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This  story  is  quoted  (with  some  minor  editing)  from  an  interview with the late Rear Admiral Armand M. Morgan, who was Head, Submarine Design and Construction in the Bureau of Ships from April 1938 to February 1945.  The incident described here occurred earlier, while he was  in the Production Department at Portsmouth  Navy Yard.   The  Navy was  in  the process  of shifting  from  riveting  to  welding  and  had  directed Portsmouth to build test caissons to see how well  each process would withstand explosive charges.

“These tests brought out many other valuable features, and the test continued. We built a double hull (model) and began putting things into it for testing. …We’d pick up things around the yard on our own initiative and put them in the caisson and … see what happened to them.

“A Lieutenant (Marshall M.) Dana-Heary Dana they called him-came up one day and said ‘I want to put a storage battery cell in there.’ We searched around and couldn’t find a cell but we found a jar, so we filled the jar with water and put it in the caisson, and boom, the jar busted. So this led to great interest. We got the Bureau to send us up a full cell, and that was quite an adventure because money was scarce in those days and one battery cell was an expensive item, and we put a first class battery cell, brand new, in the caisson for the next test and the jar again broke. This is what brought about the laminated jar. Talk about outstanding features of our submarines, you cannot ignore this, because a large percentage of the German submarines were lost because of battery failure, and as far as I know, we didn’t have a one….

“The first jar that we worked up to cure this was a steel jar lined with hard rubber…steel between two pieces of hard rubber-and this hit pretty hard on weight. … Bud (Lieutenant Elmer E.) Yeomans got a brilliant idea of substituting for the membrane of steel a membrane of soft rubber like that used for condoms, and we gave that a try in the caisson and it worked just as well as the steel. The jar might break but nothing would spill. There’d be no shorts. So this battery jar of ours was without doubt the finest in the world and I think was a major factor in the survival of our submarines.”

So now it can be told-the condom helped save our submarines in World War II!


The following Naval Submarine League members are willing T to help submariners who are transitioning from active duty to civilian life.  Please feel free to contact any of them for assistance or advice in making your important career change.

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NOTE: For assistance, corrections, or updates – please calI Dave Cooper, Chairman of the Service Committee, Capitol Chapter Naval Submarine League, 703 648-0122(W) or 703 280-2820(H).

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