The Last Hours of USS Whitehurst DE-634

                  USS Trigger SS-564 Successfully Tests Mk-48 Torpedo
      
The story as told by veterans of USS Trigger.  i.e. The "Men Who Were There"

Wayne and Max;      

I was on board Trigger the day she sank the Whitehurst (it was my birthday). 
Trigger, along with USS Trout, were providing support for Westinghouse and
Clevite for the development of the MK 48 torpedo.  The testing took place near
Bangor, Washington and Nanaimo, British Columbia on Vancouver Island.  It
was  a great experience - beautiful countryside, good beer and gracious
Canadian hosts, especially the PPCLI (Princess Patricia's Canadian Light
Infantry) who provided us with barracks.  Your e-mail brought back some good
memories. Whitehurst was one of three live war shots made by Trigger off the
coast of Washington.  I have photos of the MK 48 used and the Whitehurst,
days before the war shot and one taken through the periscope as she was going
down.  ... The 48 being loaded is the one actually fired at the Whitehurst.  The
artist painting the silhouettes on the sail is me (in preparation for our triumphant
return to San Diego).  Photo #4 was taken in San Diego.  The man crossing the
brow is Tim Shull...  Hope you guys enjoy the photos.     Ed Rivoire QM2(SS) 
                                                                         photos supplied by Ed Rivoire

 The Mk 48 Torpedo that sank Whitehurst being loaded aboard USS Trigger SS-564

 


Ed Riviore'
s Mk. 48 Test Participation Certificate

 


 

Ed Rivoire paints "Kill Credits"                                 USS Trigger SS-564


photo supplied by LCDR R.J. Hansen USNR (Ret)

 

Webmaster:

I was aboard the USS Trigger SS-564 when we fired the first "live" MK-48
Torpedo at the Whitehurst. We could hear the breaking up sounds, on Sonar,
 just like the movies. I'm fairly sure there were pictures of the ship broken in
half and sinking. But I have no idea of where they might be. I do have a
Participation Award Certificate that is signed by the CO of the Trigger, the
Program Manager Westinghouse, and the acting CO of the Whitehurst. 

Take care.

Jim Wade HMC(SS)USN/Ret

Max:

Ref your request of photos of the Whitehurst sinking...here are three of the event. 

I was a TM3 on board the Trigger during the Mark 48 Torpedo Test and Evaluation
firing in 1971.  I was part of the torpedo gang that loaded it up, fired it, and waited
for the demise of the Whitehurst after a nine minute run. 
 

It was a Westinghouse Mark 48 Mod 0 that sunk the Whitehurst.  We were testing
three different 48's.  The Mod 0 and Mod 2 by Westinghouse and the Mod 1 by
Cleveite.  It was a shoot out of sorts between the two companies and Cleveite won
the contract.  But, the one that sunk the Whitehurst was the first Mark 48 war shot
ever fired.
 

The torpedo detonates under the ship and the upward force breaks the vessel in
two.  The stern sunk first and then the bow.  We were able to get close enough to
get a photo of the bow just before it went under.  Each crew member was given a
copy of the photo taken through the periscope.  Many official photos were taken
through the scope.
 

Also the whole event was photographed from a helicopter taking 16mm movies. 
They took movies of us on the surface and of the detonation and sinking of the
stern and bow.   I know because a couple of months later, I had the job of editing
down a copy of all that film footage from two big reels down to a small 5 minute
presentation that the CO used at various presentations related to the testing phase
we went through.

note: I submitted a request for the photos but the  National Archive personnel could find no photos of Whitehurst's sinking.  They gave no reason.  It would seem the pictures should have been declassified since almost 40 years had passed.
max crow, webmaster

The other two photos attached are of me sitting in front of the tube that we fired the
first and third shots from (see the American flags on the tube door - a take off of
how the subs keep score during WWII) and of the "Kills" painted on the Trigger's sail.
 

Unfortunately, that is all I have reference the Whitehurst, except that I do have the
silver plated gravy bowl from the ward room (and you are not getting that).  The White-
hurst was tied up in front of us just prior to leaving port of the shoot.  Since it was a
target ship, we were given permission to go onboard and collect any "souvenirs". 
As I was rummaging through the ward room, I pulled open a drawer and there was
a badly worn and tarnished gravy bowl
(I had it replated and it looks good).
 

We also disassembled the barber chair that was in the after steering room and huffed
and puffed the thing up, out and over to the Trigger as we thought it would look good
in front of the after torpedo tubes.  But, after all that work, it would not fit down the
hatch.  The base was an inch wider in diameter that our hatch was....bummer.

LCDR R.J. Hansen USNR (Ret)
Former TM2(SS)
USS Trigger SS564
 


TM2(SS) RJ Hansen


Whitehurst being towed to her final resting place

 



USS Tawasa ATF-92 towed Whitehurst

Max,

I was the periscope photographer on TRIGGER when we sunk your ship and have
a copy of that picture.  I can email it to you when I return from the middle
east probably towards the end of September.    I believe my photo is in the
National Archives as well.  I can also tell you about the event especially
the towing of WHITEHURST to Bangor and the night before we sank her when
Trigger's crew stripped her portholes and other stuff.  Please keep my name
and email handy.

Tom Boyer, ex-RM2(SS)
TRIGGER 1971-1973

Hi Wayne & Max, 

I was a TM on the Trigger when we tested a war shot Mk. 48 torpedo that sunk the
Whitehurst...    Also, I believe R.J. Hansen was on board then.  R.J. is now an officer
in the reserve, I think, and I believe regularly attends the Trigger reunions.  R.J. was
a TM3 at the time.  I'm certain he would have a copy of the photo.  That was the only
photo I saw of the sinking.  There was a tin can that accompanied us on the shot,
though I do not recall the name.  They tried to finish up the Whitehurst with a deck
gun, though it sank too quickly for them to get in range . 
I Hope this helps. Terry Sullivan

Max,  

Glad to help.  Sure, you can use my comments.  The photo of Henry's is the one I
was thinking of.  It was weird too, because we had a copy of the film "The Enemy
Below" on board which I believed used the Whitehurst and was sunk (on film) at
the end of the movie.  The tin can that tried to finish it off with her deck gun I believe
was the USS Fox, a DLG, but I could be mistaken. 

I was involved with the Mk. 48 torpedo evaluations - we spent about 6 months test-
ing them in the Strait of Georgia off Vancouver Island.  When we cleared the Strait of
Juan de Fuca to conduct the war shot, we ran into a huge storm.  It didn't bother me,
but about 1/3 of the crew was sea sick.  The storm passed and we completed the war
shot.  It was really strange to hear the detonation under water.  I remember surfacing
and watching the tin can try to shoot down the bow of the Whitehurst, walking out
the shots to find the range. 

I don't recall sinking any other ships.  I think we only conducted one war shot.  We 
also planned on using a scrap decommissioned sub as a target as well, but it sank
on the tow up from San Diego.  Terry
 

I was on the Trigger (SS-564) from early 1970 until June 1972.  During my tour, we
tested the Mark 48 torpedo system.  I even still have a "Participation Award" signed by
CDR Flather who was the skipper of the Trigger, a fellow named G.R. Thomas who was
the program manager for Westinghouse, and D.A. Kohl, C.O. USS Whitehurst (Acting). 

Anyhow, during those tests, as I recall, we sank the Whitehurst and 2 Liberty ships,
all specially prepared for the tests in Bremerton, WA and towed out to sea for the event. 
The attached photo is the bow of one of those three ships in its last moments.  It looks
 like a destroyer bow to me, but I'm really not sure if it's the Whitehurst or one of the
Liberty ships.  Maybe you can tell for sure*.  The photo was taken through our peris-
cope, as you can see by the cross hairs.  There wasn't much time between weapon
detonation and sinking, so from the Trigger's point of view, this was all the photos we
could get, I think.
  Good luck!
 

Henry Petrino

Former QM3 (SS), USS Trigger (SS-564)

*Hi Max,

 I am sure this is Whitehurst. Why?  The hawse pipe is in the correct location.  The
chocks for the mooring lines are also correct. The markings for the water line just aft
of the stem also appear to be correct.  Lastly, Whitehurst had a strait bow (no rake)
and the keel was flat and joined the bow at right angles.  I recall this from the time she
was in dry dock. I look forward to your write-up.
Good luck , Roger
From Roger Ekman Capt. USN Ret. who served as Gunnery and Operations Officer on Whitehurst.
mc

Hi Max, 

Sure, you are welcome to use what I sent.  I wish I had more for you.  It's been a long
time ago and memory fades! 

I do remember that the "target" ships were all fitted with various sensing gear to mea-
sure the effectiveness of the weapon.  I also remember that the Mark 48 did not pene-
trate the hull of the target.  It detonated under the keel.  The effect was devastating. 
Each target broke into two pieces which sank independently.  We shot from 5,000 yards
at 500 feet, so by the time we could surface and close the range for a good look, it was
too late.  Henry

 

 From Westinghouse Engineer, Neil Thomas, July 2017

Max, after a long, long time I decided to look back on my history.  I was the Westinghouse Engineer aboard Trigger that loaded the MK 48 for Whitehurst.  If you would like discussions, I would be glad to oblige.  Neil Thomas

For whatever reason, there needed to be an acting Commanding Officer or Officer in Charge during the tests.  Keyport chose the Diving Officer, Lt. Commander "Moose" Kole.

We were weathered out the first scheduled day of the test.  The next morning it was still a little rocky at firing depth.  The ships crew placed the weapon onto the skids for the designated launch tube.  I straddled the weapon, facing aft on the warhead and was assisting a Naval Lab engineer with the installation of the firing exploder.  Then quickly, he hand me the exploder and heads aft due to sea sickness. What memories!  Installation continued, the weapon was loaded, I connected the guidance wire and the "attack" continued. 

To continue the launch sequence, we put the unit into the selected launch tube, hooked up a bit of local site monitoring equipment and turned the weapon over to the launch party.  The target was tracked, a firing solution obtained, and the Commanding Officer of USS Trigger ordered the unit launched.  Part of the monitoring equipment attached was the ability to monitor the feedback from the Weapon via the guidance wire.  We watched as the weapon entered the search phase, and the saw target acquisition and the initiation of homing.  There was no loss of acquisition and the unit continued to perform.  At a point in time when detonation should have occurred, we lost wire continuity.  Can you imagine the initial feeling of a live weapon on the loose with no control capability!  It was just a few seconds, but your mind can play a lot of games.  Then the undersea thunder of a large explosion hit us.  It was one hell of an example of the difference in speed of an electrical signal and the speed of sound in water.

Note: I asked Neil for more information on the monitoring circuit. His answer follows.  mc

As far as the guidance wire, let see what I can remember.  The MK 48 torpedo is a wire guided weapon.  That means that there is a wire that connects to the control system within the torpedo what feeds out from two sources.  There is a coil of wire within the torpedo and there is a coil of wire within the wire dispenser, attacked to the launch tube.  This wire attaches via the tube to the ships fire control system.  During an actual firing, there are a few parameters that the fire control party can change, such thing as search depth, search mode, passive search or active search, shut down and some others.

I am almost certain that it is a single wire system because upon loading the unit into the tube, one of the last things done is to splice the torpedo wire with the dispenser wire and it is done with a single splice.  The dispenser contains about 100 feet of flex tube, a stainless conduit that is attached to the torpedo with shear screws. The purpose of the flex tube is to protect the guidance wire out the tube and away from ship movements.  I connected the wire on the warshot.  The company was very nervous about a proper connection with the first warshot and the ability to shut it down at the first sign of possible malfunction.

As far as our torpedo room monitoring, we built a little test box with an ohm meter and recorder. The wire changes polarity when searching or homing.

Others have correctly described the coming to periscope depth, siting of the destroyed target and surfacing.  I waited for ships company to go to the bridge and then went up to observe.  The, referenced, video really did show the picture.

If you correspond with any of the torpedo gang, please ask the status of the first class TM who was right out of central casting for a WWII Torpedoman with half a dozen war patrols under his belt.  He was my main point of contact and presented me with a Trigger plaque.  Neil Thomas

Neil Thomas Credentials
I was in the submarine service for 10 years, getting out of the Navy in January 1969.  My last three years was shore duty at Keyport.  As an electronic Technician, I was sent to a newly established test range near Nanaimo, B. C.  I first went up as a computer operator and quickly became the assistant range officer. There is nothing like a group of mustang Torpedo Officers to pass the buck to the kid.

I lived in Nanaimo with the Navy and then went to work for Westinghouse and the Test and Evaluation Engineer for ranging all MK 48 Torpedoes and MK 27 Targets.  Met and married my bride there. 

I was assigned to that test by Westinghouse and rode during the test.  If any of you were in the torpedo room during the actual preparation and the loading of the unit, I was the guy in the white coveralls, sitting backwards on the torpedo and taking the exploder when the NOL* rep got sea sick. Id like to hook up and relive a great event in my life.  Just as a side, my point of contact was a crusty First Class TM.  Do any of you recall his name and status?  He presented me with my Trigger plaque which I cherish today. I Hope to hear back.  Thanks to you all, Neil W. Thomas.

To contact Neil, write to crowmax@aol.com, Webmaster this site.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

The following is from the USS Trigger Deck Log  

This account is official.  mc
 

Sunday 25 April 1971... 1425 USS Tawasa (ATF-92) underway with ex USS Whitehurst (DE-634) in tow.
Whitehurst precedes Trigger, enroute to her final rest, by nearly 24 hours.
Monday 26 April 1971 0930 Stationed the maneuvering watch.
                                   1008 underway... the captain is on the bridge.  The navigator is in control the OOD has the deck and the conn. Steering various courses at various speeds to clear the pier...
                                   1019 Secured the maneuvering watch...
                                   1035 Stationed the modified maneuvering watch steering various courses and various speeds to clear the Hood Canal Bridge.
                                   1054 Secured the modified maneuvering watch...

USS Trigger ss-564 is now underway, on her mission to test the new Mk 48 Torpedo with the
Ex Whitehurst serving as the target.  The aging Tin Can will be sacrificed to prove the effectiveness of the new weapon. From this point until the appointed rendezvous, each log entry consists of the words
"Underway as before" followed by course change entries.  mc

Wednesday 28 April 1971 1420 Fired one Mk 48 Mod 2 war shot torpedo serial #11 at the ex USS Whitehurst DE-634.
                                         1427 Torpedo detonation heard.
                                         1442 Surfaced on course 320T speed 8 knots with the bow section of the ex USS Whitehurst bearing 060T, Range 8000 yards.  Using various speeds and courses to close the hulk of the Ex USS Whitehurst for observation and photographs.

16 - 20 Log entry Underway as before. 1600 c/c to 340 maneuvering various courses and speeds while remaining near the hulk of ex USS Whitehurst. 1629 set course to 080 speed 12 knots. (late enter)
1609 hulk of ex USS Whitehurst sank.

20 - 24 Underway as before. 2305 c/c to 077.
                                             2320 sighted various aids upon entering the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

Site authors note: It is not surprising that some of the e-mail accounts differ slightly from the log entries.
37 years is a long time to remember details.  mc

                            

 
The following pictures of a MK-48 Torpedo and a target very similar to Whitehurst  were supplied by Neil Thomas, Westinghouse Engineer, who was onboard Trigger for the test.

                                             
28 April 1971 
Whitehurst quickly slides beneath the waves.  This photo was taken by the Periscope
Photographer, Tom Boyer.  Although Henry's copy was first to arrive, several Trigger vets sent it to
me.       mc

 

She grew old and weary
And was put to sleep with grace.
The Pacific Ocean was her home
And now her final resting place.

                                                       Raymond E. Plumb

Above is the last verse of the poem "Buried at Sea".
It is a fitting epitaph to the life of a good ship. 
Ray Plumb is A Whitehurst WWII vet.
Click to read Buried at Sea

 

Link to USS Trigger SS564 NAVSOURCE
USS Trigger SS-564 

Link to Mark 48 Torpedo on Wikipedia.  The photos are NOT Whitehurst
Info on the Mark 48 Torpedo
A Sinking Exactly Like Whitehurst's
Note: The ship sunk in this video is only slightly heavier than Whitehurst.
The narrator refers to the ship as "Battleship" and "Giant". It is neither.  mc

Links to Trigger sites
USS Trigger Website
Various Trigger associated Links
Trigger in Wikipedia
Trigger on Military.com

 

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