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1 February 1996

Mr. Pelick’s interesting article on FIDO (THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, January 1996, pp. 66-70) does an important service in bringing this intriguing and important weapon to the attention of the wide circle of SUBMARINE REVIEW readers. Other publications indicate that several organizations in addition to the Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory were heavily involved in various aspects of the development of FIDO. In The History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System: National Service in War and Peace. 1925-1975 Murray Hill: BTL, 1978, p. 188, it says “A first meeting of the Navy, NRDC, General Electric Company, Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory, and Bell Laboratories was held at Harvard on December 19, 1941. A second meeting was held at Bell Labs on December 24 (1941) to outline the general requirements … “. And later on the same page “The General Electric Company took responsibility for the design of the propulsion and steering motors; the Navy’s David Taylor Model Basin was authorized to give any assistance it could; and both Harvard and Bell Labs were asked to attack the overall problem with independent lines of approach but on a cooperative and information-sharing basis.” Also on p. 188, ” … in view of the urgency, Bell Labs was authorized in a letter of May 15, 1942, … , to start a development program aimed at production”. My conclusion, based primarily on the Bell System history, Mark Gardner’s paper Mine Mk 24: World War II Acoustic Torpedo, GE Review Undersea Thunder: Torpedoes with Brains and Vol. 22, Acoustic Torpedoes. of the NDRC Division 6 Summary Technical Report, is that:

Bell Labs was what we would today call the systems engineer for FIDO and also developed the control system that was used in the production model, the structure for FIDO and various smaller items. Western Electric (the Bell Labs parent organization) produced FIDO with major support as indicated in the following material. GE developed the propulsion and servo motors and apparently produced the complete afterbody. GE may also have developed components for the hydrostatic depth control.

The very important propeller was designed very quickly by David Taylor Model Basin. The storage batteries were developed and produced by Electric Storage Battery Company under sub-contracts first to Bell Labs and later to Western Electric. The Harvard laboratory (BUSL) was involved in FIDO self noise measurement and performance testing. They also developed a passive homing system using magnetostrictive transducers in the nose of the torpedo that was otherwise quite similar to the Bell Labs system. This system was apparently used in an early small batch, 40-SO, of FIDO’s produced under the aegis of BUSL. (Their most important contributions were in active homing.) The Columbia University Underwater Sound Laboratory provided assistance with development testing at New London. Other subcontractors were also involved in the manufacture of relatively conventional components.

FIDO was a fantastic weapon, which sank its first victim in May 1943 just 17 months after the earliest possible start date for the project, on December 10, 1941. Collaboration among all parties appears to have been outstanding and there are many interesting anecdotes about the project and the personalities involved.

FIDO’s operational success was even more impressive than a casual look at the figures cited by Mr. Pelick indicates. Of the 68 submarines sunk by FIDO five have been identified as Japanese. The remaining 63 were all, to the best of my knowledge, U-boats. FIDO was not useful in attacking submarines in the presence of surface vessels; their propeller noise was distracting. Thus the evaluation of FIDO should look at sinkings by FIDO as a percentage of the 221 sinkings by aircraft alone, ie., without the assistance of surface vessels (other than CVs or CVEs serving as platforms for the aircraft), from May 1943 when the weapon was first used through VE Day. FIDO thus sank an astonishing 28 percent of the U-boats sunk by aircraft alone during the period it was operational in the Atlantic. FIDO was, in fact, so effective that the order for 10,000 was, as indicated by Mr. Pelick, cut back to 4000, perhaps not a success in the eyes of the accountants. The Mk 24 torpedo went thought several Mods and remained in service until it was replaced by the Mk 34, a larger improved Mk 24, around 1948.


11 February 1996
The article FIDO-The first U.S. Homing Torpedo in the January 1996 issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW was incorrect when it stated that the FIDO’s mission upon entering the water “was to enter a preset passive circle search and home in on the submarine propeller noise … ”

Rather, when dropped into the water from an aircraft the FIDO dived to a predetermined depth and began an acoustic search for the submarine without a particular pre-set pattern. (‘The torpedo’s effective detection range was approximately 1,500 yards.) Only if no propeller sounds were detected would the torpedo initiate a circular search, which it could maintain for 10 to 15 minutes.

Most FIDO runs were much shorter; on one occasion, in an attack against the U-1107, a FIDO entered the water only 80 yards from the submarine but ran for three minutes before striking the undersea craft. Apparently the FIDO bad not initially detected the submarine and had gone into a circular search pattern before finding its target. These watery meanderings led to FIDO being called Wandering Annie by many Allied pilots.

The FIDO did have a very high success rate for an anti-submarine weapon. Allied aircraft using depth charges against U-boats achieved a 9 .5 percent kill rate compared to 22 percent for FIDO torpedoes. However, FIDOs sank only 68 U-boats-less than ten percent of the U-boats lost in the war, certainly not a major factor in the ASW war.

Also of possible interest, the FIDO was officially designated a mine, not a torpedo, in an attempt to disguise the weapon’s true configuration. Apparently the German U-boat command did not learn of the existence of the FIDO until after the war.

Yours sincerely,
Norman Polmar


When I opened the January issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW and read the title of General Downing’s article Thinking Outside the Box it reminded me of the visual training aid to help a person remember to think outside the box. You are welcome to use it if you believe your readers would find it of interest.

Draw four straight lines connecting all nine dots in the following sketch without lifting your pencil from the paper.

Best Wishes,
William A. Whitman, Captain, USN(Ret.)
9815 21st Ave. N. W.
Seattle, WA 98117-2420
(206) 728-8278


February 12, 1996

Your January 1996 publication arrived about two weeks ago. Page 104 of that issue discusses submarine writing and bibliography. I am very interested in learning what The Submarine Registry and Bibliography by Thomas 0. Paine is. It is entirely unknown to me, despite years of collecting of submarine books.

To save the trouble of writing you all, I checked Boolcs in Print for the last few years, in vain. Nor is that title on the OCLC system at my local library, or in any of their indexes to periodical literature. From this I conclude that Mr. Paine’s product is not a boot at all {and thus should not be underlined if not published). Is it some sort of unpublished compilation to which you all have access? Is it a forthcoming book? What can you tell me about it? I very much want a copy of it if it really is a systematic listing of published submarine literature. Perhaps an earlier number of your journal addressed this subject, but as a relatively new member I have not seen all the back issues.

With Thanks,
Robert E.L. Krick


To address the last part of your request for information first, The Submarine Re&istcy and Biblio&raphy by Thomas 0. Paine was reviewed in this magazine for the January 1994 issue by Commander John Alden. To clear up some of the difficulty in locating the book, however, it has to be noted that the 1992 edition was published privately by Thomas Paine Associates of Santa Monica, California, therefore it is held by very few libraries and is not listed in many standard references.

It is really an amazing compendium of submarine literature comprised of an annotated bibliography covering some six thousand books and articles-plus-a registry of eight thousand submarines of fifty countries, and, it is all cross-indexed. The book is large sized and has 828 pages. The first part is the Registry, which in itself is an excellent reference resource. For each nation all submarines built for that navy are listed, with an index citing every reference in the bibliography to each submarine. Section Two is an annotated Author Index, and the third part lists the same references but alphabetically by Title rather than by Author.

Dr. Paine died in May of 1992 just after the book was published and both the rights to The Submarine Re!tlstry and Bibliography and Dr. Paine’s personal library of over three thousand submarine books have passed to the Thomas 0. Paine Foundation. Final arrangements currently are being made to transfer the books to the Nimitz Library at the Naval Academy as a special collection. Several copies of the 1992 publication will be included.

Considering all that bas been published in the past few years, and all the information which has become available since 1992, the Foundation intends to update the data base and the Naval Institute has agreed to publish the revised issue in a CD-ROM version.


The League’s Executive Committee directed that a special task: force be established to investigate the subject of future League direction from which to make recommendations to the Board of Directors. This task force (for Future League Direction) is to function as the League’s Planning Committee but with more urgency and no permanence. The Chairman is to be Captain John Shilling, the League’s Membership Chairman.


To examine all aspects of the Naval Submarine League to determine if its existing goals, mission, structure, and procedures are relevant and supportive of the needs of the present League and the future Submarine Force.


The NSL bas been an effective and vocal organization over the past years in supporting the needs of our Submarine Force. Our membership, 3900 members in 11 chapters, has leveled off over the past three years. The ratio of non-active duty to active duty members is 3.5 to 1.

Since the NSL was founded in 1984 there have been major changes in submarine roles and missions that have resulted in the Submarine Force experiencing today, something which those of us who served as few as five years ago never experienced-a rapidly shrinking force. Competition for dollars has strained the Navy’s efforts to develop new technologies and ships that will ensure the continued supremacy of the United States Submarine Force. Every year the Submarine Force faces a “do or die” budget battle within and without the Navy. Now, more than ever before, there is a need to increase public awareness of the incredible capability of our submarines and the people who man them in order to generate the support that translates to continued investment in the Submarine Force.

The NSL must continue to critically support the direction chosen by the Submarine Force leadership in its efforts to evolve the health and well-being of the Submarine Force. Our record in this area has been excellent and appreciated by the Force leadership.


There are some who believe that there is more that the League could do to aid and abet the mission of the Submarine Force by improving and increasing our support to the active Force. Our previous efforts in this area have fallen short in terms of having a significant impact on our active duty submariners. Unlike our well planned and coordinated national campaigns to save the Seawolf and the NSSN, no similar integrated and well planned effort to improve our support of the active duty people bas been obvious.

Our chapters have tried with varying degr~ of success to develop stronger ties to the active duty submariners located in their regions. For the most part, each has acted autonomously in this endeavor as well as in their quest for more success in recruitment and retention of members.


The development of a vision of the NSVs role in a changing world appears to be essential as we enter the 21st century. This vision should integrate the things we do best today with a realistic assessment of what changes might be needed to ensure our viability and worth in the out years. Given this broad charter, there are some fundamental high level questions that underlie the Task Force Assessment.

  • Are the existing Objectives of the League still valid
  • Is the League’s level of support for the active Force adequate?
  • Does the role of the chapters require a sharper definition that might lead to a stronger relationship to the whole of the Naval Submarine League?
  • Can the role of headquarters be improved, changed, or modified to more effectively assist the chapters?
  • Are our members being utilized to the maximum extent possible in the pursuit of our goals?
  • There exists a considerable volume of suggestions and recom-mendations by a number of our members concerning ways to improve the NSL both in support of its members and in support of the Submarine Force. This material, as well as new ideas, will provide the basis for the Task Force Assessment. It is important to understand that the role of the Task Force will be to initially establish a high level framework within which more detailed actions and changes can be implemented. The goal must be to establish an overall process that will by its very nature attract the interest of individuals and groups to want to join in supporting submarine warfare.

    • The Task Force, chaired by Captain John Shilling, will consist of about 12 invited members from the active and retired Submarine Force community.
    • A milestone plan will be developed for the Task Force activities.
    • Consideration of geographic constraints will place strong emphasis on phone and fax communications for this effort, although some meetings will be required.

    Rear Admiral Hank McKinney: Captain Jack Renard
    Rear Admiral Larry Vogt: Captain Jim Patton
    Captain Jim Collins: Captain Jay Donnelly
    Captain Jim Hay: BuPers Representative
    Captain Denver McCune: NavSea Representative
    Captain George Newton: Captain John Will (ex-fficio)

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