Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Naval Undersea Museum unloads historic torpedoes


The Northwest Navigator
By Mary Popejoy
May 13, 2005

Photo by Ray Narimatsu
Rigger Kelsey, left, and Ron Roehmholdt, exhibits director

at the Naval Undersea Museum, unload one of 13 World War II
submarine torpedoes received at the museum May 4.

The Naval Undersea Warfare Museum at Keyport welcomed 13 World War II Mk 14 Torpedoes into their space May 4 after 11 years of paperwork, preparation and persistency.

The journey began in 1994 when Dusty Rhodes, Industrial Specialist (Ordnance and Electronics) and a former Master Chief Torpedoman of Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Keyport, discovered the historical torpedoes at the Army Ammunition Depot in Hawthorne, Nev.

“We were climbing through magazines in the storage areas at Hawthorne, and Bob Bennett, one of the guys who was helping me out said that he had found some of the “big boy” torpedoes in crates,” said Rhodes. “I went over to where he was standing and noticed a Naval Ammunition Logistical Code (NALC) of 1502 stenciled on one crate. I recognized the number from my days in the Fleet as a Torpedoman’s Mate as being a Mk 14 Torpedo,” he added.

They soon discovered they had eleven of the famous torpedoes. Once Rhodes checked them out he found that they were on the Army’s demilitarization list. As Single Manager of Conventional Ammunition it is the army’s responsibility to coordinate and fund the destruction or demilitarization of virtually all explosives or weapons within the Department of Defense (DoD). This method is the Army’s way of tracking the destruction of weapons or explosives.

“Back in 1994 I had to ensure the priority of these torpedoes was low enough to permit me the time to sell the concept of transitioning them to museum status. It was,” said Rhodes.

After many discussions with the Army, they established a partnership to allow the famous torpedoes to be transitioned to museum status to be placed on display, vice being destroyed. Two additional MK 14 Torpedo main assemblies were subsequently discovered in a storage building and the army agreed to melt the explosives from two additional MK 16 Mod 6 Warheads to increase the number of torpedoes from 11 to 13.

“In Oct. 2003, the warheads were removed from the torpedo and exploders checked for explosives. The igniters, alcohol fuel and air flasks were also drained,” said Rhodes. “The next step was to turn the warheads over to the Army so they could put the warheads through a melt out process to remove the HBX 1 explosives and then through a flash furnace and burn the any residual explosive out. They then did a swab test to certify that the warheads were inert.

Once that was done, the warheads were reattached to the main assemblies of the torpedoes,” said Rhodes.
He added that safety was paramount during the process.

“We didn’t know what we were going to see inside the weapons, so we took every conceivable safety caution imaginable so we could be prepared for the worst case scenario,” added Rhodes.

Once the torpedoes were cleared, they were shipped from Nevada and taken to the Keyport Museum where they will be refurbished so they can be suitable for display in historic ships, museums or qualified organizations.
In order to get one of these fine pieces of history there is a certain criteria that must be met.

“Organizations who want to put one of these on display must meet the security and the environmental criteria because we want them to keep their beauty for many years to come,” said Bill Galvani, director of Keyport Museum.
Preserving these torpedoes allows history to be a part of our present.

“Having these torpedoes preserved gives the young people of today and in the future an idea of what we used back during WWII to keep our country free because we do not start wars just for the fun of it,” said Rhodes.

And for Rhodes having this project come full circle before his retirement from government service is simply bitter sweet.

“I am ecstatic that 11 years of intense effort finally paid off, but I couldn’t have done it without the help of the Keyport Museum, the army depot in Hawthorne, our NUWC Keyport Detachment in Hawthorne, the U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command in Rock Island, Ill., the Day-Zimmer Corporation, Hawthorne, NV, TMCS (SW) Terry Pheabus (ret), BAE Systems Keyport and TMC Bob Pallat (ret) Akron, Ohio. Everyone worked together as a team and made this process a huge success,” he added.


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