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I just finished reading Frederick J. Milford’s excellent wrap-up article about torpedoes, entitled The Great Torpedo Scandal. 1941-1943 in the October 1996 issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW. His discussion of Mic 14-3 torpedo depth keeping and exploder problems was the most thorough and enlightening I have read. He notes that the Mic 14-JA incorporated changes necessary to solve the depth keeping problem. The article also brought back an unpleasant memory of my one experience in firing a Mk 14 warshot torpedo during my command tour.

It was during 1966 and I had command of USS SPINAX (SS 489). We were assigned to sink an old destroyer escort off San Diqo. Vice Admiral Ramage, of World War submarine fame, was Commander First Fleet at the time. The target would be lying to, several hundred miles off San Diego, in deep water. The Sinkex instructions called for SPINAX to proceed south on a track about 2000 yards east of the target position until the target was abeam, then tum west, submerge and fire a Mic 14-S warsbot torpedo at about 1200-1500 yards and sink the target. While we were maneuvering, Vice Admiral Ramaae in his cruiser flagship, and other First Fleet ships were to be in a column some thousands of yards to the east of our tract. They would tum simultaneously with SPINAX and head towards the target to be in a position to observe the sinking at close range. Needless to say, with the prospects of all those observers and a submarine hero on scene, I was determined that everything would run smoothly as far as SPINAX’a performance was concerned.

I had my torpedo officer make ready two warshot Mk 14-5s, and even invited the Squadron Three weapons officer to witness the torpedo preparations. On the day we were ready, having rehearsed the event several times on our own. My division commander, Commander Jack Gillette, a splendid naval officer, was embarked. We had a periscope camera ready to take pictures of the torpedo wake and the sinking target. We were ready for prime time.

Initially, all went according to plan. The line of First Fleet ships to port was impressive. We turned to starboard, submerged, manned battle stations torpedo and commenced our approach. As we got close to the firing point, I took a quick safety look around and realized that the oncoming First Fleet line abreast had not taken our sudden slow down to three knots into consideration and were closing fut. The thought of a circular run entered my mind. Oh well, it was too late for that because we were almost at the firing point. Just at that instant the chosen warshot decided to malfunction and the tube ready light went out. I switched the firing tube to the backup weapon. ..Final bearing and shoot.” Away it went, with sonar checking carefully for any signs of a circular run. Speed setting was high, and depth setting was six feet. The target was drawing 11 feet. Gyro angle was zero.

The Divcom and I observed the bubble track and I started taking pictures. ..Hot, straight, and normal.” Seconds ticket away, the bubbles disappeared under the target … and nothing happened. The torpedo had missed, apparently directly underneath. Sonar confirmed that it was still running-hot, straight, and normal. To say that I was overcome with a blind rage would be a slight understatement of my feelings at that moment. In fact it took the firm, gentlemanly voice of Jack Gillette to get me to put on enough rudder to ensure that we dido ‘t collide with that god-damned-still-floating target.

It was a long few days until the pictures taken from helicopters assigned to record the destroyer escort’s demise were developed and printed. They clearly showed the bubble track and confirmed that the Mk 14-5 warshot should have hit except for depth. The squadron weapons officer bad observed all the preparations and settings, including the firing settings. We were clean, although mightily disappointed. The errant torpedo went to the bottom in thousands of feet of water. The question remaining was why had the depth mechanism malfunctioned? We never solved that particular problem. Milford mentioned depth spring fatigue in bis discussion of Mic 14 torpedo depth keeping problems. I have no idea of the age of the warsbot we fired. Certainly it had been in the fleet a long time. Perhaps that would explain it.

CAPT John F. O’Connell, USN(Ret)


November 5, 1996
The torpedo flap highlighted in your latest issue is the subject of this letter. Probably 15 years ago, I submitted an article to The Proceeding concerning the Mt 14-3A torpedo. It was never printed, but I do believe this information is an important addition to the history being compiled.

Starting in 1965 as COMSUBDIV 72, my division fired 82 torpedoea (Mk 14-3A) from our four submarines. These were canned shota from anchor using a lonely beach in Maui as our range. The alarming loss of SUBPAC exercise shots prompted my division interest. As an ex Sub School torpedo instructor, I wanted to find out why exercise short were not surfacing at 4500 yards but more likely at 7200 yards.

With the new Fingerprint sonar, we determined that the Mk l 4-3A shutdown at about 2000 yards and then ran on air out to over 7000 yards, at constantly decreasing speed, until the exercise head blew. As I taught many Sub School Students, this torpedo did not run at 46 knots for 4500 yards in high speed. It ran out of fuel at about 2000 yards and continued on its merry way until it ran out of air.

We tired 82 torpedoes at the beach and fingerprinted each one. They all ran better than 7000 yards, winding down as they went. We retrieved them in a rubber boat and towed them back to the firing submarines.

Torpedo Shop personnel were in on the program and .even tied one to the pier and watched it run out of fuel and shut down at approximately 2000 yards by stop watch.

These torpedoes were all made ready by division submarines and shop personnel. All were fired in high speed setting, documented by sonar traces as to speed and range, and observed by numerous people.

A complete report was submitted to BUWEPS by our Squadron Commander, the late Dick Ryzow, who had been my Ordnance Department Head at Sub School when I was teaching torpedoes. The report was forwarded by COMSUBPAC.

BUWEPS said we were crazy. All torpedoes were tested at Keyport and ran as prescribed. Our investigation showed the torpedoes were fired and clockd between 1000 and 2000 yards at Keyport. And why were our submarines always successful with TDC settings of 46 knots? We always fired at torpedo runs of less than 2200 yards. Any runs beyond that range would be affected by the slowing speed as the air pressure decreased. Need I say anything about the effect on the pendulum? Anyway, we had fun and I am sorry I gave out so much bum dope u a Sub School instructor.

Best wishes,
CAPT Ted Davis, USN(Rd.)


November 10, 1996

Concerning Rear Admiral Giambutiani’s symposium remarks, as published in your October issue, the results of U.S. submarine participation in the Battle of Midway were even more distressing than he indicates. Captain Brockman in NAU’IU.US readied a salvo of four. One failed to leave the tube, two missed, and the fourth was a dud. KAGU sank without any help from the Submarine Force.

RADM Ralph M. Metcalf, USN(Rd.)


It is gratifying to know that my articles on torpedoes are being read. (As I stated, “history is easy to reconstruct and hard to verify”. I have waded through many volumes of information and talked to many people while developing the article for the NSL readers’ enjoyment. However, no matter how thorough the research may be, there are always opposing and perhaps minority views.) I would like to respond to a letter to the editor from retired Admiral Metcalf which was published in the October 1996 SUBMARINE REVIEW.

His opening statement was “Your facts concerning the Mark 16 and Marie 23 torpedoes are wrong.” Perhaps be meant to say interpretation of the facts. The dictionary definition of the word facts is “something with certainty, sometbin& that has been objectively verified, something having real demonstrable exisistence.

His letter to the Editor had three parts. ‘Ibe first had to do with an inference he had drawn relative to the Mk 16 torpedo, the second relative to a typo, and the third was that he disagreed that the Mk 23 torpedo was not as widely used as the Mk 14 torpedo.

In the first part, he stated that no Mk 16 torpedoes were outloaded on war patrol against Japan during WWII. My July 1996 article merely states that the Mk 16 torpedo had a late entry into wwn and that most Mk 16 torpedoes were produced after the war. According to E.W. Jollies’ document entitled .. A Brief History of U.S. Navy Torpedo Development” (NUSC TD 5436, 15 Sept. 1978), only 60 Mk 16 torpedoes were produced during WWII, but none saw combat. A telecon with retired Admiral Metcalf indicated he drew an inference from my simple statement. All I stated was the torpedoes were produced late in wwii. I indicated nothing about combat use.

Ibe second part has to do with a typo in the article which inadvertently listed the Mk 14 as the Mk 24 under the section .. Non-Homing Torpedoes in WWII”. A revision sent to the NSL on May S, 1996 corrected this typo, but may have been too late for the publisher.

The third part disagreed with the following statement in my article: .. The Mk 23, a hlgh speed only version of the Mk 14, was produced (9600 units) at Newport, Rhode Island during WWII, but was not used to any extent because of its short firing range requirements. Since the fuel consumption goes up at a cubic rate with speed, this torpedo had to be fired closer to the target, thereby endangering the launching submarine.”

In Admiral Metcalrs opinion, he felt that the Mk 23 torpedo was used interchan&eably with the Mk 14 torpedo. He also stated that his personal experience shows that 2 of the 14 torpedoes he fired on the sixth war patrol of POGY were Mic 23s. He also stated that experience had proved that the low speed feature of the Mk 14 was totally useless.

To this point, there is much literature today that does not agree with this viewpoint. E.W. Jollie writes in NUSC TD 5436, 15 Sept. 1978 that .. Due to the changing requirements of the war, however, most of the 9600 Mk 23 torpedoes saw little service. In the latter stages of the Second World War, fewer targets and better/smarter escorts/escort tactics necessitated firing frQm longer ranges. ‘Ibe Mk 14 torpedo, with its low power and longer range became the preferred weapon. Much of the Mk 23 inventory was scraped or converted to torpedoes Mk 14 while other units were cannibalized for spare parts.” In addition, Robert Gannon in his 1996 book Hellions of the Deep wrote that firing at longer ranges was more preferable since it reduced the risk factors of the launch submarines. It is also interestina to note from Admiral Metcalf’s comments that of the 14 torpedoes fired during the sixth war patrol of POGY, only two were Mk 23 torpedoes. This seems consistent with Jollie’s and Rob Gannon’s statements that the Mk 14 was the preferred weapon over the Mk 23 torpedo.

Some wwn submarine skippen seemed to indicate that in limited cases, the firing range may also be dependent on the aggressiveness of the skipper and the element of risk to the launch submarine.

I would like to thank Admiral Metcalf for his comments and for pointing out what may be an obvious type error to some but not necessarily to others. I have received several favorable correspondences relative to my articles and welcome more, favorable or otherwise. Inputs from individuals, such as Admiral Metcalf are especially important since they were a part of the activity and point out that there are differences in opinions.

Tom Pelick


29 November 1996

I need help from old timers in an effort to reconstruct the history of the colorful jacket patches submarinen wear so proudly. They were not being worn when I served on SEA CAT in 1950, but I have a vague recollection of seeing some on boats that came around from the West Coast about that time. They must have been officially authorized to be worn some time after that, because I started collecting original patches back in about 1963 and have them from most of the boats that were in commission then. However, I have been able to find out very little about the use of patches prior to that time.

In recent years supplien have been recreating patches for most of the old wwn boats, based on the insignia that were prepared by Walt Disney and others during the war, or on artwork provided by crew members for reunions. However, to the best of my knowledge, most of those boats never had patches while they were in commission.

I am particularly interested in identifying any patches that were actually worn during the early post war years, or before the war for that matter. If anyone has examples of such patches, or knows when they were first permitted to be wom, I would appreciate hearing from you.

John D. Allkn
CDR, USN(Ret.)
98 Sunnysuu Avenut
Pleasantville, NY 10570

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