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 Author  Topic: Torpedo Tube Grease Ignitions
Michael Vorrasi

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Michael Vorrasi  Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 - 7:40am
Among the many almost criminally negligent problems with WW2 US torpedoes, a unique one for PT's in the pre-roll-off rack era, was the ignition of the grease used in the tubes, which immediately gave away the boat's position. In one instance a boat had all four tubes flame up. Was there any work done during the war to find a non-flammable grease to prevent this problem? It seems that it would have been a top priority, or should have been. Was a compressed air tube as used in Higgins boats ever considered before the roll-off rack made the problem moot?

Mike

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Frank Andruss

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Frank Andruss   Send Email To Frank Andruss Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 - 8:30am
Mike, I think the simple answer was the PT boats from 1940-41 got these torpedoes simply because the Navy had stockpiled this type of torpedo and had plenty of them, so it seemed fitting that the boats would get them for use. Plans had already called for the 21 inch torpedoes to be used on the boats . They did have two other torpedoes the MK XIV and the MK XV in their arsenal but the others were being used on subs and post war Destroyers. I think it would have been a major design problem to try and adapt the other torpedoes for use on the PT Boats as they would have had to redesign the tubes. Again as well, the Navy did not see the PT Boats as much of a front line threat . At the time they were more concerned with Capital Ships, so I think the PT Boats were pretty far down the line when it came to getting the Lions share of better torpedoes, until the new rack system and MK-XIII came into play.

Think of it along the lines of General Patton, when he pleaded that the Tanks must be changed from Gasoline to Diesel engines. He knew our tanks would become a flaming bomb when hit. Because the tanks were basically being built from auto factories , that were set up for gasoline engines. They kept them simply because it was easier to produce and
the diesel engines were heavier and thought to produce less horsepower because of it;s weight. Torpedoes were used simply because they had plenty of them, and the tubes as well.


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Bob Butler

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Bob Butler  Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 - 8:44am
Mike, criminally negligent are some pretty harsh words to use. They were at the beginning of a war. They were not winning, parts and materials and supplies were scarce. You don't pick torpedo tubs off trees. There's a design flaw and these guys are putting them selfs in harms way. And they come up with a great solution , and a retrofit. Like in the Philippines to fight this war there had to be sacrifices in order to win. They knew there was a problem and they went to battle anyway. They did a great job given what they had to do. I think times were a little different.


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Michael Vorrasi

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Michael Vorrasi  Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 - 11:03am
I thought that I was being mild in calling the US Navy's torpedo situation as bordering on criminal negligence. This is not PT specific, so it applies to all of the other torpedoes as well. Our navy consistently fielded the worst torpedoes of any major combatant throughout the war, but especially in the first two years. Somebody in the navy was asleep at the switch when it came to torpedoes, and many good submariners, PT men, destroyer men and airmen gave their lives trying to deliver a weapon that had so many defects that it is amazing they were released for service. The failure to wring these things out was unforgivable, and the fact that we were new in the war and everything was in short supply is no excuse. The Navy had plenty of time to test 1920's vintage torpedoes before the war and see if they really worked as advertized.

As for the flammable grease, nobody in 1942 could come up with a non-flammable grease to lube these tubes? Hard to believe.

Mike

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Michael Vorrasi

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Michael Vorrasi  Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 - 11:28am
A good sense of the USN vs. the IJN can be seen when in comes to torpedoes. The IJN had no fear of a gunfight with USN cruisers and DD's, but greatly feared torpedoes. The reason, they figured ours were as deadly as theirs were. Thus, right after they cleaned our clock in a major big-ship shootout which failed to stop the Express, the handful of Tulagi PT's were able turn them back without even scoring a major hit. Such was the fear the IJN had of torpedoes. Thank God they never found out that our PT's were shooting two of every three as constructive blanks.

Compare the Long Lance to even the very best USN torpedo of WW2 and the shortcomings are obvious. This was a major intelligence failure, a major design failure and major testing failure on the part of the USN. When the primary weapon of two major branches of service, subs and PT's didn't work from the get-go, and nobody went to prison, well that proves the old saying about "good enough for government work."

Frank, as for the gas vs. diesel, I think the US Army accepted the gas engines because it wanted only one type of fuel in its supply train. Lots of tankers burned alive because of that call. There were plenty of diesel powered M4A2's. We sent them to the Russians and to the USMC, who wanted diesel due to commonality with landing craft fuel.

Mike

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bubbletop409

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of bubbletop409  Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 - 11:29am
USN submarine skippers were well aware of the problem, not only did the torpedo's fail to detonate on impact a majority of the time, they also ran much deeper than they were set for.

Some sub skippers were censured for what the navy considered "lack of aggressiveness" due to poor results while on patrol.

Sonar men could hear the torpedo's striking the target with NO detonation, and the navy refused to believe there was a problem for far too long.

While the grease flashes may have been an inherent problem of the time, I do agree more could have been done to resolve our torpedo's poor performance. The navy's arrogance over the issue was despicable.

Larry
62 Bel-Air
260 Eagle EXP
79 Cole TR-2

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PeterTareBuilder2

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of PeterTareBuilder2  Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 - 11:52am
Ahoy there.

Harsh words there mate.

Read the first hand accounts of German U-boat commanders and you'll see that they had the same problem with many torpedoes not detonating on impact or running at a different depth to what was set.

The USN had to make do with what was on hand at the time.

As far as the M-4 Sherman is concerned, remember that is was a development of the stop-gap M-3 Lee and that it was designed to use a radial aircraft engine. It also used as many parts from the M-3 Lee as was possible.

None of this was even remotely crimminaly irresponsible. The Germans lost the war in large part bewcause they kept ptting out new designs and tinkering with existing designs until their industry bogged down and couldn't produce the numbers needed.

Cheers

"Give me a fast boat for we want to get out of harm's way too."

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Michael Vorrasi

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Michael Vorrasi  Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 - 3:06pm
Harsh words? Sounds like you take this personally. You shouldn't. Sometimes the facts are harsh things. There are lessons to be learned here, so we don't wind up repeating them.

As for German torpedo problems, minor hiccups that got resolved. Ours were big problems that were ignored.. The fact that England was nearing starvation by mid-1942 is ample evidence. Just read the list of ship and convoy losses due to U-Boats. There is no similar list of kills chalked up by US Subs or PT's in 1942, or well into 1943.

You say the USN had to make due with what was on hand. Well, the torpedoes were on hand for two decades. What was the navy doing for twenty years to sort out these torpedoes. Nothing, it seems. It took use against real targets to discover what should have been corrected long before Adolf and his pals started sowing the wind. THAT lack of proper vetting of a major naval weapon is negligence, plain and simple. The brass was too busy inspecting the pretty teak wood decks of their battlewagons.

As for the Sherman, I am well read in the Sherman's design and history. The M3 had several variants, including the Wright radial, GM twin diesel versions, and the Chrysler multi-bank engines. The M4 kept these versions and added the Ford V-8 and also the Caterpillar radial multifuel engine that could run on diesel, gas or even crude oil. The last, M4A6, was only a service test model, but could have been produced. It had the best automotive performance of the entire series. So there were two diesel versions the USA could have chosen. In the case of tanks, production capability and logistics called for choices to be made. The US Army had valid reasons to stick with gas engines. It did cost more lives, but it was not negligent. It was a justifiable choice. The US Army wins its wars on logistics. Tank crews may have disagreed though. Certainly there were other issues between Army Ground Forces and the Armored Forces over tank use. Ground Forces thought tanks were for infantry support and ignored pleas from armored forces for a tank that could beat enemy tanks. As a result, the M-26 barely made it into WW2, It could have been there much sooner. The Sherman, though, was a highly reliable tank that worked (unlike our torpedoes). It just could not go head to head with a Mark V or Mark VI Panzer.

Anyway, tanks are off topic, and not the same situation as USN torpedoes. This was an inventory item since the end of WW One, stacked in warehouses well before the war began, and nobody bothered to see if they really worked. Sure they test ran them with dummy heads. Big deal. They did not actually see if they would blow stuff up. Our crews found out the hard way, and there is no excuse for that.

Mike

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Frank Andruss

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Frank Andruss   Send Email To Frank Andruss Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 - 4:10pm
Mike

I certainly agree with some of your assessments of our torpedoes. We must look back prior to WW II to see that America was living the good life in those days, not even thinking about War. While we were sleeping Germany and Japan were increasing their Navy and Armies, not to mention their far superior planes, torpedoes, subs, tanks, and other weapons systems.

I think the thing that saved us was America's industrial might at that time, where factories over-night were changed over to produce war materials. True, the Navy was sleeping when it came to torpedo development, but I think it had to do with their thinking that "NO ONE WOULD DARE ATTACK US" attitude, and thinking the war could be won and fought with Battleships. You must however give credit to the way our industry and those that worked day and night performed. To me, Industry is what won the battle in WWII. Not to talk about tanks, but I am pretty confident in saying we won the tank battles because we could out produce Germany. In short, they could not destroy more tanks than we could put into battle. On another note, it should also be talked about that trying to fire a torpedo on a moving PT BOAT, in the dark, was a tough task no matter what torpedo you had. You are correct that the Navy should have expanded it's torpedo program right from the very beginning, and tried to make the torpedo a better product. Things early on for the PT BOATS certainly would have had a better outcome if they had.


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alross2

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of alross2   Send Email To alross2 Posted on: Jul 28, 2013 - 4:23pm
Quote:

Among the many almost criminally negligent problems with WW2 US torpedoes, a unique one for PT's in the pre-roll-off rack era, was the ignition of the grease used in the tubes, which immediately gave away the boat's position. In one instance a boat had all four tubes flame up. Mike



What is your source for this?

Al Ross


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