Mark 14 torpedo
|Mark 14 torpedo|
Mark 14 torpedo side view and interior mechanisms, as published in a service manual
|Type||Anti-surface ship torpedo|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Used by||United States Navy|
|Wars||World War II|
|Designer||Naval Torpedo Station Newport, Rhode Island|
|Manufacturer||Naval Torpedo Station Newport, RI
Naval Torpedo Station Alexandria, VA
Naval Torpedo Station Keyport, Washington
Naval Ordnance Plant Forest Park, IL
|Weight||3,280 lb (1,490 kg)|
|Length||20 ft 6 in (6.25 m)|
|Diameter||21 in (530 mm)|
|Effective firing range||4,500 yards (4,100 m) at 46 knots (85 km/h)
9,000 yards (8,200 m) at 31 knots (57 km/h)
|Warhead weight||643 lb (292 kg)|
|Contact or magnetic pistol|
|Engine||Wet-heater combustion / steam turbine with compressed air tank|
|Speed||46 knots (85 km/h)|
The Mark 14 torpedo was the United States Navy's standard submarine-launched anti-ship torpedo of World War II. This weapon was plagued with many problems which crippled its performance early in the war, and was supplemented by the Mark 18 electric torpedo in the last two years of the war. Nonetheless, the Mark 14 played a major role in the devastating blow US Navy submarines dealt to the Japanese naval and merchant marine forces during the Pacific War.
By the end of World War II, the Mark 14 torpedo was a reliable weapon which remained in service for almost 40 years in the US Navy, and even longer with other navies.
- 1 Development
- 2 Controversy
- 3 Well-documented failures
- 4 Problems
- 5 Solutions
- 6 Nomenclature
- 7 Characteristics
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
The Mark 14 was designed in 1930 to serve in the new "fleet" submarines, replacing the Mark 10 which had been in service since World War I and was standard in the older S-boats. Although the same diameter, the Mark 14 was longer, at 20 ft 6 in (6.25 m), and therefore incompatible with older submarines' 15 ft 3 in (4.65 m) torpedo tubes.
The Mark 14 was designed at the Naval Torpedo Station (NTS), Newport, beginning in 1922. It had a fairly small warhead and was intended to explode beneath the keel where there was no armor. This required the sophisticated new Mark 6 magnetic influence exploder, which was similar to the British Duplex and German models, all inspired by German magnetic mines of World War I. The Mark 14 shared this exploder with the concurrently-designed surface ship Mark 15 torpedo.
The Mark 6 exploder, designated Project G53, was developed "behind the tightest veil of secrecy the Navy had ever created." Exploders were tested at the Newport lab and in a small field test aboard USS Raleigh. At Ralph Christie's urging, equatorial tests were later conducted with Indianapolis, which fired one hundred trial shots between 10°N and 10°S and collected 7000 readings. The tests were done using torpedoes with instrumented exercise heads: an electric eye would take an upward-looking picture from the torpedo; the magnetic influence feature would set off some gun cotton. Inexplicably, no live fire trials were ever done with production units. Chief of Naval Operations William V. Pratt offered the hulk of Cassin-class destroyer Ericsson, but prohibited the use of a live warhead, and insisted the Bureau of Ordnance (commonly called BuOrd) pay the cost of refloating her if she was hit in error. These were strange restrictions, as Ericsson was due to be scrapped. BuOrd declined. A service manual for the exploder "was written—but, for security reasons, not printed—and locked in a safe."
In 1923, Congress made NTS Newport the sole designer, developer, builder and tester of torpedoes in the United States. No independent or competing group was assigned to verify the results of Mark 14 tests. NTS produced only 1½ torpedoes a day in 1937, despite having three shifts of three thousand workers working around the clock. Production facilities were at capacity and there was no room for expansion. Only two thousand submarine torpedoes were built by all three Navy factories in 1942. This exacerbated torpedo shortages; the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force had fired 1,442 torpedoes since war began.
The torpedo shortage at the start of the war also meant that commanders did not want to waste torpedoes on testing.
The Mark 14 was central to the torpedo scandal of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Submarine Force during World War II. Due to inadequate Depression-era peacetime testing of both the torpedo and its exploder, the defects tended to mask each other. Indeed, much of the blame commonly attached to the Mark 14 correctly belongs to the Mark 6 exploder. These defects, in the course of fully twenty months of war, were exposed, as torpedo after torpedo either missed by running directly under the target, prematurely exploded, or struck targets with textbook right angle hits (sometimes with an audible clang) and failed to explode.
Responsibility lies with the BuOrd, which specified an unrealistically rigid magnetic exploder sensitivity setting and oversaw the feeble testing program. Its pitiful budget did not permit live fire tests against real targets; instead, any torpedo that ran under the target was presumed to be a hit due to the magnetic influence exploder, which was never actually tested. Therefore, additional responsibility must also be assigned to the United States Congress, which cut critical funding to the Navy during the interwar years, and to NTS, which inadequately performed the very few tests made. BuOrd failed to assign a second naval facility for testing, and failed to give Newport adequate direction.
On 24 December 1941, Commander Tyrell D. Jacobs in Sargo fired a total of eight torpedoes at two different ships, with no results, and had become very frustrated; when two additional merchantmen came in view, he took extra pains to get it right, pursuing for fifty-seven minutes and making certain TDC bearings matched perfectly before firing two torpedoes at each ship, at an average of 1,000 yd (910 m), very close range. All missed.
A few days after he discovered the torpedoes were running too deep, and corrected the problem, Jacobs detected a big, slow tanker. Again, his approach was meticulous, firing one torpedo at a close 1,200 yd (1,100 m). It missed. Exasperated, Jacobs broke radio silence, openly questioning the Mark 14's reliability.
Uniquely, Lieutenant Commander John A. Scott in Tunny on 9 April 1943 found himself in an ideal position to attack aircraft carriers Hiyo, Junyo, and Taiyo. From only 880 yd (800 m), he fired all ten tubes, hearing all four stern shots and three of the bow's six explode. No enemy carrier was seen to diminish its speed, though Taiyo was slightly damaged in the attack. Much later, intelligence reported each of the seven explosions had been premature; the torpedoes had run true but the magnetic feature had fired them too early.
Dan Daspit (in Tinosa) carefully documented his efforts to sink 19,000-ton whale factory ship Tonan Maru III on 24 July 1943. He fired four torpedoes from 4,000 yd (3,700 m); two hit, stopping the target dead in the water. Daspit immediately fired another two; these hit as well. With no enemy anti-submarine combatants in sight, Daspit then took time to carefully maneuver into a textbook firing position, 875 yd (800 m) square off the target's beam, where he fired nine more Mark 14s and observed all with his periscope (despite the Japanese firing at it). All were duds. Daspit, suspicious by now he was working with a faulty production run of Mark 14s, saved his last remaining torpedo to be analyzed by experts back at base. Nothing out of the ordinary was found.
At Pearl Harbor, despite nearly all his skippers' suspicions about the torpedoes, Admiral Thomas Withers refused to deactivate the torpedo's Mark 6 exploder, arguing torpedo shortages stemming from inadequate production at NTS made it impossible. As a result, his men did it on their own, doctoring their patrol reports and overstating the size of ships to justify using more torpedoes. Only in May 1943, after the most famous skipper in the Sub Force, Dudley W. "Mush" Morton, turned in a dry patrol, did Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Commander Submarine Force Pacific (COMSUBPAC), accept the Mark 6 should be deactivated, but waited to see if Bureau of Ordnance commander Admiral William "Spike" Blandy might yet find a fix for the problem. The Bureau of Ordnance sent an expert to Surabaja to investigate, who set the gyro backwards on one of Sargo's trial torpedoes; the potentially deadly setting, guaranteed to cause erratic running, was corrected by torpedo officer Doug Rhymes. Though he found nothing wrong with maintenance or procedures, the expert submitted a report laying all the blame on the crew.
The Mark 14 torpedo had four major flaws.
- It tended to run about 10 feet (3.0 m) deeper than set.
- The magnetic exploder often caused premature firing.
- The contact exploder often failed to fire the warhead.
- It tended to run "circular", failing to straighten its run once set on its prescribed gyro-angle setting, and instead, to run in a large circle, thus returning to strike the firing ship.
Some of these flaws had the unfortunate property of masking or explaining other flaws. The torpedo running too deeply would explain the magnetic influence exploder failing to explode underneath a ship. When the depth issue was fixed, the magnetic influence exploder's premature detonation made it look like the contact exploder was working.
Running too deep
The torpedo tended to run some ten feet (3 meters) too deep for several reasons. The first was that it was only tested with an exercise warhead filled with water to set the depth. However, the live warhead contained more mass than that, and it reached buoyancy equilibrium at a lower depth. Also, the depth mechanism was designed prior to the warhead's charge being increased, making the torpedo even heavier overall. Furthermore, two depth testing devices used by NTS to verify results were both off by the same amount in the same direction, which compounded the problem. After hearing of the problem, most submarine skippers simply set their torpedoes' running depth to zero, risking a broach. By August 1942, the faulty running depth situation was in hand and submarines were getting more hits with the Mark 14. However, curing the deep-running problem caused more prematures and duds, as more hits were being achieved. The number of sinkings did not rise.
A more serious reason for the torpedoes running deep was hydrodynamic flow effect on the torpedo's depth sensor. The pressure tap for the torpedo had been placed in the rear cone section where the measured pressure would be substantially lower than hydrostatic depth while the torpedo was moving through the water. The torpedo's depth control engine was therefore given erroneously shallow depth indication and responded by trimming the torpedo to run deeper. This was finally addressed in the last half of 1943 by relocating the sensor point to the midbody of the torpedo where hydrodynamic effects were minimized.
Many submarine commanders in the first two years of the war reported explosions of the warhead with little to no damage of the enemy. The magnetic exploders were triggering prematurely, before getting close enough to the vessel to destroy it. Earth's magnetic field near NTS, where the trials (limited as they were) were conducted, differed from the areas where the fighting was taking place.
There were two common types of premature explosions. In the first, the warhead exploded just as it armed. These premature explosions were easily discerned by the submarine because the torpedo exploded before it had a chance to reach its target. In the second, the warhead exploded just before reaching the target ship but far enough away that it did no damage. The skipper, looking through the periscope, could see the torpedo run right to the ship and see the explosion; the crew could hear the high order explosion. Everything would look OK except that the target ship would get away with little or no damage. Sometimes the submarine command would hear about these premature explosions from intercepted enemy communications.
Both premature explosion types could result from the magnetic influence exploder. If a torpedo was still turning to get on course or had not stabilized its depth when the warhead armed, the exploder could see a magnetic field change and detonate. As the warhead approached the target, it could sense a change due to the ship's affect on the earth's magnetic field. That's a desired effect if the torpedo is set to run under the ship, but not a desirable effect when the torpedo is set to hit the side of the ship.
Another explanation for early premature explosions was electrical failure due to leaking gaskets.
The second type of premature explosion masked contact exploder failures. Skippers firing the torpedo for a contact exploder hit on the side of the target would see an explosion and believe the contact exploder worked, but the explosions were triggered not by the contact feature, but rather by the magnetic influence feature at a distance far enough from the hull to cause little or no damage.
Early reports of torpedo action included some dud hits, heard as a dull clang. In a few instances, Mark 14s would strike a Japanese ship and lodge in its hull without exploding. The contact pistol appeared to be malfunctioning, though the conclusion was anything but clear until running depth and magnetic exploder problems were solved. Daspit's experience was exactly the sort of live-fire trial BuOrd had been prevented from doing in peacetime. It was now clear to all at Pearl Harbor the contact pistol was also defective. Ironically, a direct hit on the target at a 90 degree angle, as recommended in training, would usually fail to detonate; the contact pistol functioned reliably only when the torpedo impacted the target at an oblique angle.
There were numerous reports of the Mark 14 running erratically and circling back on the firing boat. This is known to have sunk at least one submarine, Tullibee. Likewise, Sargo was almost sunk by a circular. The subsequent Mark 18 torpedo was no better, sinking Tang. The Mark 15 torpedo had collars to prevent circular runs, but the Mark 14 was never given this feature.
Against orders, some submariners disabled the magnetic influence feature of the Mark 6 exploder, suspecting it was faulty. An increase in hits was reported.
Shortly after replacing Wilkes in Fremantle, newly minted Rear Admiral Lockwood ordered a historic net test at Frenchman Bay on 20 June 1942. Eight hundred torpedoes had already been fired in combat, more than a year's production from NTS.
Jim Coe's Skipjack did the honors, firing a single fish with an exercise head, set at 10 ft (3.0 m), from 850 yards (780 m). It hit the net at a depth of 25 ft (7.6 m). Not satisfied, James Fife, Jr. (formerly Chief of Staff to COMSUBAS John E. Wilkes, whom Lockwood was replacing in Perth-Fremantle) followed up the next day with two more test shots; Fife concluded they ran an average 11 ft (3.4 m) deeper than the depth at which they were set. BuOrd was not amused. Neither was the CNO, Admiral Ernest J. King, who "lit a blowtorch under the Bureau of Ordnance". The fact that destroyers' Mark 15s were suffering the same failures may have had something to do with it, as well. On 1 August 1942, BuOrd finally conceded the Mark 14 ran deep, and six weeks later, "that its depth-control mechanism had been 'improperly designed and tested'".
The deep running torpedoes would explain many warshot misses: a torpedo running too deeply under the target would not allow the magnetic influence exploder to detect the target. Getting the torpedoes to run at the correct depth would presumably fix the problem of the torpedoes failing to explode. This explanation satisfied Lockwood and Robert H. English (then COMSUBPAC), who both refused to believe the exploder could also be defective. In August 1942, the submarine command thought the torpedo reliability problem was solved.
The skippers, however, continued to report problems with the Mark 14. Suspicion about the magnetic influence exploder grew.
On 9 April 1943, USS Tunny attacked an aircraft carrier formation. ULTRA intercepts disclosed that all three torpedoes fired at the second carrier were premature explosions. The commanding officer stated, "The shallow [depth] setting thus caused the torpedo to reach the activating flux density of the exploder some fifty meters from the target."
On 10 April 1943, Bureau of Ordnance Chief Admiral Blandy wrote Lockwood that the Mark 14 was likely to premature at shallow depths. Blandy recommended that the magnetic influence feature be disabled if torpedoes were fired for contact hits.
BuOrd also concluded that the Mark 14's arming distance of 450 yards was too short; an arming distance of 700 yards would be needed for most torpedoes to stabilize their course and depth. BuOrd also believed the Mark 6 magnetic influence feature was less effective below 30°N latitude and did not recommend its use below 30°S latitude.
On May 8 1943, Lockwood made a list of torpedo failures gleaned from ULTRA intercepts.
On 10 June 1943, USS Trigger fired six torpedoes from 1200 yards at the aircraft carrier Hiyo. Two torpedoes missed, one exploded prematurely, one was a dud, and two hit. The carrier was damaged but made it home.
In late June 1943, Admiral Lockwood (by then COMSUBPAC) asked Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) Chester Nimitz for permission to deactivate the magnetic exploders. The next day, 24 June 1943, CINCPAC ordered all of his submarines to deactivate the magnetic exploder.
Admiral Christie, who had been involved in the development of the magnetic influence exploder, was now commander of the Australian-based submarines in the South West Pacific Area and not in Nimitz' chain of command. Christie insisted his area's submarines continue to use the magnetic exploder. At the end of 1943, Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid replaced Admiral Arthur S. Carpender as Commander Allied Naval Forces South West Pacific Area (Christie's boss) and ordered Christie to deactivate the magnetic influence exploder.
Once the magnetic influence exploder was deactivated, problems with the contact exploder became more apparent. Torpedoes would hit their target without detonating. There might be a small "explosion" when the air flask ruptured due to the impact with the target.
Daspit's cruise raised enough of an issue that tests were carried out by COMSUBPAC's gunnery and torpedo officer, Art Taylor. Taylor, "Swede" Momsen, and others fired warshots into the cliffs of Kahoolawe, beginning 31 August. Additional trials, supervised by Taylor, used a crane to drop warheads filled with sand instead of high explosive from a height of 90 feet (27 m) (the height was chosen so the terminal velocity would match the torpedo's running speed of 46 knots). In these drop tests, 70% of the exploders failed to detonate when they hit the target at 90 degrees. A quick fix was to encourage "glancing" shots (which cut the number of duds in half), until a permanent solution could be found.
In September 1943, the first torpedoes with new contact pistols were sent to war. "After twenty-one months of war, the three major defects of the Mark 14 torpedo had at last been isolated. Each defect had been discovered and fixed in the field—always over the stubborn opposition of the Bureau of Ordnance."
Once remedied, sinkings of enemy ships rose noticeably. By the end of World War II the Mark 14 torpedo had become a much more reliable weapon. Lessons learned allowed surface ships such as destroyers to remedy the failings of the Mark 15; the two designs shared the same strengths and faults.
After the war, the best features of the improved Mark 14 were merged with the best features of captured German torpedoes to create the hydrogen peroxide–fueled Mark 16 with a pattern-running option. The Mark 16 became the standard United States post-war anti-shipping torpedo, despite the large remaining inventory of Mark 14 torpedoes.
Official US Navy naming policy had settled on using Arabic instead of Roman numerals to designate torpedo models since the 1917 development of the Bliss-Leavitt Mark 4 torpedo. However, many instances exist of the Mark 14 being referred to as the "Mark XIV" in official documentation and reports as well as accounts by historians and observers.
- Function: Anti-ship
- Powerplant: Wet-heater combustion / steam turbine with compressed air tank
- Fuel: Methanol
- Length: 20 ft 6 in (6.25 m)
- Weight: 3,280 lb (1,490 kg)
- Diameter: 21 in (530 mm)
- Range / Speed:
- Low speed: 9,000 yards (8,200 m) at 31 knots (57 km/h)
- High speed: 4,500 yards (4,100 m) at 46 knots (85 km/h)
- Guidance system: Gyroscope
- Warhead: 643 lb (292 kg) of Torpex
- Date deployed: 1931
- Date withdrawn from service: 1975–1980
- Jolie, E.W. (15 September 1978). "A Brief History of U.S. Navy Torpedo Development". Retrieved 2013-06-05.
- Blair 1975, p. 278
- Blair 1975, p. 54
- Fitzsimons, Bernard, general editor. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons and Warfare (London: Phoebus Publishing, 1978), Volume 8, p.807, "Duplex"
- Dönitz, Memoir.
- Blair 1975, p. 55
- Wildenberg & Polmar 2010, p. 65
- Blair 1975, pp. 61–62
- Blair 1975, p. 62
- Fitzsimons, Volume 5, p.541, table.
- Between 1934 and 1936. Fitzsimons, Volume 5, p.542, "Cassin".
- Blair 1975, p. 69
- Blair 1975, p. 281
- NTS, Alexandria, and Keyport. Blair 1975, p. 69
- Blair 1975, p. 553
- Poole, Lisa (1989). Torpedo Town U.S.A. Diamond Anniversary Publishing. ISBN 0-9621829-0-7.
- Morison, Samuel E. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, volume IV, passim
- Roscoe 1967
- Blair 1975, p. 141
- Blair 1975, p. 140
- Blair 1975, p. 141. BuOrd would wait months to do the same.
- Blair, pp.140-141 & 169
- Blair 1975, p. 171
- Blair 1975, p. 413
- When he returned, Daspit was livid. Blair 1975, pp. 435–437
- Blair 1975, p. 216
- Blair 1975, p. 206
- Blair 1975, p. 206. This helps explain why U.S. tonnage claims per ship were routinely about a third higher than actual sinkings.
- Blair 1975, p. 427
- Blair 1975, pp. 169–170
- Scott, James (2013). The War Below: The Story of Three Submarines That Battled Japan. Simon and Schuster. p. 88. ISBN 143917685X.
- Shireman, Douglas A. (February 1998). "U.S. Torpedo Troubles During World War II". World War II.
- Blair 1975, p. 292
- "The Great Torpedo Scandal of 1941 - 1943", The Submarine Review, October 1996
- Patrick, John (Winter 2012), "The Hard Lessons of World War II Torpedo Failures", Undersea Warfare (47)
- Milford, Frederick J. "U. S. Navy Torpedoes." The Submarine Review, April 1996.[page needed]
- Newpower 2006, p. 151, stating, "The very next day, 10 April, USS Pompano encountered the Pearl Harbor veteran Shokaku and attacked with six torpedoes. En route to their target, three of the torpedoes exploded early, and two exploded close to the expected time. Lockwood knew from ULTRA that Shokaku survived the attack and although he credited Pompano with damaging the carrier rather than revealing ULTRA information, doubts began to surface in his mind concerning the magnetic exploder."
- Newpower 2006, p. 139
- Blair 1975, pp. 575–576 and 767–768
- Blair 1975, p. 274
- Blair 1975, p. 275
- Blair 1975, p. 276
- Blair 1975, pp. 131,197,273–275
- Blair 1975, p. 277
- Blair 1975, pp. 226–227
- Newpower 2006, p. 150
- Newpower 2006, pp. 150–151
- Newpower 2006, p. 151
- Newpower 2006, p. 151
- Newpower 2006, pp. 151–152
- Newpower 2006, p. 153
- Newpower 2006, p. 155
- Newpower 2006, p. 158
- Blair 1975, pp. 430–431
- Newpower 2006, p. 161
- Newpower 2006, p. 180
- Blair 1975, p. 439
- Blair 1975, p. 438
- Milford, Frederick J. (October 1996), "U. S. Navy Torpedoes. Part Two: The great torpedo scandal, 1941–43.", The Submarine Review, Archived from the original on October 25, 2009
- Kurak, Steve (September 1966). "The U. S. Navy's Torpedo Inventory". United States Naval Institute Proceedings.
- NavWeaps.com. United States of America Information on Torpedoes. Torpedo Nomenclature
- Blair, Clay, Jr. (1975), Silent Victory, Philadelphia: Lippincott, ISBN 0-553-01050-6
- Newpower, Anthony (2006), Iron Men and Tin Fish: The Race to Build a Better Torpedo during World War II, Praeger Security International, ISBN 0-275-99032-X
- Roscoe, Theodore (1967), Pig Boats: The True Story of the Fighting Submariners of World War II, New York: Bantam, OCLC 22066288. Originally published in 1949 as United States Submarine Operations in World War II; Bantam version is abridged
- United States of America Torpedoes of World War II
- Wildenberg, Thomas; Polmar, Norman (2010), Ship Killer, Naval Institute Press, ISBN 9781591146889
- US 5790405, Buchler, Robert J., "Method and apparatus for detecting circular torpedo runs", issued August 4, 1998, assigned to Litton Systems, Inc.
- Gannon, Robert (1996), Hellions of the Deep: The Development of American Torpedoes in World War II, Pennsylvania State University Press, ISBN 027101508X
- Matthews, David F. (26 February 2011), Mark XIV Torpedo Case Study (PDF), Monterey, CA: Naval Postgraduate School, NPS-AM-11-008 (DTIC A550699)
- Newpower, Anthony (2010), Iron Men and Tin Fish: The Race to Build a Better Torpedo During World War II, Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press, ISBN 978-1-59114-623-0
- Instructions for upkeep & operation of the mark VI mod. 1 exploder mechanism, Ordnance Pamphlet, Bureau of Ordnance, 1938, OCLC 51958048, OP 632
- Torpoedoes: Mark 14 and 23 Types, Ordnance Pamphlet, Bureau of Ordnance, 24 March 1945, OP 635
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