Publication Date: 6/14/96
Penn State Press, 820 N. University Dr.,
PSU, University Park, PA 16802; $35 + shpg.
(814) 865-1327; fax (814) 863-1408
Reviewed by Tom Pelick
This is a story about the scientific exploration of underwater sound principles and their application to signal processing systems. This led to the development of the first U.S. acoustic homing torpedoes.
After WWII began in Europe, Vannevar Bush convinced President Roosevelt that if the U.S. were to become involved in the conflict, technology would be a major factor. The National Defense Research Committee, NDRC, was formed to provide technology research. At that time the Navy was using older torpedoes that were straight runners. Success depended on the attack submarine being on the surface and close to the target to ensure that the calculated lead angle would be sufficient for the torpedo to hit the target. When the U.S. entered the war, the submariners found that there were problems with the Mk 14 torpedoes. Researchers found problems with the depth calibration and the exploder firing pin design.
Robert Gannon’s book describes the technical development of the torpedo during WWII. He weaves in personal stories about the men who were members of one of the finest research teams during WWII and their contribution to the technology which played a major role in winning WWII.
The book describes the torpedo program at Newport, R.I., and the research at the Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory from 1941 to 1945. The technical community consisted of these laboratories plus industrial giants such as General Electric, Bell Labs, Western Electric, and other research teams. They helped to solve the Mk 14 problems, and they developed the electrically propelled torpedo (the Mk 18), passive homing torpedo (Mk 24), and an active homing system, which was incorporated into the Mk 37 torpedo after WWII.
Robert Gannon describes the process of gathering qualified research scientists to work on these special projects. He tells the spell-binding story about the dedication of these scientists to the technological development of underwater warfare. The U.S. torpedo changed from a relatively inferior weapon (compared to the enemy torpedoes) to that of a highly technical sophisticated weapon.