Mechanics of torpedo damage


Greg Burns

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Dec 4, 2003
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Hi all,

I'm preparing to write a short booklet on the Lusitania medal produced by Karl Goetz and others, with part one of the book devoted to the ship, people, and sinking. I'd like to understand better the actual mechanics of the torpedo damage. My understanding is that the torpedo did not actually penetrate the hull and then explode inside the vessel, but rather it would detonate upon impact (small triggering device on the front of the torpedo) and the resultant underwater blast would either tear the steel plates of the hull opening the interior to the sea, or at the very least stress the hull plate seams to the point of compromising their watertightness. I've not been able to find much information on the Type G torpedo itself (specifications, means of destruction, etc.), and so am puzzled a little bit by the elsewhere posted reference to the Hickey/Smith reference to Albert Martin's having, "...seen the torpedo slam past him before it exploded between a group of boilers."

If I recall correctly, the torpedo only moved at something like 40 mph, and it seems unlikely that such a velocity would permit it to crash through the hull plating.

Seeking help...

Thanks,

Greg Burns
www.LusitaniaMedal.com
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Greg: You are absolutely correct about torpedoes not crashing through hull plating, especially like that on a large ship such as the Lusitania. In the early months of WW-II, the American Mark-14 torpedoes were notorious for hitting the side of a ship square on and not exploding due to poor contact exploder design. What many sub skippers reported were the mild explosion of the torpedo's air flask which usually caused no damage whatsoever to the target ship.

The Mark-14 was actually designed the explode under the ship using a magnetic detector device which often failed to explode, or exploded prematurely well before the torpedo came close enough to do any damage. The Mark-14 torpedo itself usually ran deeper than set, and did not maintain depth very well, oscillating up and down as it approached the target. Eventually, the magnetic exploder was deactivated, and not used again. The contact exploder, which did not work if the torpedo hit the target straight-on, was equipped as a backup to the magnetic exploder. It's faults became apparent after the magnetic exploder was removed from service. It is interesting to note that both primary and backup exploders of Mark-14 had major design faults.

In WW-I there were only contact exploders, and they were designed to explode on contact, not delayed, taking advantage of the incompressibility of water to shock the target hull apart.
 

Greg Burns

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Dec 4, 2003
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Thanks for confirming my suspicions, Sam. Do you (or perhaps another reader) know what the specifications of the Type G torpedo used by the Germans in WWI were? Length, diameter, pounds of explosive, what type of explosive, speed in water, etc.?

Regards,

Greg
 

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