Dud Torpedoes and Mush Morton
In a BBS post on October 29, 2001, Ron "Warshot" Smith responded to an inquiring post about the practice of certain WWII submarine skippers who mounted an upside-down broom high in the periscope shears upon return to port.  The practice signified that the boat had made a clean sweep during their patrol.  Ron's post went on to reflect on his direct experience with the testing of torpedoes well into the war - one of the most talked-about and oft-debated subjects of WWII submarine history.  Here is Ron' s response from that BBS thread:

The broom thing was a personal choice. I don't honestly know who did it first, and I think the criteria varied, depending on the Skippers ego. It was certainly nothing official.

Whoever did it first PLANNED to do it. World War ll Submarines did NOT carry brooms, normally.

Yes, it was Morton that raised "Billie Hell" about the torpedoes not exploding. In the late summer of '43 I was one of about six or eight torpedomen that hauled Warheads down from the Ammunition Bunkers in the Aiea Mountains to the Sub Base. We lifted them up on a tall Crane and dropped them on a steel plate. There were several boat skippers and COMSUB staff people directing us and "Looking over our shoulder" as we scrapped the Warhead off the plate and examined the exploder mechanism. There was no danger because they did not have detonators or Boosters in them. Morton was one I remember but I don't remember any other names. Yes, Lockwood came around a few times. Hell, we must've busted up 50 or 60.

What was funny to me was watching this Kanake, sitting about fifty feet from us, melting the Torpex out of the busted Warheads with a blow torch. Ordnance 101, it takes 1200 degrees to ignite Torpex. A blow torch only makes about 400 to 500 degrees. Just enough to melt the Torpex but not enough to ignite it. I thought that was pretty cool. For those of you that remember the temperatures better than me, my figures admittedly are not exact but it makes the point about melting the stuff and igniting it.




Thanks for the kudos. That's pretty much the whole story of that incident. One other thing that was "Thrilling" about this was that when we pulled the Warheads out of their storage space at the Ammo Dump. They were stored laying down on a big skid arrangement. To pull them out we had an electric hoist. We would crawl into the skid and put the hook into the nosepiece on the warhead. Then we started pulling it out: WELL, just as it reached the point that it left the skid, there was just a moment before we knew it was "On the hook". I'm talking 30 feet in the air on some of the storage racks. We always "swallowed hard" when that moment occurred.

You certainly have my OK to post this on your board.

Best regards,

Ron 'Warshot' Smith