Torpedo firing procedure in World War 2 / Lieut JG

It is my understanding that on a United States Navy submarine, the chain of commander for launching a torpedo is the Commanding Officer (CO) gives the order to the Officer of the Deck (OOD), who gives the order to the Fire Control Technician of the Watch (FTOW), who presses the “button" in the Control Room to launch a torpedo. If I am mistaken in this, please correct me.

I have two questions regarding this. 1) Would it have been the same procedure for a U.S. submarine in World War Two? 2) Would a Lieutenant JG (Junior Grade) ever be in one of the roles for firing the torpedo?

In a battle condition the CO would probably assume the con of the sub. so the OOD would not be be receiving or giving orders as OOD.

A LTJG could certainly be in the role of OOD, but Snnipe 70E is correct that if the sub was in a situation where hostile action was imminent, the CO would have the con.

I believe in WWII era subs, the actual launch was done by a sailor in the torpedo room (both by pressing a button and simultaneously pulling a manual launch lever, in case the button didn’t work). The control room just gave the firing order over the communication lines.

Good commanders will have previously told the control room, and had it passed on to the actual torpedo room sailors, what their intentions were: “We’ll be firing a string of 3 torpedoes, 6 seconds apart”. So they could all anticipate the sequence, and be ready for the commands.

Back in WWII, they had no computerized control; they had at best a mechanical calculator that was used to figure the aiming point based on the (estimated) speed & heading of the target. So the commander was usually on the periscope, another officer would be entering the data given by the commander and operating this calculator.

[No personal experience; this is based entirely on info from veterans who were there, and on reading books from American & British submarine commanders.]

In the newer US WWII subs though that calculator the Torpedo Data Computer or TDC was quite elaborate. It was manned by two men, usually both officers. The whole tracking party in the conning tower had several of the sub’s officers, almost always headed up by the Executive Officer. One successful CO (name and boat now escapes me) was famous for the unusual practice of heading up the tracking party himself and having the Exec on the periscope but that was notable because it was almost always the other way around.

As the Pacific War went on the CO was more and more often on bridge rather that at the periscope because the sub was attacking on the surface at night. But anyway it was almost always the CO designating the target and taking bearings, passed on to the TDC operators. Then the CO would given final data and authorize ‘shoot’ (which replaced ‘fire’ as the command on US subs during WWII) according to a pre agreed set of tubes, torpedo type, angle of spread between torpedoes, depth setting etc he’d earlier ordered. Then one of the TDC operators would give the actual order ‘shoot’ when the lights on the machine showed it had the firing solution.

The TDC operator or assistant operator could be a LTJG, or an ENS or full LT depending.

In case anyone was wondering, this terminology is to avoid any possibility of confusion. “Fire” has only one meaning on a submarine: that of flames requiring fire extinguishers and/or fire hoses to put it out.

The firing button was in the control room to fire electrically. If it failed to fire electrically then it was fired manually in the torpedo room.

USS Wahoo, “Mush” Morton (CO) and Dick O’Kane (XO). Morton was supposed to have said that he preferred this setup because he’d be less likely to lose his nerve and fire too soon, but those who knew him didn’t believe that (losing his nerve) was possible.

Which can sometimes lead to problems.

Was that Danno who fired the ASROC?


Great movie. Downer of an ending, though.
eta: I never thought of it as a modern retelling of Moby Dick, but I can see the parallels now. But, sometimes a sub is just a sub, and not the embodiment of evil, even if is Soviet .

Excellent recall.

Despite the seriousness of wartime, the TDC procedure had certain seat-of-the-pants qualities. O’Kane noted that he was expected to identify the angle that various target ships presented in silhouette using only a simple line drawing of the ship in a manual. So he personally hand-made little wooden models of the ships in the manual, placed them on a rotating mount, and memorized what they looked like at various angles he could measure accurately.

Both Wahoo and the Tang, which O’Kane later commanded, set records for sinking ships with this method.