Wednesday, August 12, 2009

USS Cod Pt.2

Sorry for the scarcity of posts. I've been sick these past few days.

Anyway, here's more of my pics and info on the USS Cod (SS224), the Gato-Class fleet submarine now moored in Lake Erie just east of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland.

Our visit begins with a drop down a hatch via a vertical ladder into this room, the forward torpedo room. Cod, like the rest of the Fleet Boats, had ten torpedo tubes, six forward (shown here--the bottom two are hard to see with the decking in place.) and four more in the aft end. She carried 24 torpedoes. A number of the crew also berthed in these compartments among the torpedoes, and they were always happy when some were fired, because it meant that much more room. The torpedoes were either electric or steam-powered and the ones in the tubes had to be withdrawn every few days to have their battery or alcohol levels checked--not an easy task when a torpedo weighed over 3,000 lbs and had to be moved around by block and tackle and muscle power.

Here's a look into one of the torpedo tubes. You're looking at the inside of the outer door twenty-one feet away. When the torpedo is inside, the inner door is closed, the tube is flooded, the outer door is opened, and a blast of compressed air shoots the torpedo forward. as it goes, the torpedo's motor is started and once out of the tube, it's off on it's own, hopefully to run straight and true to the enemy. Sadly this was not always the case, and many torpedoes surfaced prematurely, ran too deep, and in at least two known incidents, ran in a large circle and sank the submarines that launched them. (Tang, SS306, and Tullibee, SS284.)These cozy little bunks in the forward torpedo room were known as the "honeymoon suite" and generally fell to the Stewards--black or asiatic men who took care of the menial kitchen and laundry duties. It was as cramped as any other, but also the hottest and wettest due to condensation from the humid air inside forming on the torpedo-loading hatch above the bunk.
Going aft, we entered into "Officer's Country", where the ship's seven or eight officers worked, slept and ate. They had their own small kitchen (shown here) and wardroom and one shower between them, and except for the Captain, they bunked two to a small compartment. Sorry that I have no pictures of this area, but I was trying to keep up with a hyper-excited ten-year old.

I caught the kid in the Control Room, just aft of Officers' Country. this is where the submarine's electrical panel is as well as her targeting computer and the wheels that control her dive planes fore and aft. Also in this compartment are the handles that operate the valves to the ballast tanks that open to dive the boat and the compressed-air valves that fill those tanks with air again to surface the boat.

Shown here are those handles that open the ballast tanks, just below a panel with red and green lights known as the "Christmas Tree". Those lights represent every hatch and intake on the sub and show with red for open (bad for diving)< and green for closed. when the signal to dive is given, everyone throughout the boat has a job to do, and someone is responsible for closing each of those openings before the boat can dive.These are the switches that activate the various horns telling the crew to either prepare to dive or report to General Quarters ("Battle Stations"). The klaxons still work on the Cod, but these days when you activate them, instead of 80 men jumping to various stations, you get one grumpy mechanic from the Engine Room coming forward wanting to know who is fooling with the alarms.

And since it was obvious that those switches still worked, I decided to leave this one alone.

Back in the day, our submarines were considered state-of-the-art secret weapons and highly classified. So in oder to keep them from falling into enemy hands, they came equipped with a "self-destruct" system (shown here) that would scuttle the boat if capture appeared imminent.

It's noteworthy to mention Captain John P. Cromwell, USN here. He was aboard USS Sculpin (SS191) on November 19, 1943, when she was damaged to the point of being forced to surface. Cromwell had been briefed on the upcoming Tarawa invasion and rather than risk having the Japanese find out about it via torture, he elected to go down with the ship after the rest of the crew had abandoned it. For that act of selfless sacrifice, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Notable about the Cod is that her conning tower compartment is partially accessible, something not usually seen on these museum subs nowadays due to liability concerns. But here, you're allowed to climb part way up the ladder into the conning tower and see where much of the actual war-fighting was done. Notice the periscope here. This is where the 'scopes were in real World War Two submarines. Most war movies show the captain using the scope down in the Control Room below. But that wasn't the case in reality; the periscopes (there were two--an observation scope for general looking around and a narrower attack scope for combat use) only came down into this small compartment. Kudos to the Cod Association for opening this up to the public.

Aft of the Control Room there was this small radio room. This was the submarine's only way of communicating with the rest of the world. It was high-tech back in the 1940's, but today one could simply mount more powerful and versatile radio gear on a shelf or two somewhere. This was vacuum-tube equipment!

Then it was aft again, through the crew's galley and mess (shown in the previous Cod post here with Spud at the table.) This set-up fed the eighty or so enlisted men of the crew. One thing about sub duty though was that they got the best food of any ship type in the navy. It was a small perk, but an appreciated one. They also got 50% added to their pay for submarine duty, and 20% for sea duty. Of course the basic Seaman Apprentice was only making twenty-one dollars a month at the beginning of the war.

Aft of that was the main crew berthing area, where most of the enlisted crew slept. At least on these boats, most of the crewmembers got their own bunks, but "hot-bunking", a practice where two men shared a bunk--one sleeping while the other worked--was not unheard of when space was short. Again, I have no pictures of this area, thanks to the kid. I also have none of the engine rooms, but that was my fault, because I was talking to the mechanic about the four General Motors diesel-electric motors therein and forgot to take any. Sorry!
Now back past the engine rooms (there were two--one for each pair of engines) was the Maneuvering Room. This was where the power was channeled from the four engines either into the batteries (recharging) or to the electric motors that actually turned the propellers, or a combination of both. In these boats, the diesels just turned generators, and that power was used to run the boat. The propellers were coupled to electric motors housed in a compartment below this one and not directly hooked to the diesels. This room and the engine rooms forward of it were the hottest and noisiest, with temperatures as high as 130 degrees not uncommon. There was no air conditioning back then, and hearing loss was inevitable.

Aft of this was the After Torpedo Room, and the hatch leading to the deck above.

These are the propeller guards, installed to protect the prop blades when coming alongside piers or other vessels. The prop arc extended out past the normal curvature of the hull, and without guards like this, damage to--or destruction of--the propellers was virtually inevitable.

And here's the view looking back up her deck. The closest hatch is the one coming out of the Aft Torpedo Room, and ahead of that you can see the hatch coming up off of the crews' mess. The yellow tub on the port side is a rescue buoy that would be released in the event of a sinking to mark the sub's position. During wartime, however, it would be welded in place to prevent it from being jarred loose by enemy action. Also note the four rings in the hull around the aft hatch. Those were used to secure specialized diving bells intended to be used to rescue the crews of sunken submarines (in peacetime). This was done in 1939 when the USS Squalus (SS192) was sunk by flooding due to a catastrophic valve failure during a test. 32 sailors and a civilian contractor were rescued.

Note also the decking. It's perforated steel now, but during the war, it would have been teakwood. Teak was used because it's dense and heavy and would sink if broken off by depth-charging instead of floating to the surface to give the sub's position away. Unfortunately, it's hard to get enough teak these days to replace an entire sub deck.
Here's the sub's deck gun, in this case a 5"/25 wet gun. This gun could be submerged under water and still remain functional. It had a five-inch bore, a range of 14,500 feet, and could fire about ten rounds a minute with a well-trained crew. It used two crewmen to aim--one to traverse it right-to-left, and the other one to raise and lower the barrel vertically. This gun was used to attack targets considered too small to waste a torpedo on. Torpedoes cost $10,000 each--a fortune in 1940's money.

And here's the fairweather from the outside. Note the 40MM Bofors gun on the fore and aft decks. These were intended for anti-aircraft use as well as for use against small vessels.

And then there's the scoreboard. During her seven WW-II war patrols Cod fired 122 torpedoes recording 39 hits. Her skippers claimed 10 ships sunk and 5 damaged by torpedo. Cod also chalked-up another five ships, 24 junks and 11 floating mines as "sunk by gun fire".
Note also a martini glass, symbol of a celebration between the crew of the Cod and the Dutch Submarine O-19, which had run aground and was destroyed by Cod after her crew was taken off.
See that video here:

I have to say that Cod is one of the best-preserved museum subs left in the country, and I've seen most of them. It was an honor and a privilege to go aboard this proud veteran and should you find yourself anywhere near Cleveland, I'd recommend that you make the time to see her. And when you do, remember that 52 of these boats went out during the war but never came back. Most were lost with all hands and many still lie in locations known only to God. Over 3,500 servicemen made the ultimate sacrifice in submarines--over 22% of the men who served in them. This was the highest loss rate for any branch of the US Armed Forces in World War Two.

See more of the USS Cod and read more of her story here.


  1. Anonymous10:17 AM

    Fleet subs like COD has both wood and steel decking during their careers. The way COD is today is virtually unchanged from her WWII service condition. Some subs had all wood, some, like COD had both. Not sure why. The 40mm guns were never intended to shoot at aircraft on subs... the admiral would have killed the skipper.

    -- USS COD curator

  2. Much appreciated corrections, Sir.

    However to be fair, I took the information on the Cod's decking material from your own website article, Topside on the USS Cod,

    My statement about the guns came from the same website, article about the guns this time.

    I know that it was in all practical aspects suicidal to engage aircraft with a couple of paltry deck guns, but they were technically AA guns, and your own site specifies the role that they were intended for.

    Love the Cod though, and looking forward to returning again. You've done great work with it.