Author Topic: Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?  (Read 11628 times)

Offline Lance Dean

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Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?
« on: October 25, 2008, 11:34:24 PM »
So why did WWII subs stay on the surface during bad storms?

Offline Tom Bowser

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Re: Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2008, 07:33:00 AM »
The center of gravity and center of bouyancy would shift on the way to the surface. at one point the boat could roll over if hit with a big enough wave broadside. This is what I remember from long ago.
Tom

Offline JohnG

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Re: Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2008, 02:33:11 AM »
What if a enemy ship was spotted?
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Offline JTheotonio

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Re: Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2008, 08:56:23 AM »
Well it would depend - turn away and see if emeny follows - then you know you have been spotted.  If spotted you dive and hope you have enough air to last a bit. it was easier to submerge during a storm than to surface.

On Von Steuben we took some awful big rolls at 200' in the North Atlantic in a storm.  We had to go deep (which took us out of missile firing depth) and run like hell to get into calmer seas.  Stuff was flying all over the galley and mess.
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Offline Travis McLain

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Re: Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2008, 10:20:52 AM »
I think it was on Batfish's first patrol that they ran into a giant storm and almost rolled over, and had stuff flying all over every compartment.
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Offline Fred Tannenbaum

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Re: Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2008, 10:34:17 AM »
Coupla things:

Tom's comment about buoyancy is important. That's why fleet boats would blow main ballast with high-pressure air to basically get the conning tower (and air induction valves) just above the surface, then having the blow finished gradually by low-pressure blowers. An officer on the Silversides told me that blowing ballast tanks completely dry with HP air any more could put the boat in danger of rolling in any seas.

Regarding why they stayed surfaced in storms, as I understand it, they basically had more ability to search for targets on the surface in bad weather, with lookouts and radar, than if they were submerged. The diesel engines also provided more power to manuever and keep control in rough seas. They often dove the boat in heavy storms for at least short periods to allow the crew to rest and eat undisturbed. But as has been pointed out, diving in heavy seas could cause a boat to capsize if the tanks do not flood evenly.

I've always enjoyed the footage of fleet boats battling heavy seas, as is commonly seen in the "Victory At Sea" "Full Fathom Five" episode.

Offline JTheotonio

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Re: Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2008, 01:14:36 PM »
OK here comes way more than anyone wants... :crazy2:

Buoyancy is the property that allows the boat to float on the surface.  Or can be considered as an upward force exerted on an immersed or floating body by the supporting fluid (sea) – dependent on the volume of the displaced water and controlled by varying the volume of displacement.

Center of buoyancy is the center of gravity of the displaced water or the location of the upward or buoyant force.

States of buoyancy 1) positive buoyancy, 2) neutral buoyancy, and 3) negative buoyancy
 Positive buoyancy exists when the weight of the body is less that the weight of an equal volume of the displaced fluid.
Neutral buoyancy exists when the weight of the body is equal to the volume of displaced fluid – this is the state at which the submarine will operate while submerged.
Negative buoyancy exists when the weight of the body is greater than the weight of an equal volume of the displaced fluid and the body sinks.  In theory a submarine is designed so that when its main ballast tanks are full it is in neutral buoyancy state.  So negative buoyancy is gained by flooding negative.

Now also you have to consider stability – this means that when disturbed the body should have a tendency to return to a stable state.  Without getting too technical, we have to consider stability and equilibrium.  There is an imaginary line with a point of intersection of a vertical line through the center of buoyancy of a floating body.  When tipped the “metacenter” is moved – here comes the big part – water is shifted (weight) so one side becomes lighter, while the other side (listing) becomes heavier, thus moving the center of gravity.  Under the surface the center of gravity is much lower because the ballast tanks are full.  Then we consider transverse stability and longitudinal stability.  (rolling and pitching)

There is much more to all of this, but the main idea is that when surfacing, you must consider that the ballast tanks are open at the bottom, so violent rolling and pitching can cause shifting water to increase the center of gravity to shift to a point that can cause the boat to roll over.  Pitching too can cause the same effect – flooding ballast tanks forward or aft and the boat would sink by the bow or stern.

So it is really two main factors to ride out a storm on the surface.  One is air – a storm can outlast the supply of air in the boat.  Two is stability of the boat transitioning from neutral to positive buoyancy.   While submerging in a storm is dangerous too.  It’s just safer on the surface.

As far as sighting targets – well if you are on the surface and cannot submerge due to the storm – it’s fighting on the surface in rough seas.  A surface ship (not a sub) is built to weather rough seas better.  They would have a better platform for their guns.

On the Picuda (SS-382) a few times we did all we could to maintain a topside watch in storms.  A couple of times we could not maintain a topside watch (lookouts would man the periscope).  Even with a lifeline I was nearly wash overboard a couple of times.  There would have been no way to main the deck guns in those seas.

Sorry for the long post. 
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Offline Paul Farace

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Re: Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?
« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2008, 01:08:43 AM »
the fleetboats didn't always stay on the surface during storms...

When the skipper realized that the two lookouts lashed to the shears where blinded by their own vomit and that the rest of the crew was sitting on deck, deep green, and puking their own lungs into buckets, they often would pull the plug and go deep to wait out the worst of it.  Trying to hit a ship with a torpedo in really bad weather was even more problematic than usual.

 :-[

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Offline JTheotonio

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Re: Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2008, 07:30:45 AM »
Yep it wasn't a hard fast rule.  During war you got to do what you got to do.  Frankly I loved getting tossed around especially after a good breakfast of runny eggs and some SOS - yum! Bring on those gale force winds and seas.  Green water right up to the shears means the OOD is going to get wet (well me too)
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Offline Brian Flynn

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Re: Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?
« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2008, 10:39:37 AM »
Two additional points - I understood that fleet boats didn't submerge during a storm because once submerged, the storm could get too bad for them to surface.  As I think about that now, it seems silly, but perhaps there's something in the "coming to the surface" procedure that is dangerous to the ship in a high sea state?  Or the worry that once down you might not be able to come up if the storm gets worse, but you can always submerge as a last resort if the storm gets really bad.

In a bad storm, I imaging it is extremely difficult to accurately fire a gun from a rolling and pitching ship at a rolling and pitching ship, even with stabilization equipment.  A hit becomes much less likely, but not an impossibility.  But just doing the engagement might be outside the capabilities of the crew of the other ship.

Brian

Offline Darrin

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Re: Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?
« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2008, 10:51:45 AM »
Honestly I don't know the whole reason behind it other then what I learned while on 688's and we just went DEEEP during those big storms :coolsmiley: 

Although there was the one time coming out of Korea during a Typhoon that kept bringing us up to the surface and then blowing us to 500 ft (depth wasn't much more then 600' at some points) that and the rocking and rolling was fun with 45+ degree's both ways (port and starboard) on top of the other motions made most of the crew sick as dog's and worked the hell out of the planesmen and the COW with pumping and blowing as fast as he could to keep us from broaching and to keep us from bouncing off of the bottom

Offline Mark Sarsfield

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Re: Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2008, 11:13:57 AM »
Brian,

  SS deck guns didn't have stabilizing equipment, as far as I know.  So, anything beyond moderate seas pretty much made hitting anything impossible.  Some captains were discouraged with their crew's performance during target practice in calm seas and never fired their guns at all.  Other skippers had fire control equipment installed and took advantage of the extra armament. 


Regards,
Mark Sarsfield
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Offline JTheotonio

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Re: Why did WWII subs stay on surface in storms?
« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2008, 08:13:06 PM »
Thanks Mark - we had no stabilization on a fleet boat.  Think about those poor guys that went out in the O, R and S boats.  You ride out what the sea gives.  :D
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