Tag Archives: control room

Sea Bodies

9 Jan

The submarine has gone through a variety of changes and alterations over twentieth century though they still vaguely resemble the first modern submarine, the USS Holland (SS-1). Certainly they are far more advanced than the old Turtle, the Revolutionary War submersible that looked more like a barrel with a propeller, rudder and screw driver attached to it. And they have become far more powerful, more dangerous than the first submarine to sink another vessel, the CSS Hunley, which ironically sunk itself moments after destroying USS Housatonic.

When we are asked to sketch up a submarine, draw a basic understanding of what one looks like, most will likely put down a long body with a little tower sticking up top toward the front of the vessel. This basic shape has remained to stay in most military submarines all the way into the twenty-first century with the USS Virginia (SSN-774). The shape of the hull has a reason behind it, just like everything else on these deep-sea vessel, when one looks at a diagram of a World War II submarine or one that happen to be out of water, they see it has more in common with a surface vessel, while a modern one seems to have more in common with a torpedo.

Function and Technology Determine Form

The World War II submarine hulls were designed to travel through the water where they would spend the most time in their careers, on the surface. The drawback to this design was that they were significantly slower underwater.

It runs against popular thinking to say that a submarine, any submarine would spend all that much time on the surface; there were several reasons for this, the primary being that the batteries.In the case of the Balao class submarine, like the USS Ling (SS-297), a museum vessel in Hackensack, New Jersey, all electricity was generated from for electrical generators, each attached to a diesel engine.

  • While running the diesel engines, the vessel had to be on the surface to draw in fresh air through main induction, the main intakes of the vessel and any open hatches.
  • The electricity created would be utilized in several ways; some of it would go to the four electric motors arranged two to a drive shaft and used for propulsion, as well as other systems such as lights, radars, air conditioning, etc.
  • The electrical batteries for storage, used up when the vessel was submerged. In the case of the Balao class, there are two batteries each with 126 cells.

Pigboats

These batteries were large, a little over five feet tall and the cells weigh about five hundred pounds each. They were filled with a chemical, part water and had copper strips extended into them. As the batteries were charged, they created a byproduct of hydrogen which had to be vented overboard; not doing so would create a serious explosion risk, one which resulted losses of submarines like the USS Cochino (SS-345).

Meanwhile, the batteries needed the water element of the chemical replenished. Fresh, salt free water was drawn aboard the vessel, boiled in the distillers in the back of forward engine room, purified, and pumped into storage tanks around the batteries. Because only a certain amount of water could be distilled at one time and because, especially during wartime, things could change very quickly, water was conserved and rationed. This meant that submariner did not shower in fresh water, if at all while at sea.

It was also critical that the water be absolutely free of salt. Any salt in the batteries would create chlorine which would filter up into the vessel poisoning the crew.

Limits and Changes

Forty-eight hours was the limit one could stay underwater in one of these WWII submarines, at least these American submarines.

If, for whatever reason, the vessel’s captain needed to get somewhere fast underwater, they would be out of power in six hours driving those motors full power. Toward the end of the war, the German developed more powerful, more advanced submarines, the Type XXI being the most useful. This boat nicked-named the Elektro-boote could say under water on batteries for about a week.

Reflecting this new capability was the hull design.

Much sleeker, more refined than the American and British submarines of that era; even the German’s own earlier submarines did not have the sleek lines like the Type XXI. When the war ended, the United States took a couple of those submarines home as war booty and began to learn from them. Submarine hull design began to change; existing boats were modified under the GUPPY program, the acronym for Greater Underwater Propulsion and Power with a “Y” thrown in for pronunciation. But by the 1950’s, a new revolution in submarines were underway.

Albacore

Many saw hull design of the day to be a combination of other ideas; nothing really new and certainly nothing that took advantage of the seemingly unlimited supply of electricity that nuclear power offered. Even the first of our nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN-575) had a very convention hull, conventional for that time, reminiscent of the Type XXI and the GUPPY altered WWII submarines. A new teardrop shape hull was devised and would be tested out on the diesel-electrically powered USS Albacore.

The next vessels that followed, the Skipjack class and the George Washington ballistic missiles submarines would take advantage of this design. In the years to follow, this would evolve into the longer shape of the Thresher/Permit class and the way to the new Virginia class nuclear submarines. These sleek underwater vessels are, interestingly enough, significantly slower on the surface than under the water, but this is fine as these rarely ever surface and do not have to surface while underway under nuclear power.

These vessels are true submarines; they are most at home underneath the waves of the ocean, on the hunt for anything they are ordered to destroy, spying, patrolling, doing what submarines are known for in the Silent Service.

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Statistical Submarine Summaries

21 Nov

The US Submarine Force of World War II started from modest beginnings and modest successes to become a force that took out half of the Japanese World War II Navy. More than any other vessel type, carriers, destroyers, cruisers, or battleship, the US submarine is responsible for bringing the Japanese Navy to its knees, gradually whittling it down, encircling Japan itself and cutting it off from its Empire and the rest of the World.

Approximately fifty-four percent of all Japanese merchant ships fell to submarine torpedoes and gunfire. These were from the beginning of the war, up until 1944, the primary target of the submarine. These vessels contained or had the capacity to transport food, fuel, ammunition and troops to all corners of the Japanese Empire, supplying the defenses of these islands and the ships at sea. More so than the mighty battleships, like the Yamato, these slow, lumbering vessels, possibly armed with some kind of light armament to fend off aircraft and ward off enemy surface vessel attack.

These were also the only vessels the submarine had a serious chance of killing on a regular basis.

The three classes of submarines built during the war, the undeniably excellent Gato, Balao, and Tench class submarines were capable of doing approximately twenty knots in the surface, where the boat would spend most of its time. Knots are used to indicate speed of vessels; one knot is equal to 1.151 miles per hour.  Underneath the water, the speed was reduced to just over eight knots if they really pushed their electrical batteries, though if they wanted to stay under the water for at least forty-eight hours, they could only travel at two knots. Meanwhile, the more common Japanese long-range vessel encountered by the submarine, the destroyer, could do an excess of thirty knots.

USS Flasher at sea. Taken from Navsource.org.

The merchant ships, however, were slow to begin with and, when loaded down with cargo, were even slower. The Shiretoko class oilers for example, were only capable of twelve knots according to statistics and most transports were not much faster. Many was the time where a submarine’s watch officer caught site of such a vessel on the horizon, spotting a mast or a small, lazy stream of black smoke in the distance, and, after calling it out, would trigger a boat’s skipper into action. Those targets, juicy, heavy freighters were even more valuable than the heavily armed battleships, the carriers and their squadrons of aircraft, and the destroyers, one of the submarines greatest adversaries. The loss of these logistical vessels would have long-term implications on the destiny of the Empire.

There are two ways to measure what Navies loose during conflicts. One way is to count the actual number of ships lost, while another is to add up the tones of each of those ships lost. In both cases, the Japanese losses are staggering.

When the war began, Japan had approximately 589 warships in service. Of these,

  • 393 of these vessels were either aircraft carriers, battleships, light cruisers, cruisers, destroyers and submarines.
  • 193 of these vessels were smaller, less capable, but equally important warships, these being: patrol ships, gunboats, armed merchant ships, submarine chasers, minelayers, minesweepers, and other auxiliaries

Japan lost 201 warships to American submarines.

The merchant ships, of course, being the main target of American warships, suffered even more.

  • These were vessels weighing over 500 tons.
  • When the war started, Japan had 6 million tons of merchantmen and they succeedded in capturing another 4 million
  • 1,079 individual merchant vessels were lost, this coming to 4,649,650 tons. Another 600,000 tons worth of shipping was so heavily damaged, they were of no further use to the Japanese
  • By August of 1945, there were 1.8 million tons left. Most of these vessels were wooden transport vessels travelling in inland waters

For their efforts, the United States lost 45 boats against the Japanese in action. We lost fifty-two total, the other lost because of accidents as far as can be told today. Some of those boast lost had been built at the end of World War I or shortly afterwards and were simply old. Mechanical failure was most likely the reason in those cases.

Plate honors those US Navy boats lost. Image from Navsource.org

The most incredible statistic is the number of submarines deployed, versus the number of surface ships.

  • By August of 1945, the US Navy had 6,768 ships, both old and new deployed worldwide, 70% of all the world’s tonnage in ships.
  • On December 7th, 1941, the Navy had 112 submarines in service and 203 more were built, most of those being deployed in the Pacific.
  • At its height, the US Navy’s submarine force only made up just under 2% of all Allied vessels deployed in the Pacific.

That tiny force inflicted such heinous damage on the Japanese!

Below is a chart of some of the top scoring boats in terms of tonnage and numbers of ship sunk during World War II.

Submarine Tonnage Sunk Number of Ships   Sunk
Flasher

100,231

21

Rasher

99901

18

Barb

96628

17

Tang

93824

24

Silversides

90080

23

This was the mark made by the Submarine Force of the United States during World War II. It is interesting to note that the Germans did not have the same success the United States did in the Atlantic despite the enormous number of sinkings they did achieve. One of the reasons for this was the kinds of defenses the two sides’ submarines went up against; the Japanese put, if anything, a warship or two with some transports, while the German U-boats went up against highly organized convoys with very sophisticated plans and methods for dealing with the marauding submarines.

Battle flag of the USS Tang. The origional was lost with the boat. This replica was made with the survivors consent. From Navsource.org

July 4th Submarine Tours and Thoughts on History

10 Jul

Bow and Stern Plane Wheels in the Control Room

I’ll be the first to admit this is a little late, but our July 4th opening, a last minute decision by museum staff worked out very nicely. I, personally, did a total of three tours alone, two for visitors, one for a fellow tour guide with questions. Quite a day, I will say. I love giving tours through that boat and I will keep giving them until I cannot give them anymore!

Interest in history is alive and well; since beginning my time at the Ling as a tour guide, I have talked to many people who have said they love history, they love reading about it, they love to know more about it. That, for many reasons, makes me happy, and not just because it will mean more people visiting our unique exhibit. The study of history starts out as a simple retention of facts about the nation around us, about our planet, but then, as we delve deeper into it, we start to see connections, pathways ways, and a much greater story. Why something happened can be lost; the American Civil War, according to US News Magazine (I think) reported, during the Anniversary of the Civil War, that the actual origins of the Civil War, the definite origins are unknown. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin recently started some controversy and argument over the origins of Paul Reveres’ Ride before the American Revolution began. And sometimes, even events that have shaped a culture can be forgotten by a large group of people even by those who are direct descendants. I read in an aviation history magazine that a sizable portion of London Citizens have do not know about the Battle of Brittan.

But when I hear people say they love history, when I see parents and grandparents bringing their children and grandchildren to New Jersey Naval Museum to see USS Ling, I am filled with joy! No more do I feel that we are doomed to ignorance and forgetfulness, actually, I gave up that depressing fear about the time I joined the museum. No, each tour is filled with questions and interest, be they little ones, parents, grandparents, or veterans themselves. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to declare once more the interest of history is ALIVE AND WELL!

All we have to do is preserve the piece of it that are left standing. Reading about it is one thing, but to actually touch it and interact with it is something completely different, something that will stay with a person for a long time. Many years ago, my Father took my brother and I to the Ling and I can still remember the two of us making a run for the bow and stern plane wheels in the third compartment of the tour, the Control Room. Many years later, I think it was toward the end of high school, he would take me to see the boat once more. The kids going through it are as amazed as I was when I was a kid and the kids going through the other museums are also as amazed and excited. These places are not just nice little places of antiques, expendable during a time of budget cuts or in the face of financial gain, these are holy places of memory, honor, intelligence, learning, places that are as important as schools and hospitals, places where an appreciation of knowledge, a love of learning and sense of patriotism can be fostered. These are our museums and we must, every now and then, give them a loving hug!