Captain O’Connell’s letter, Deja Vu All Over Again (THE SUBMARINE REVIEW. January 2005), about the infamous CBS Reports broadcast of March 1970 on the Mark 48 Program, brings to mind an interesting coda to that story.
The late Walt Dedrick, while he was Mark 48 Program Manager, told me of the sequel to that broadcast. It seems that CBS had a tickler system that a year after a broadcast they would follow up on a story by making inquiries as to the present status of the subject matter. So, in March 1971, the Navy got a call from Mike Wallace inquiring how was the Mk 48 doing? Walt was designated by the Navy to handle the inquiry. He determined that CBS had been incensed by the Navy’s sto11ewa/li11g the previous year’s inquiry, and had deliberately put together a program that made the ASN look silly. Walt decided that the Navy had a pretty good story to tell, and that cooperation with CBS was a better way to operate than sto11ewalli11g. So he told them everything unclassified that could be told, invited them down to Cape Canaveral where the Mk 48 shoot out was being held, took them to the shops where the torpedoes were being prepared, took them on board the firing submarine in port, and in short divulged all that could be told. Y cs, the Navy had some problems with the torpedo, but these were under control, and he showed them how the Navy was controlling them. In the process he learned that Mike Wallace had been a LTJG in the Navy during WWU, and had served in a Pac Fleet tender. The result was that the CBS people were impressed with the Navy’s intelligent approach to the Mk 48’s problems and broadcast a brief update to the story of a year earlier that the Navy now had its Mk 48 problems under control.
A year later, the CBS tickler system brought the same inquiry: “How’s the MK 48 doing?” This time, Walt was now Program Manager of the Mk 48 and he offered CBS the same opportunity to tour the program, which by then had achieved IOC and was in much better shape than two years before. Apparently CBS declined the offer, and said nothing about the Mk 48 on the air.
In March 1974, I relieved now RADM Walt Dedrick as Program Manager. I recall receiving one notice from CHINFO regarding a CBS inquiry on the Mk 48 Program. Inspired by Walt’s example, I offered the same cooperative approach, but I don’t think they took it. They were traumatized by the March 1970 CBS Reports broad-cast as well as was everyone else who’s knowledge of the Mk 48 program derived from the show. To the end of my tenure as Program Manager, I continually faced the inaccurate perception that the Mk 48 Program was a boondoggle of high cost, inadequate performance, and grossly behind schedule. As Captain O’Connell duly notes, “The Mark 48 torpedo went on to conclude a highly successful operational test and evaluation cycle, and became the world’s premiere antiship and antisubmarine torpedo.” How much easier it would have been if the Navy had decided to cooperate with CBS in 1969-1970, rather than stonewall. Of course, there’s always the possibility that CBS didn’t want to cooperate in the first place.