Bureau representative more than the bottom sand which constituted the destroyer command's exhibit A. The incident failed to shake official faith in the procedures of the Naval Torpedo Station. For three more years the inadequacies of torpedoes were obscured by misplaced faith in faulty procedures and an accurate recording device.
War shots, however, were quick to expose discrepancies between logged characteristics and actual performance. A few perfect setups that produced not hits could be labeled erratic runs or blamed on poor fire control, but repeated offenses aroused grave suspicion. Acting on the complaints of his skippers, the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, ordered net firings made during the summer
of 1942. The tests confirmed the submariners' conviction. When fired from submerged tubes, Torpedoes Mark 14 ran an average of 10 feet deeper than set. Although the Bureau still did not know why the erratic depth performance resulted, it did know of the existence and amount of the error. On August 1, 1942, the services were officially informed of the 10-foot error. Until the Bureau rooted out the causes of the failure, submariners got good depth performance by allowing for the known error when making the setting for each shot.
Although the Bureau of Ordnance and the Newport Station for which it was responsible were slow to recognize, admit, and correct the erratic depth performance of the Mark 14, their feeling that the torpedo was basically good was substantiated. Even before the serious depth difficulties were corrected, it was producing better results than either the English or the Germans got from less criticized weapons. But a good torpedo was small comfort unless its potentialities could be realized, and the improved Mark 14 remained an unreliable weapon. Elimination of the deep running tendency increased the percentage of known hits and exposed the fact that even when it struck the target the torpedo did not necessarily explode.
The villain at this point turned out to be the long secret Magnetic Exploder Mark 6. Its poor performance was obscured as
Torpedo Mark 14 was a source of much grief--for United States submarine skippers and many an enemy crew.
long as torpedoes ran so far under a target that the exploder could not be expected to perform, but by the early fall of 1942 some of its weaknesses began to become apparent. Direct hits were often duds; on perhaps 10 percent of the early war shots premature explosions made hits impossible. Both duds and prematures attracted the attention of the enemy to the attacking submarine and added hazards to its operations. In effect on the morale of submarine crews and the relations between the fleet and the Bureau of Ordnance, these exploder defects proved even more serious than the deep running tendency just eliminated. This was unexpected. The Bureau was reluctant to believe that the secret weapon long regarded as one of our greatest assets should turn out to be a liability. After considering and experimenting with several different types of exploders, the Bureau had regarded the Mark 6 as the ultimate in development.
Early United States torpedoes employed the simple contact exploder developed for the Whitehead models, but shortly before World War I, the Bureau of Ordnance developed a more complex and advanced type operating on the "ball" or inertia principle. During and after the war, successive changes further improved the device. The Mark 3, for instance, employed an arming impeller which projected from the side rather than the nose of the warhead, [permitting the exploder to be placed near the center of a long explosive charge. Increased effectiveness was also assured by the addition of anticircular-run and anticountermining mechanisms.
Meanwhile, however, German developments were leading the Bureau to adopt a new and secret trend in exploder development. Before the end of World War I, the Kaiser's Navy produced magnetic exploders for use in mine warfare. The possibility of adapting the same principle to torpedo exploders seemed to promise a great boost in the potential of torpedoes. With detonation produced by magnetic influence rather than by impact, a hit would not even be required. For all practical purposes, the size of the target ship was magnified. Better still, torpedoes could be exploded under the bottom of ships where no armor protected the vulnerable hull. While the point was always disputed, prevailing opinion in the Bureau considered such an explosion desirable than a direct hit against the side of an enemy vessel.
So attractive was the goal that in the immediate postwar years the Bureau experimented with a variety of ways to produce an influence explosion. Sound controlled torpedoes, a water kite above a deep running torpedo, and the creation around a torpedo
of an electric-magnetic field that would be disturbed by the entrance of a metallic body such as a ship were all tried, then abandoned. But the idea of using magnetic influence opened a new field and on June 30, 1922, the Bureau of Ordnance instituted at the Newport Station the "G-53 Project5" that eventually produced the Mark 6 exploder. The project seemed especially timely since the same y;ear witnessed the adoption by most nations of new antitorpedo structural protection for their first line fighting vessels. More than ever, underbottom explosions seemed desirable, and the G-53 Project was allowed to suffer less from budget restrictions than the testing and development of other weapons in the arsenal of underwater ordnance.
With the help of the General Electric Co., which produced the generator and developed thyratron electronic tubes for the project, Newport had the Mark 6 ready for testing by 1926. Although the idea of employing magnetism was first crystallized by Germany, the United States' exploder represented a new line of development. The swinging of a compass needle when approached by the magnetic mass of a ship activated the German device; our mechanism utilized the variations in the intensity and direction of the earth's magnetic field adjacent to the hull of a vessel to actuate the mechanical pistol that set off the explosive charge. On May 8, 1926, 4 years of work were crowned by success. A submarine hulk was towed to sea, then sunk by the first shot of a torpedo equipped with the new magnetic influence exploder.
The occasion was memorable: It marked the greatest stride yet taken in exploder development; on the debit side, it prematurely closed realistic experimentation with the new mechanism. Never again during the 19 years of prewar exploder development was a destructive test made with a torpedo equipped with a magnetic influence exploder. How ironic that success should have been its own deterrent! Testing continued, of course, and a conscientious effort was made to duplicate service conditions, but several factors fell short of realism. Most of the tests were conducted in the same magnetic latitude, and no amount of effort could exactly duplicate the variables--age, storage conditions, handling, and targets--later encountered by the fleet. Even more important, neither laboratory nor range tests indicated the kind of performance the service would require.
Meanwhile, the fleet for which the weapon was designed did not even know of its existence. The Bureau reasoned that if secrecy were not maintained the effectiveness of the weapon might
be destroyed through enemy countermeasures and new hull designs. In this case extreme caution was ill-advised. England, Germany, and Italy all had magnetic exploders of their own before the outbreak of World War II; Japan lacked one only because she considered them impracticable and, though evidence is inconclusive, possibly knew enough about the Mark 6 to overdegauss her ships as a countermeasure. While foreign nations were developing their own varieties of influence exploders, the Bureau of Ordnance produced the Mark 5, a dummy for the Mark 6. Identical to the latter except for the secret feature, the Mark 5 was issued with each torpedo that would later receive the influence exploder. As an added precaution to guard secrecy, even the men working on the mechanism were allowed only the vaguest idea about their project. A selected group from the research section at Newport did all of the assembling and testing in rigidly maintained seclusion.
Their testing was inadequate. Evidence of that fact came in 1939, when Newport reported to the Bureau that the exploder was giving unexplained prematures. Admiral Furlong arranged for a physicist to visit the station and investigate the failures. For approximately a week, the scientist and his assistants worked with the device. Four sources of prematures were uncovered. Even more significant, the investigator reported to the Bureau that the responsible engineers at Newport were not employing proper tests on the Mark 6. Corrective steps were ordered by the Chief, but subsequent events proved that the remedial action, like the original tests, was inadequate. Exaggerated security measures obscured a multitude of sins.
Less than a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the policy of extreme secrecy was relaxed. Realizing that scientific ideas are an international currency, Admiral Blandy, Chief of the Bureau, decided that familiarity with the weapon within the fleet would be more valuable than hopeful refrigeration of the idea within the Bureau. During the summer of 1941 he ideas were implemented by the inauguration of a training program at Newport for selected officers, and by a limited issue of the exploder to the fleet. The classification remained secret, but the circle of the initiated grew more rapidly. Unfortunately, the move came too late to permit service testing and criticism of the exploder, and its classification remained high for so long that the men who actually used and maintained the device were barely familiar with it. The speed with which the fleet relayed its reaction to the Bureau once war made the weapon familiar is an indication of the benefits that might have been gained by an earlier introduction of the exploder. Moreover,
the procedure of firing under a target during practice--inadequate as it was for exposing depth failures--would have afforded a large volume of tests for the Mark 6.
Even the deep running tendencies of the Marks 14 and 15 torpedoes were aggravated by the exploder. Early in 1942 the Bureau of Ordnance suggested that torpedoes equipped with the magnetic exploder be set to run ten feet beneath the enemy's keel. WHen added to the 10-foot error inherent in the torpedoes themselves, that meant a miss of such wide proportions that even an influence exploder could not always produce an explosion. Even when it did, an explosion so far from the hull was seldom effective. On the other hand, the errors could cancel themselves out to the disaster of the enemy. Many shots planned for impact against the side of a ship missed because of deep running, yet damaged the enemy due to the influence feature of the Mark 6. For other exploder-induced errors there was no such compensation, however, and two new types of failure--prematures and duds--were added to the problems that plagued submariners. Nor was that all. In addition to charges of functional failure, the Mark 6 was criticized for an inadequate physical design that permitted flooding of the exploder cavity in action-ready torpedoes and for a complexity that required excessive "babying" and long hours of testing and overhaul.
Behind the failure of the Mark 6 exploder to live up to Bureau expectations were some of the same factors that caused torpedoes to fall short of the efficiency the laboratory tests predicted for them. Undue secrecy and unrealistic testing were hardly more culpable than the extreme complexity that defied perfection. TNT being hard to detonate, even a simple exploder required mechanisms that could set off the required detonation wave. In the Mark 6 a series of three explosions were induced: First, the firing pin struck the primer cap, which set off a detonator in the base of the booster charge; then the explosion of the booster climaxed the detonation wave by setting off the torpedo warhead. Unlike other exploders, the Mark 6 contained the special feature that could initiate an explosion by sensitivity to the magnetic influence of an enemy vessel.
When the torpedo was ejected, its rush through the water spun a small turbine which, in turn, operated a gear train that pushed the detonator into the booster cavity. The 450 yards required for that operation afforded security for the firing submarine and gave the torpedo time to find its course and settle down on a normal run. During the same period, vacuum tubes within the 91
pounds of exploder mechanism warmed up and readied the influence features for operation. As soon as the torpedo entered the magnetic field created by the enemy hull, the electromotive force generated in the exploder's induction coils began to change. That change, amplified by vacuum tubes, was harnessed to release the firing pin which initiated the detonation wave at the proper theoretical moment for optimum results. Where contact rather than magnetism was to induce the explosion, impact dislodged an inertia element which released the firing pin. An anticountermining device, later proved defective and removed, added to the general complexity that led Vice Admiral Lockwood to call the exploder a "Rube Goldberg" device with 5 or 6 things that might go wrong.
Aside from the discovery in the early months of the war that the anticountermining mechanism might prevent the proper functioning of the exploder, the first indication that the Mark 6 was responsible for erratic torpedo behavior came in August 1942, when correction of deep running exposed the tendency of premature explosions. There were two reasons for the disclosure then: while torpedoes were running far under the target, the defect remained hidden; when the error was corrected so that torpedoes were set for shallower depths, one result was that the weapons entered the enemy ship's magnetic field some distance from its hull. Unless perfectly adjusted, the exploder might act promptly, causing a premature by as much as 50 feet. The exact extent of the failure was impossible to determine. Observed through a periscope, a premature explosion might well appear to be a hit, yet submariners were convinced that some 10 percent of the torpedoes they fired were prematures. The Bureau, analyzing combat reports as they were received, concluded that prematures did not exceed 2 percent of the total shots fired. Whatever the truth, ill feeling was the result. In the fleet, a distrust of their torpedoes spread; in the Bureau, remedial actions were taken.
In attempting to pin down the source of the failures, the Bureau first concluded that prematures were usually due to faulty brush adjustment on the generator and to warping of generator brush discs. Before the end of 1942, Newport was instructed to redesign the exploder, using batteries instead of a generator as the source of power. Meanwhile, experiments convinced the Bureau that the relatively short arming distance increased the tendency to premature, and it suggested to the forces afloat that the effectiveness of the Mark 6 could be increased if the arming distance was raised from 450 to 700 yards. In the Pacific, the principal arena
of torpedo warfare, the suggestion was not considered acceptable. Admirals King and Lockwood, voicing an opinion already prevalent among submariners under their commands, concurred in a recommendation that the Exploder Mark 6 be replaced by a simple, reliable exploder. Further suggestions by the Bureau, such as new instructions on depth settings for optimum results and information on the variations in performance to be expected in different magnetic latitudes, did not materially alter the situation. By July 1943, inactivation of the influence feature became a popular procedure for dealing with the Exploder Mark 6. On July 24, the practice was officially sanctioned when Admiral Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, ordered his submarine and destroyer commands to inactivate the magnetic device on all torpedoes.
Only South West Pacific submarines continued using the feature. The submarine commander there, Rear Admiral Christie, an experienced torpedo design officer, was the chief advocate of the Mark 65 in the Pacific. His defense and continued use of the weapon stemmed from no feeling of satisfaction with the mechanism, but from fear that if his command joined those to the north in inactivation, the magnetic exploder, with all its potentialities, might become a dead issue for the war. Until improvements were made, the Admiral trusted in careful use and maintenance of the device to produce satisfactory results. By the spring of 1944, however, his submarines were instructed to follow the lead of those based at Pearl Harbor in abandoning the use of the magnetic feature. The Southern Hemisphere was hardly suitable for the magnetic exploder; premature appeared too common to justify continued use of the influence feature.
In the face of a widespread refusal to use the weapon that the Bureau had considered one of its greatest assets, efforts to improve and restore confidence in the exploder were redoubled. Admiral Blandy had already indicated the direction of such efforts with a biting directive on torpedo policy. Addressing the Newport Torpedo Station some months earlier, the Chief of the Bureau wrote:
Even with the relatively meager funds available in time of peace, much of the work now being done after more than a year and a half of war, could and should have been accomplished years ago. . . . That the work was not accomplished during peace or earlier during this war, or, so far as the Bureau's records disclose, that no one either in the Bureau or at Newport apparently questioned the inadequacy of the design without such tests, shows a lack of practical appreciation of the problems involved which is
incompatible, with the Bureau's high standards, and reflects discredit upon both the Bureau of Ordnance and the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport. The Chief of the Bureau therefore directs that as a matter of permanent policy, no service torpedo device ever be adopted as standard until it has been tested under conditions simulating as nearly as possible those which will be encountered in battle.
Admitting the failure of the Mark 6, as such, the Bureau retained faith in the principles upon which it was based. Even when no Pacific forces were using the influence feature of the exploder, the Bureau and Newport proceeded to produce successive modifications, so that a reliable weapon would be ready if a change of heart were experienced in the fleet. To supplement the efforts of the TOrpedo Station, Admiral Blandy arranged developmental contracts with four additional research activities. By the end of the war, two new influence exploders were considered ready for fleet trial.
Meanwhile, the Bureau argued the case for influence exploders before the fleet, pointing out that it could produce hits where incorrect settings would normally result in misses. In order to give the forces afloat a more realistic picture of what could be expected of the exploder, the Bureau distributed a new formula to guide its use,based on magnetic latitude, target course, degaussing conditions, target bean and draft, and the depth setting of the torpedo. All was to no avail. Modifications of the Mark 6, available by the fall of 1943, were regarded with suspicion afloat. Between the late summer of 1943 and the spring of 1944, the exploder was not receiving a fair trial in the Pacific; in the northern latitudes for which it was designed, the device was not used. After April 1944, it received no service tests at all. Although the Bureau soon corrected faulty design in the electrical feature of the exploder and continued to send improved stock to the fleet, the chances of getting the weapon reaccepted grew dimmer. By the late summer of 1943, complaints about duds joined those concerning prematures; when inactivation stopped prematures altogether, the full extent of outright duds was exposed. In many respects the ensuing problems were more damaging to morale and relations between the fleet and the Bureau than either the deep running or premature failures.
Almost from the beginning of the wr complaints about duds had been interspersed with other torpedo criticism. Inactivation of the anticountermining device improved the situation somewhat, but after the influence feature of the Mark 6 was inactivated and the contact mechanism subjected to more severe use, the presence
of additional kinks became obvious. The origin of the problem lay back in the prewar years when inadequate testing hid the fact that exploder design was not keeping pace with changes in torpedo characteristics. In early type exploders the firing pin moved along the axis of the warhead, which meant that reliability was in direct ratio to the force of impact. In the Mark 6, however, design changes altered the relation between torpedo speed and exploder performance; the firing pin, actuated by a spring, moved vertically, or at right angles to the normal axis of the torpedo. The result was that a severe impact often produced sufficient friction against the leading edge of the pin to prevent its striking the cap quickly enough or with enough force to produce detonation. In other cases, the shock so deformed or displaced the guides that movement of the firing pin was restricted. Newport had not been blind to the problems posed by the new design. In the late 1930's the Station conducted tests of the device, then strengthened the spring to help overcome the increased friction. The expedient worked, but subsequent increases in torpedo speeds soon negated the improvement--a result that remained hidden until wartime use compensated for the inadequate peacetime testing.
Complaints form the fleet concerning duds were difficult to evaluate. Throughout the controversy over the adequacy of United States torpedoes and exploders, performance remained statistically good. In mid-1943, for instance, a report from ComSubPac showed only nine failures of contact exploders out of more than 1800 torpedoes fired by the submarines operating out of Pearl Harbor. During the same period, over 600 hits were reported. Neither the British, Germans, nor Japanese could boast of such an achievement. Of course the United States couldn't either, since the official reports did not jibe with the truth, but the report was made to, not by, the Bureau of Ordnance. Moreover, variations within our own forces suggested that human failures were being tabulated in the mechanical ledger. Some submarine skippers reported better than 60 percent hits, while others using the same equipment in the same theater registered hits for less than 10 percent of the shots fired. A further investigation of combat reports showed that 40 percent of all submarine attacks were made at periscope depth between the hours of 1900 and 0600, when conditions were not favorable for the precise estimation of enemy course and speed or of the results of shots fired.
Backed almost continually by favorable statistics, the Bureau's confidence in its weapons was slow to follow the downward curve of fleet estimation. Unfortunately, both torpedo performance and
the Bureau's attitude were exaggerated over coffee cups in Pacific wardrooms; among some submarine captains the feeling was soon prevalent that the Bureau definition of a dud was "a skipper's alibi to explain his miss." The attitude was the normal result of severe working conditions, but it was only partly justified by facts. Before the end of 1942, the Bureau recommended use of a stronger spring to actuate the firing pin for contact settings on the Mark 6 exploder, but was too involved with deep running, prematures,and production problems to recognize the full import of reported duds.
The gravity of the dud problem was demonstrated--even exaggerated--by an event of July 24, 1943, the very day that the controversy over prematures was climaxed by the official inactivation of the magnetic exploder for Pearl Harbor based ships. The submarine Tinosa, operating on patrol, sighted a giant Japanese oiler. Two initial spreads crippled and made s sitting duck of one of the largest tankers afloat. In all, 15 torpedoes were fired at the oiler; 12 known hits were claimed,yet the dream target drifted on. Only the first 2 spreads produced explosions. Saving 1 torpedo for investigation, the captain took the Tinosa back to Pearl Harbor. Within a month, still another story was added to the lore of Bureau critics. The submarine Haddock, after damaging a 10,500 ton tanker with 2 hits, fired 11 more torpedoes in 3 further attacks on the same ship without getting another explosion. The combined effect of the 2 stories added renewed emphasis to the search for an improved mechanism.
When an examination of the Tinosa's remaining torpedo proved it to be in good condition, Admiral Lockwood started a series of tests at the Pearl Harbor base that ran concurrently with the Bureau's own investigation. In Chesapeake Bay the Bureau fired torpedoes directly at armor plates suspended in the water and found that a direct impact produced more friction that the firing pin could overcome. At Pearl Harbor the submariners made the same discovery by firing into a cliff and by dropping inert-loaded torpedo warheads on steel plates from a height of 900 feet. While both series of tests gave the same results, the solutions attempted took different directions. Pending the development of a new exploder, the Bureau favored its former expedient of strengthening the firing spring; at Pearl Harbor, the submariners got similar results by lightening the firing pin. Since the submariners were justly proud of their solution of the problem, the Bureau of Ordnance endorsed the lighter pin, combined it with a stronger spring, and ended the series of misunderstandings about the Mark 6 exploder and the Mark 14 torpedo that carried the deficient mechanism.
Exploder development continued,however, and before the war ended 10 modifications of the Mark 6 were completed, a new magnetic exploder, the Mark 10, was available as a replacement, and a variety of influence exploders were in advanced developmental stages.
By January 1944, torpedo performance was almost uniformly good and the most controversial chapter in the history of United States wartime torpedo development ended. A lesser argument dating form the very outbreak of the war ran on,however, as an undercurrent to the interminable problem of supplying the fleet with exactly the weapons they required. Submariners suspected that even when they got hot, straight, and normal runs from their torpedoes, the weapon lacked sufficient punch. Their suspicions were stimulated by reports that both Russia and Japan used torpedoes that carried well over half a ton of explosives more powerful than the TNT with which the United States entered the war.
On the opposite side of the controversy were a few Ordnance theorists who considered the weight and content of warheads almost irrelevant to considerations of effectiveness. At the basis of their argument was the belief that although laboratory tests of different charges might show great variations, there was very little difference in their force when used underwater. That conservative theory was bolstered by a group of damage studies made by the Bureaus of Ships and Ordnance. Joint investigations in 1940 showed that 500 pounds of TNT were enough to break down two transverse bulkheads on an enemy capital ship, and that to destroy a third bulkhead would require more TNT than could be carried by a torpedo. The quarter ton charge common to United States torpedoes appeared vindicated.
Between tests that discouraged weight changes and a theory that discounted force variations among explosives, a reluctance to tamper with existing warheads was bred in certain quarters of the Bureau. Allied arguments came from officers who believed that it made almost no difference where a ship was struck and that, so long as it sank, the time factor could be disregarded. The state of mind was dangerous and it was hard dying. As late as June 1942, Admiral Blandy pondered a General Board hearing to relegate the ideas to the scrap heap. Fortunately, the theories were not so popular that the Bureau had to take drastic action. While the truth sifted through,more realistic planners were working on the problem of developing more powerful warheads without too great a sacrifice of horsepower minutes.
Prior to Pearl Harbor the proponents of larger warheads thought that lengthening the nose would have but slight effect on the characteristics of torpedoes. Overall dimensions could be but slightly altered, however, and the major problem was to compensate for the critical space additional TNT would require. Experiments centered around a shortening of the air flask compartments, but the results were not good. both range and speed were reduced too much to justify the slight addition to the weapon's punch. Other efforts were directed toward the development of a composite torpedo, using the Mark 10 as a power plant but building it up to Mark 14 dimensions by the addition of an 8-foot warhead carrying 1600 pounds of explosives. Work continued on the project throughout the first year of war, but the weapon was never presented for service use.
Two successful expedients were found: limited additions to warhead dimensions, and the development of a new, more powerful explosive. By means of size increases, as much as 300 pounds of TNT were added to existing warheads. A related change was made by concentrating the explosive charge so that more power was obtained per cubic inch. The improvements in force proved expensive by contributing to the failure of general torpedo performance to live up to expectations, but once the kinks were removed the fleet was in possession of a more powerful weapon. Even more significant was the adoption of Torpex as a partial replacement for TNT. First used in the fall of 1942, the new explosive had half again the destructive effect of the conventional charge. Although more brittle than TNT and less immune to detonation from bullet or fragment penetration, Torpex proved safe enough for uses in both submarine and aircraft torpedoes. Thus, fleet demands for added punch were successfully met within the first year of war. Occasional charges that United States warheads were frequently subject to "low order" explosions drifted in to the Bureau throughout the war, but extensive high priority testing by the Bureau failed to lend credence to the criticism.
One beneficial result of the controversy that raged around the torpedoes with which the United States entered the war was the stimulus it gave to the development of other types. While the Bureau and Newport labored to improve the Mark 14, efforts to provide at least a partial replacement were redoubled. Most attention was given to production of an electric type, partly because it contained certain inherent advantages for submarine use and partly because it promised to pose fewer production problems than the more conventional steam torpedoes. The project was by no
means new to the Bureau of Ordnance; as early as July 1915, work had been initiated on the development of an electric torpedo.
Prior to the outbreak of World War II, work on the project was intermittent. The original specifications called for a torpedo capable of traveling 3800 yards at 25 knots and stabilized by the gyroscopic effect of the propelling engine. The Sperry Gyroscope Co. of Brooklyn, N.Y., worked on such a model throughout most of World War I, but in February 1918, just 4 months before the delivery date of a test torpedo, the contract was terminated. No satisfactory financial agreement could be worked out and the Bureau objected to proposals that amounted to underwriting any experiments the company considered necessary.
The obstacle proved to be the first of a long series that beset the project after it was returned to Navy hands. For a short while work was continued at the New London experimental station, but the postwar shrinking of facilities soon led the Bureau to move the embryonic torpedo and its personnel to the Newport Station. The site seemed well chosen, since a special board at Newport had already written tentative specifications for an electric torpedo. Once the entire project was centered in one location, the work enjoyed a short spurt. By the fall of 1919, Newport was ready to finish two torpedoes for experimental work. This progress was to no avail, however,because all attempts to produce a satisfactory battery failed. Before the obstacles could be overcome, both enthusiasm and funds were exhausted. For over 3 years, construction was limited to the pace of one machinist who worked on the electric torpedo only when he could be spared form routine duties.
Early in 1923 the popularity of electric torpedoes took an upward turn when intelligence reports showed that the Germans had made great strides with the weapon during the recent war. Foreign experience showed impressive advantages--no bubble or smoke trail, stability, economy, reduced overhaul--over steam torpedoes. Submariners were especially impressed by the wakeless feature and the Bureau was interested in the possibility of cheap mass production of an item that usually required expensive hand work. Profiting form German developments, Newport made new test runs with the models they had completed in 1919.
Performance fell below Bureau specifications and German results. A good deal of the trouble stemmed from the incorrect winding of an armature, but the basic problem was still the lack of a battery powerful enough to give adequate speed and range. When a better battery solved those problems in 1924, the more
powerful torpedo proved too erratic to meet minimum standards for accuracy. Shop tests were invariably good, but proving runs belied the promise.
For 5 years a succession of changes was effected. New propellers, a gyroscopic control device, solenoid steering motors,new rudder throws, and an improved battery were added, and in the spring of 1928 the new torpedo, designated Mark 1, was ready for range testing. The results were tragic. The torpedo that represented 13 years of development was lost on the range. For 2 years the weapon defied every attempt to find it; when it was finally brought to the surface in 1930, the recovery was reported to the Bureau as "accidental." Work was resumed again, but results remained meager. Attention was shifted to an attempt to adapt electric propulsion to the Torpedo Mark 9, but again the project floundered on the battery problem. The Bureau, impatient of perennial delays, threatened to move the project unless Newport made more progress, but the basic obstacles were electrical, not geographical. Recognizing that fact, the Bureau concurred in a Newport recommendation and closed the project in 1931. The first phase of electric torpedo development ended with the Mark 1 nothing more than an empty title. Not for a decade was interest revived.
During the 10 years that the development of an electric torpedo lay dormant in the United States, the international outlook deteriorated. Finally, the outbreak of war in Europe required new and extensive work by the Bureau of Ordnance. One of the major problems was to plan for an adequate number of torpedoes. Looking abroad, the Bureau saw that once again Germany was obtaining good results with an electric model that could be turned out by assembly line methods. While experts held a low opinion of the military characteristics of such a weapon, production considerations alone offered ample justification for picking up the project that had been abandoned in 1931. The Bureau would have preferred that the entire project be handled by the General Electric Co., but that corporation was too busy with other contracts to accept responsibility. A compromise solution was found, whereby Newport was assigned the development of control mechanisms, General Electric was contracted for the propulsion motors, and the Electric Storage Battery Co. (EXIDE) was given the job of producing a satisfactory battery for the projected Mark 2 electrical torpedo. By the fall of 1941 the preliminary negotiations were completed and a formal project order was submitted for ten experimental torpedoes. Half were to be of the Mark 10 type with 90 horsepower, and half of the mark 14 types with either 90
or 120 horsepower. In each case, specifications called for a 21-inch torpedo capable of carrying 500 pounds of TNT over a range of 3500 yards at speeds between 33 and 35 knots.
As the popularity of the Mark 14 declined, Bureau enthusiasm for the Mark 2 rose. Early in 1942 the project was aided by the recovery of a German electric model which was shipped to Newport for study. Anxious to speed development, the Bureau instructed the torpedo station to abandon new and untried designs in favor of a copy of the German weapon if earlier production could be gained by the switch. A good deal was copied from the foreign discovery, but the project continued to stumble over the obstacles already familiar to the veterans of the 1920's. Divided responsibility did not help and the three interested plants were unable to coordinate their schedules. As the prospects for solving the torpedo crisis with a new electric model appeared to grow slim again, the Bureau decided on an entirely different course. Leaving Newport with responsibility for continuing the development of the Mark 2, the development and production of an electric torpedo was turned over to the Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Co. on March 10, 1942. Designated Mark 18, the weapon was to be copied from the German model[;] gyro, depth mechanism, and exploder, however, were to be the same as those in standard U.S. steam torpedoes. Newport was instructed to lend all requested aid to the firm before returning to work on the Mark 2.
By June 1942, Newport had finished machining pieces for the 10 Mark 2 experimental models ordered by the Bureau, but the motors were not available until fall. By the following summer the Mark 18 was ready for service use, so pressure to produce the Mark 2 was reduced. An order for 50 experimental models was placed because of interest shown by the British Admiralty, but the Bureau regarded the project largely as a means to work for the ultimate electric torpedo by incorporating the best features of the Mark 18 and subsequent electric torpedoes into the experimental Mark 2. The latter became a higher speed model with both controls and propulsion motors powered electrically. By the end of the war the Mark 2, redesignated the Mark 20, was ready for production. Powered by a 180-horsepower motor, the all electric model was considered capable of 40 knots to 8000 yards, with a potential payload as high as 1000 pounds. Only the success of the Mark 18 and the promise of other developments permitted the Bureau to keep the Mark 20 in an experimental status.
Of the several electric torpedoes considered by the Bureau, the Mark 18 alone was subjected to extensive service use. While it did
not equal the power and performance demanded of steam torpedoes, it possessed production advantages that made it popular with the Bureau. Almost immediately after the Bureau of Ordnance turned the project over to Westinghouse in March 1942, the firm made significant progress. Aided by access to Newport experience and a study of the captured German electric torpedo, the company was able to deliver test models within 4 months. The first results were not entirely encouraging, largely because torpedo construction required closer tolerances than commercial companies were accustomed to, but one by one the kinds were ironed out. One of the principal bottlenecks proved to be in testing. Observers usually watched torpedo performance form an airplane flying over the range, but the wakeless feature of the Mark 18 precluded that possibility. Night ranging of torpedoes equipped with headlights was attempted, but difficulties in recovering the weapons made the expedient unsatisfactory. On into the fall of 1942, work was retarded until sonic gear that could expose the ranging characteristics of the torpedo was perfected.
Another major problem was the usual bugaboo for electrical development--the lack of an adequate battery. A satisfactory model was found for interim use, however, and the Mark 18 was able to meet Bureau specifications by the spring of 1943. Since delays were inevitable anyhow, the Bureau decided to use the extra time to advantage by shifting the emphasis in the program from one of quick production to one of greater military desirability. The result was a torpedo capable of running 4000 yards at 29 knots. While a relatively low powered model, the weapon met the common tactical requirements for submarine use.
In the middle of May 1943, the first of the Mark 18's were issued to the fleet for service use. Even though the Mark 14 was suspect at the time, submariners were slow to accept the new weapon. Until new guide studs were placed in the tubes, the Mark 18 3was susceptible to damage because of the quick starting characteristics of its motor; even after the alteration was made, the Bureau suggested that the new torpedo should only be used in port bow tubes. Since the use of two different weapons with different speeds and ranges on the same submarine would impose severe tactical limitations or fire control problems, the recommendation was not considered acceptable. Until the Bureau could solve the launching problem, most submariners preferred to use the unpopular but familiar Mark 14. Moreover, battery maintenance posed a real problem with the Mark 18, especially since explosive hydrogen tended to form within the compartment. After extensive experimentation
with various catalysts, the Bureau endorsed the use of coils in the top of the battery compartment to burn off the excess hydrogen. Each day the coils were lighted, air was blown in to support combustion, and the dangerous gas burned off. The expedient worked, but submariners were suspicious of the procedure. On at least one occasion, enough heat was generated to make the Torpex warhead melt and run. Until a better battery reduced the maintenance problem in the fall of 1943, the use of the Mark 18 by submarines was left on a voluntary basis.
By the spring of 1944 the first version of the Mark 18 was in large-scale production. While a few problems, such as deep running and a tendency to explode at the end of a run, still remained to be solved,most fleet criticisms had been answered. The popularity of the weapon climbed. Although steam torpedoes were still used more than electrics during 1944, the tide turned by the end of the year. During the last 6 months of the war at least 65 percent of all torpedoes fired by submarines were of the Mark 18 type.
Before the first Mark 18 was issued for service use, still another electric torpedo was in the developmental stage at Westinghouse. The firm had ideas of its own about how an electric torpedo should be built, and on the basis of its experience with the Mark 18 and its German prototype, proposed a model of its own to the Bureau in late 1942. All electric controls and other departures form the Mark 18 specifications were planned for the new weapon. Impressed by the promise of a faster, cheaper torpedo that would require few firing adjustments and little maintenance, the Bureau requested experimental models for a Mark 19, built along the lines of the Westinghouse proposals. Although the Chief of Naval Operations and the Bureau both objected to the company's stipulation that the gyro be prespun before firing, the feature was accepted ad interim and a procurement order for 500 of the weapons was placed in mid-1943. Before many were produced, however, the performance of the Mark 18 improved to the point that the MNark 19 did not look sufficiently superior to warrant a switch in emphasis. Construction was held in abeyance pending a final decision; in the late spring of 1944 the Mark 19 joined the Mark 20 in the ranks of torpedoes designated as strictly developmental.
Meanwhile, a fourth electric torpedo had been conceived and developed to the point where test models could be built. This was the Mark 26, a fast, long-range torpedo designed to answer fleet requests for a speedy and powerful weapon. Equipped with a sea water primary battery that eliminated both the danger and care common to secondary types, the Mark 26 came very close to
meeting the standards proposed by the Bureau for its "ultimate" electric torpedo. A month before the end of the war a group of the new weapons were delivered to Newport for testing,but V-J Day and the promising status of Navol torpedoes kept the Mark 26 out of production.
In the design of torpedoes a major goal has always been to get the most possible horsepower-minutes from the least possible pounds of engine and fuel. The chief drawback of the electric torpedo was that batteries could not be produced which were capable of more than about one-third the horsepower-minutes produced by a conventional steam torpedo of the same size and explosive capacity. All countries with pretensions to naval preeminence attempted to beat the energy output of the steam torpedoes. Efforts have been along two general lines: to utilize chemical reactions not ordinarily thought of as combustion, or to retain conventional fuels, but supply the oxygen necessary for combustion in a more highly concentrated form than air, which is four-fifths inert nitrogen. The Navol cycle developed for United States torpedoes is properly classified in the second category, but its proposal in this country sprang from a research project intended to develop a torpedo propulsion cycle of the first type. Since the same project was continuous, the Navol is commonly referred to as a chemical torpedo.
The weapon which on the eve of victory seemed to offer more promise than the Mark 26 had a history paralleling in time that of the electric type. At Navy request, the Westinghouse Co. began experiments in 1915 to utilize the gas evolving processes of certain exothermic reactions for torpedo propulsion. Some early success was obtained, but budget variations made a permanent relationship with the private corporation impractical. After obtaining the Westinghouse patents on chemical torpedoes, the Bureau of Ordnance transferred the project to the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. After a few years of experimentation with exothermic reactions, the original idea was abandoned in favor of an oxygen torpedo. Tank tests on early models proved successful, but a multitude of problems were exposed when the first torpedo was ranged at Newport late in 1931. The motor burned out and both the depth and steering mechanisms overheated and jammed. Leaving the mechanical work for further development at the Torpedo Station, the Laboratory then renewed work on the broad problem of propulsion. Despite an initial failure, the oxygen torpedo still promised three times as many horsepower-minutes as the steam type, plus greater flexibility in range and speed.
Two alternatives were open to researchers. Oxygen in excess of that carried by natural air could be supplied in a pure form, or in some relatively unstable compound that could be made to decompose and surrender oxygen at a controlled rate. England and Japan used the first system with success,but after a series of discouraging experiments the Laboratory decided that a hydrogen peroxide solution had the greatest promise for torpedo propulsion. In that decision the Laboratory unknowingly concurred with German scientists who, before the end of the war, powered both torpedoes and submarines with propulsion cycles utilizing the oxygen in hydrogen peroxide. Use of the solution offered two advantages that compensated for its greater weight: Not being under high pressure, containers for the liquid could be lighter than those required for pure oxygen; the reaction by which the solution surrender oxygen was exothermic in itself. The water resulting from the decomposition of the peroxide posed no problem; it was no more than would have to be introduced into the cycle anyway to keep engine temperatures at a working level. The particular aqueous solution chosen by the Bureau was labeled "Navol."
Three years were spent in preparing a suitable power plant; then, in September 1937, tank and range tests were conducted with a converted Mark 10 type torpedo. Use of the Navol plant increased the range of the weapon 275 percent. Success gave impetus to the work, and similar tests were later made with a converted Mark 14 submarine torpedo. Carrying a stainless steel Navol tank, the weapon ran 16,500 yards at a speed of 46 knots. Encouraged by the prospects of obtaining a new high powered torpedo, the Bureau directed a close cooperation between Newport and the Laboratory and authorized the manufacture of 50 Navol propelled torpedoes. Specifications for the weapon, designated Mark 17, called for a 50 knot destroyer torpedo capable of carrying a 600 pound warhead for 16,000 yards.
While it stimulated general torpedo development, the attack on Pearl Harbor retarded work on the Navol torpedo. Although six experimental chemical models had been completed, Newport was too busy with construction of existing models to start construction work on the Navol torpedo before the spring of 1943. Sometime before work was actively resumed, the Bureau widened the project to include construction of a submarine torpedo, Mark 16, equipped with the same power plant as the destroyer type but built to the size of the Mark 14. Original specifications called for a range of 7000 yards at 46 knots, but after 59 units were produced the
range requirements was raised to 11,000 yards. Even though developmental work was not completed, both torpedo types were placed under production; by the end of the war the Newport Station had completed almost 1000 Navol torpedoes. A few of the torpedoes were shipped to Pearl Harbor in September 1945. With a heavy explosive load, long range, and high speed, these torpedoes were considered a promising answer to fleet requests for an improved weapon. Hopes proved unduly optimistic, but the potential of the weapon guaranteed continuing efforts to exploit the new propulsion cycle.
While submarines proved to be the most effective users of torpedoes airplanes were close behind both in the quantity of the weapons expended an in effectiveness with them. Supplying planes with a reliable torpedo proved more of a problem than servicing submarines, both because the novelty of air use precluded long experience with the problem and because unique difficulties were inherent in aircraft torpedoes. The normal restrictions on torpedo design, such as the necessity for small weight and size coupled with the highest power commensurate with reliability, were intensified for aircraft torpedoes. Superimposed upon normal requirements were the need for withstanding the extreme shocks of high-altitude, high-speed drops, the need to comply with principles of aero- as well as hydrodynamics, and the problem of devising control gear that could take effect despite the forces of cavitation and deceleration which regulated torpedo performance as the weapon changed from an airborne missle to an automatic submarine. Even though specifications for explosive weight and desired speed and range necessarily froze many aspects of design, the rapid evolution of aircraft construction demanded a flexibility not required of torpedoes for surface or underwater use. Weight, a prim consideration for its own sake, also had to be considered in terms of displacement and trim, first for air, then for water.
Solution of the varied problems started at least as early as World War I, when the Bureau of Ordnance became interested in the potentialities of air warfare. Starting in 195, experiments were conducted with launchings from aircraft and intelligence was gathered concerning all foreign developments in the field. For a short time the Bureau worked with a system whereby torpedoes were lowered from planes on a cable, then released at a predetermined altitude. Results were discouraging, however, and future experiments were with free flight releases. Between 1920 and 1923 a series of drops were made with modified Mark 7 submarine torpedoes. While perhaps as good as the torpedo planes which carried
it, the weapon had two distinct disadvantages for aircraft use: Built for use in submerged tubes, it lacked the structural strength to withstand the shock of high altitude release; its dimensions, 18 inches by 17 feet, gave it a shape that was hard to stabilize in flight. Even after modification increased the strength of the weapon, 25 feet appeared the absolute limit for release altitudes. The addition of a nose drogue to improve flight characteristics had such an adverse effect on ruggedness, that the benefits of the early structural changes were almost negated.
For a short time in the early 1920's development of a better weapon was stymied by a dispute over cognizance. The Bureau was not much impressed with the feasibility of using aircraft torpedoes against ships because of the tactical restrictions imposed by the low release altitudes, though it felt that radio-controlled condemned planes might use the weapon effectively. A joint Army-Navy Board finally convened to decide the issue, and in 1925 the Bureau was instructed to proceed with development. Although the Mark 7 was not without some promise of adaptability, the Bureau decided to institute a new project for a redesigned weapon. Specifications called for a 1-ton torpedo capable of carrying a 350 pound warhead 4000 yards at 35 knots. Dimensions were established at 21 inches by 18 feet, and the weapon was to be rugged enough to withstand a launching speed of 140 miles per hour at an altitude of 40 feet.
Almost immediately the Bureau found itself pushed in two different directions by the Bureau of Aeronautics and Newport. While aviators were enthusiastic about a new weapon, designed with the special requirements of aircraft in mind, the Torpedo Station opposed the new design. In the interest of standardization and decreased production problems, Newport favored routing further progress through additional modifications of the existing Mark 7 type. Success in making successful drops from 65 feet at 120 knots after eliminating the drogue by the use of balanced rudders placed Newport in a strong arguing position, and the Bureau stored its new specifications on the shelf for the time being.Bureau of Aeronautics desires were not so easily set aside, however, and late in 1929 a General Board finally ended the tug of war by recommending the development of a new torpedo for aircraft. Tentative specifications were even more demanding than those in the Bureau's recently shelved plans. The explosive charge was raised to 400 pounds while the overall weight was reduced to 1700 pounds. Although fatter by 2 inches, the new torpedo was not to exceed 13 feet 6 inches in length. Once the General Board decided the issue,
Newport dropped its opposition to the project and proceeded to build a model that approximated the Board's wishes. Work was speeded by adapting a new afterbody to the power plant and many of the parts of the existing Mark 10; by August 1930, the new type, designated Mark13 by the Bureau, was well under way.
Subsequent development of the Mark 13 was retarded by a lag in the completion of the torpedo planes for which it was designed, by the Bureau of Aeronautics pressure for a 1000 pound weapon with great tactical flexibility, and by the inevitable process of weeding out successive defects. After war started again in Europe, however, uncertainty about the value of torpedoes as an aircraft weapon vanished and considerable strides were made to ready the unproved weapon for possible use. Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Mark 13 was issued to the service in a form that closely resembled the original specifications. While the General Board weight recommendations could not be met, the range of the torpedo was increased to 5000 yards at 33.5 knots and the weapon could be dropped at least 60 feet by a plane flying at 115 knots.
Although the Mark 13 was available when the Pearl Harbor attack came, it was not used effectively or extensively until almost 3 years later. The relatively low speeds and altitudes required for successful release were not destined to win popularity for the weapon. The operations at Midway emphasized the dangers involved and airmen complained bitterly of "the handicaps of obsolete tactical training, obsolete torpedo planes, and obsolete equipment." The last item in their indictment was a continual concern to the Bureau of Ordnance; although the basic similarity between the Mark 13 Mod 1 and the Mark 10 showed that the charge was overdrawn, the torpedo was not adequate for modern warfare until a series of alterations were effected.
Like hte Mark 14, the aircraft type went through a cycle of troubles. During the early months of use, left deflection was a persistent problem and demanded a change of the rudder throws. No sooner was that corrected than chronic depth failures were detected, the propellers were shown to be too weak to stand the shock of high speed launching, and the exploder mechanism required modification to keep it from arming in the air. Even when the apparent defects were eliminated by modification, the torpedoes remained unpopular with the men who had to use them. Underlying the problem faced by the Bureau was the fact that many failures which were attributed to poor design of torpedo components were really due to failure to control aerodynamically the angle of torpedo entry into the water.Until that was accomplished,
delicate controls could not be made rugged enough to withstand the strain of water entry and other defects could be neither corrected nor detected. Changes in the tail surfaces, rudders, and head shapes failed to cope with that basic problem, and more drastic expedients were attempted. One method by which air stability was sought was to bolt plywood extensions to the horizontal vanes of the torpedoes. While that improved air stabilization in some cases, different extensions had to be used for different planes and each had its own speed and altitude limitations. Other vagaries further reduced their effectiveness; if the extensions were not dislodged soon enough, they ruined the water run of the torpedo; if they were dropped too soon, air stabilization was lost before water entry. In the spring of 1942 the best available solution seemed to be biplane extension stabilizers bolted to the torpedo vanes, but that was considered an expedient and not a solution to the continuing problem.
Despite the complications that were attending the other phases of torpedo development, the Bureau of Ordnance considered the aircraft torpedo problem so important that it was assigned the highest priority at the Newport Station. The improvements and modifications of 1942 and 1943 still left the weapon unpopular, however, and production problems were as great as those stemming from incomplete development. In mid-1943 an analysis of 105 torpedoes dropped at speeds in excess of 150 knots showed clearly why aviators distrusted the Mark 13: 36 percent ran cold, 20 percent sank, 20 percent had poor deflection performance, 18 percent gave unsatisfactory depth performance, 2 percent ran on the surface, and only 31 percent gave a satisfactory run. The total in excess of 100 percent proved that many torpedoes were subject to more than one of the defects, just as the bulk of the problems were still due to the effects of poor air stabilization on water behavior. Better performance at reduced aircraft speeds was small comfort since aviators could not be held down by paper restrictions that imposed serious and dangerous handicaps in combat. And even when they accepted the limitations, the water entry behavior of the torpedo produced frequent hooking and broaching. Time promised to complicate the problem still further. Unsatisfactory for existing planes, the torpedo would certainly fail to utilize the potentialities of aircraft then under development.
Confronted with such a problem, the Bureau felt that it had two alternatives: it could accept the Mark 13 as an interim weapon with recognized tactical limitations and initiate the design of a new torpedo, or it could concentrate on eliminating the known
defects in the existing weapon. To attempt both might spread effort too thin to assure success in either venture. The first alternative involved predictable delay, since the Bureau estimated that 2 years would be required to move a weapon from conception to production. On the other hand, 12 known defects seemed to preclude immediate success in converting the Mark 13 into an effective aircraft torpedo. Neither alternative was considered alone, so the Bureau decided to increase its resources and follow both at once. The National Defense Research Committee was appealed to for aid, and in late 1942 it accepted a double-barreled order from the Bureau. The Committee was given a blank check to produce a new aircraft torpedo, the Mark 25, for tactical use at 350 knots launching speed, and it agreed to aid the Bureau in making immediate improvements to the Mark 13.
New planes outdated Torpedo Mark 13, but drag rings and stabilizers renewed its usefulness.
Throughout 1943 torpedo performance remained poor,but the following year witnessed a revolution in the behavior of the Mark 13. Minor changes to the propeller blades and a reduction in gyro damage helped, but the greatest improvement resulted from the stabilizing effects of two appendages--the drag ring and the shroud ring.
The first assembly, known familiarly as the pickle barrel, was readied for use by 1944. Early experiments with parachutes attached to aircraft torpedoes had demonstrated that a drag had a beneficial effect on the airflight characteristics of the weapon. While parachutes did not appear the solution to the problem, discovery of the principle involved led to the development of the drag ring. Constructed of plywood, the ring was attached to the head of a torpedo and served as a stabilizer for the period that the weapon was airborne. Oscillations were reduced and the ring effected a 40 percent deceleration in air speed, then acted as a shock absorber when the torpedo struck water. Better water entry, a byproduct of air stabilization, reduced damage so substantially that pilots were able to increase the heights and speeds at which torpedoes were released.
The drag ring went a long way toward making the Mark 13 a reliable torpedo, but underwater performance still called for improvement. By midsummer 1944, however, the shroud ring developed by the California Institute of Technology completed the torpedo revolution that had seemed so remote the year before. Almost an exact duplicate of an assembly developed by Newport in 1871, the shroud ring was made to fit over the tail blades of the torpedo. Known to pilots as the ring tail, it produced a steady water run by reducing hooks and broaches and eliminating much of the water roll which characterized the Mark 13. Speed and range were reduced but slightly. Early tests showed that ring-tailed torpedoes took too deep an initial dive, but readjustments of controls soon remedied that last obstacle. Hot, straight, and normal runs approached 100 percent, and the once critical battle reports soon became enthusiastic in praise of the Mark 13. Even psychologically, the appendages contributed to success,since the external design of the torpedo equipped with a pickle barrel and ring tail and the improved appearance of its underwater travel caught the fancy of the airmen.
To speed the availability of the modified torpedo the Bureau built tail assemblies with the shroud ring attached, then sent them to the fleet as substitutes for the equipment on hand. By the fall of 1944 the revamped weapon had a wide distribution. As a
result of the new improvements, torpedo drops at altitudes up to 800 feet and at speeds up to 300 knots were authorized. Experience soon indicated that these limits could be extended even further. On one occasion in early 1945, 6 Mark 13 torpedoes were released from altitudes between 5000 and 7000 feet; 5 out of the 6 were observed to run hit, straight, and normal. Combat use increased rapidly and the new effectiveness seemed out of all proportion to the changes made. On one air strike on April 7, 1945. Mark 13's sent to the bottom the 45,000 ton battleship Yamato, a light cruiser, and several destroyers. Months before the end of the war the Mark 13 was universally accepted as the best aircraft torpedo owned by any nation.
Meanwhile, both the Bureau and the National Defense Research Committee were pushing projects to develop new and superior weapons for aircraft use. Before the end of the war the Mark 25 was going through extensive tests, and concurrent developments in chemical, electric, and jet propulsion promised succeeding revolutions in torpedo warfare.
The early failure of old weapons and the later promise of new ones naturally focused attention on torpedo development, but production problems were scarcely less challenging. The weapon seemed especially ill-suited to the mass production techniques demanded by wartime expenditures. During World War I torpedoes were produced by the Naval Torpedo Stations at Newport and Alexandria, and by the E.W. Bliss Co. which had figured so prominently in the early story of torpedo development in the United States. With the end of the war the Bureau contracts with the private firm were terminated, though all Navy facilities were kept in operation to supply the ships that were under construction at the time of the armistice. After the Washington Naval Conference of 1922 reduced the number of capital ships for the main navies of the world, a further reduction in torpedo production capacity was feasible. Newport was chosen as the sole site for both production and development, and the Alexandria Station was inactivated. Between 1923 and the early days of the national emergency, Newport remained the only source for torpedoes.
For a full decade, budget restrictions and lack of interest in naval power kept both development and production in low gear, but 1933 brought significant changes. The Vinson Shipbuilding Program inaugurated in that year called for an increased output of torpedoes to fill the tubes on new ships as they were sent to the fleet, and required an expansion of both personnel and facilities at the Newport Station. During the next 5 years, approximately
$750,000 was spent for new construction and over $500,000 was allocated for new machine tools. Total annual expenditure at the Station rose to $7,450,928 in 1936,then to $9,305,536 in 1837. Translated into actual items, the expenditures represented a production increase to 21/2 torpedoes each working day.In spite of that production, demand ran ahead of supply and by January 1938, Newport had a backlog of orders which totaled over $29,000,000. Even those estimates which anticipated no outbreak of war in the meantime indicated that existing production rates would find Newport 2425 torpedoes short by July 1, 1942. An immediate need for new facilities was obvious.
A preliminary study of possible new production sources narrowed the range of Bureau choice to three locations--Newport, Alexandria, or San Diego. Despite pressure from a variety of New England sources, the Bureau considered a further expansion of the Newport Station inadvisable. From a military point of view a concentration at one point seemed unwise unless it could be accompanied by expensive defensive installations. Moreover, a 50 percent increase in Newport's output would require $4,500,000 and 11/2 years to achieve. San Diego, too, was ruled out. While there were advantages to be derived from the establishment of a plant on the west coast, the estimated 3 years required to start production in a new location was too great a delay in view of the critical status of the torpedo program. The Bureau decided that the most expeditious as well as the most economical way to attack the problem was to reopen the station at Alexandria. Buildings value at $1,745,000 were already in existence and an excellent proving ground was available at nearby Piney Point. Also, the military defense provided for the Capital would afford a high degree of security for the neighboring station.
No sooner was the plan announced than the full weight of New England opposition was felt. Both political and labor leaders demanded an expansion of the Newport Station. Letters whose common inspiration was reflected in repetition of misstatements and fallacious reasoning poured into both Congress and the Bureau; opposition was so strong that there was real doubt that an appropriation could be secured for the reopening of the Alexandria Station. Fortunately for torpedo production, it was found unnecessary to get special authority for the project. Since Alexandria had been designated a part of the Naval Gun Factory in 1923, funds for its rehabilitation were simply included in the Gun Factory budget for 1939. Additional capacity was provided by an expansion of the Naval Torpedo Station at Keyport. Never used for production
since its establishment in 1914,that station nevertheless roved its value by the manufacture of spare parts, conversion of older torpedoes, and the ranging of weapons produced elsewhere. Although torpedo production was still low--3 a day--when the national emergency was proclaimed in September 1939, an investment of almost $7,000,000 assured early improvement.
No expansion of commercial facilities for the production of complete torpedoes accompanied these first moves, but the heavy forging capacities of Bethlehem, Midvale, Crucible, and American Locomotive were soon expanded to meet increasing demands for air flasks and bulkheads. More industrial progress was made in July 1941, when the Bureau adopted the welded flask developed by the A.O. Smith Co. This production technique saved countless man and machines hours, released critical forging facilities for other essential programs, and conserved huge quantities of valuable high alloy steel. Prior to this innovation, which was unique to American torpedo manufacture, the air flask was made by one of two expensive techniques. It could be fabricated from a solid billet of steel weighing in excess of 13,000 pounds, drilled, forged on a mandrel, rough turned to 4 inches wall thickness, then machined to final dimensions; or a disc of similar weight could be cupped and drawn into a long cylinder,then machined to final dimensions. The latter represented a marked improvement over the more tedious method, but both were costly operations. The new welding process required by 5400 pounds of metal, was cheaper, and speeded the availability of this vital equipment.
Despite significant advances in delivery rates, pressure continued to build up in the torpedo program. Shipbuilding schedules were repeatedly accelerated and small torpedo craft were built faster than the weapons they were designed to carry. To meet the demands of the program the Bureau decided to adopt a new policy and consider the torpedo a production item rather than a tool-room job. The new attitude made available to the Bureau the facilities of firms whose normal peacetime business was in mass production. The first contract for the private production of torpedoes was made with the American Can Co. the construct and operate, as an agent for the Navy, a large torpedo plant at Forest Park, Ill. Requirements by this time were up to approximately 50 torpedoes per day, so while private reinforcements were on their way the 2 torpedo stations were ordered to increase their output. For Newport and Alexandria this meant installing additional machinery and recruiting personnel to man 3 full shifts on a 7-day-a-week basis. Thus strengthened, the 2 stations could between them account for about 23 torpedoes a day.
Following the declaration of war, torpedo requirements were again revised sharply upwards. Added impetus was given to torpedo production because we were at war with Japan, a strong maritime power against whom we had for a time only two weapons--aircraft bombs and torpedoes. With few aircraft carriers available early in the conflict, submarines and their torpedoes were destined to carry the burden of the war against the Empire. Moreover, the British increased their requirements and additional appeals were received from the Dutch and the United States Army Air Force. Even greater reliance had to be placed on private enterprise to meet the new demands, and contracts followed one another in rapid succession. The American Can Co. agreed to turn over a St. Louis plant which they were in the process of building in addition to the Illinois plant already covered by Bureau contract. Both NOP's were operated by the Amertorp Corp., a subsidiary of American Can. In February 1942, the Pontiac Motor and the International harvester Cos. were asked to manufacture the British aerial torpedo for which large requisitions had been placed.
A few months later these plans were changed and contracts were placed with these two companies for the manufacture of the Mark 13 aircraft torpedo. In May 1942, Westinghouse was given a letter of intent for the production of electric torpedoes. Meanwhile, the two manufacturers with contracts for the British torpedo, E.W. Bliss Co. and the Precision Manufacturing Co., were asked to accelerate their programs. No other sources for complete torpedoes
were added during the course of the war. Increased demands were met by expanding facilities at the existing plants and by an extensive subcontracting program. At one period Newport was supplied by over 750 subcontractors and Alexandria was receiving parts from over 550 suppliers. One of the NOP's received machined parts and forgings from 350 subcontractors.
As necessary as the rapid expansion into the commercial field was for the success of the vital torpedo program, it introduced a whole new series of problems for Bureau solution. Centralized control was essential to assure that specifications were met by contractors new to the field of ordnance work, but this was difficult to achieve when over a hundred firms might be involved in the production of a particular item. Moreover, the ever-changing war picture required a constant review of existing contracts so that new needs could be anticipated and met. To solve the problems attendant upon a sprawling industry,the Bureau of Ordnance established the Central Torpedo Office in May 1942. Located at Newport and directed by the commanding officer of the Torpedo Station, the CTO was created to handle all matters pertaining to production, inspection, material, supply, shipment, training, and overhaul and maintenance procedures concerning torpedoes released for service use. Within the office were two principal sections--one for liaison, to act as an information center for all the manufacturing activities, the other a procurement section through which purchasing could be centralized when shortages or priority problems threatened to disrupt a contractor's delivery schedule. Manufacturers could turn to the new office for information or help on any of a wide range of problems.
Although the Central Torpedo Office was created to serve both the commercial firms and the Bureau, a series of misunderstandings almost negated its early usefulness.Manufacturers detected a certain confusion between the policies enunciated by the CTO and the specific terms of their individual contracts; ordnance establishments suspected that Newport considered the new creation a personal convenience rather than an office for general service. The agency created to keep the Bureau in close touch with a sprawling industry threatened to have the opposite effect. Early in 1944 the Bureau made some progress in clarifying the situation by a statement of policy, from which the following is quoted:
The Central Torpedo Office, under the direction of the commanding officer, Newport, is to be the agent of the Bureau of Ordnance and channel policies of the Bureau to all activities.
Central Torpedo Office will carry out in detail Bureau directives and insure that the program and schedule as set up by the Bureau is met. This does not prevent officers in the field from going directly to the Bureau; it does not prevent officers in plants from going directly to the Bureau and asking for a change, or objecting to a decision made by Central Torpedo Office. No one in Central Torpedo Office will take any action whatsoever to prevent this direct contact with the Bureau. Bureau directives, will, however, be channeled through Central Torpedo Office in order to coordinate the whole program and to prevent conflict in the field.
Once the function of the office and its relationship to the Bureau were more clearly established, misunderstanding and bad feeling diminished. Throughout the last year and a half of war the adverse effects of decentralized production were counteracted by a coordinated control.
In the period from January 1, 1939,to June 1, 1946, the Bureau of Ordnance produced and ranged 57,653 torpedoes for United States forces. The cost of the program,including expansion of facilities, was close to $700,000,000. Of this impressive total of torpedoes procured, Newport produced 18,751; Alexandria, 9920; Westinghouse, 8250; Forest Park, 8391; St. Louis, 6257; Keyport, 795, and Pontiac and International Harvester, 5289.
torpedo tubes, like the weapon for which they were designed, posed a tremendous production problem for the Bureau of Ordnance. Until shortly before the outbreak of war, the Naval Gun Factory was able to supply the Navy's needs, but as the shipbuilding program mushroomed, the capacity of the plant was outstripped. If ships were not to be delayed for lack of ordnance material, outside sources had to be tapped. Fortunately, tubes were much easier to procure through private contractors than torpedoes, which required a mechanical duplication of hand worked precision. In all, 7 prime and several times as many subcontractors joined 2 ordnance plants in producing tubes in mountings that ran from single to quintuple. The usual problems accompanying wartime production beset the program, but except for small torpedo craft, ships were not withheld from action for lack of the vital equipment. PT boats represented a special problem. Built faster than the torpedoes they were designed to carry, the small craft threatened to deplete the critical supply of 21-inch torpedoes. A solution was found by substituting a side launching rack for the single-tu8be mount originally built for the vessels. With the new rack, PT boats could fire either 21- or 221/2-inch torpedoes. For a short while manufacturing difficulties at the
A.C.F. Brill Co. and the need to redesign the racks for bridge firing posed a bottleneck in PT schedules, but the new equipment proved itself in combat.
Throughout World War II, circumstances tended to emphasize the gloomier aspects of the torpedo story. Quantity and quality were both admittedly inadequate, and those were deficiencies which could not be corrected quickly enough to avoid the creation of an atmosphere compounded of controversy and recriminations. The overall problem was accentuated by the fact that the Navy's first offensive torpedo warfare had to be waged against a great maritime power. During the course of the first year and a half of war, however, almost every one of the plaguing defects was eliminated, so that efficient torpedoes contributed heavily to the eventual defeat of that enemy. For the most part, they were the same torpedoes with which the United States entered the war,though the later modifications were far more efficient and reliable weapons than those carried to sea in the first months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Very naturally, attention was attracted primarily to those Bureau efforts which produced a happy ending to a hectic story. But a concentration on specific achievements to the exclusion of developments that could not be measured in terms of service weapons slighted an important sphere of Bureau activity. As a part of the campaign to improve or replace existing torpedoes, the Bureau sponsored a variety of research programs which, after contributing to the solution of immediate problems, pointed the way to further developments in underwater ordnance. Some were on the verge of realization when victory removed the need for haste; others merely indicated the direction that subsequent torpedo development would take. The future looked bright.
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