WWII (1943-46)

“Kamikaze Warfare” – The Mk-37 Gun Director, Part II

Memory from: Fire Controlman 1st class Bryce N. Logan

Setting the Scene

The kamikaze attack on the USS KIDD (DD-661) on April 11, 1945, is understandably the most recalled event among her crew of that time. But in the confusion and chaos of combat, stories often later become garbled and reflect that confusion. The passing of years also affects the memory. For this reason, multiple points of view aid in weeding out the misinterpretation and rumors, leaving a clearer picture of the actual events. The entry below comes from Fire Controlman 1st class Bryce N. Logan, who was inside the pilothouse working to repair the Mk-37 gun director when the plane struck.

The Recollection

I am the ex-firecontrolman who entered head and shoulders into the gun director from the bottom on Sunday, October 07, when you opened it specially for access by us. At that time, you will remember, you were on top looking down through one of the open hatches and you asked how it was possible for the men in the plotting room at the computer during the time immediately prior to the Jap plane impacting starboard side on April 11, 1945, to receive ranges on the plane as it came toward the ship, while I was directly under the gun director removing the cover in hopes of correcting the problem of melted contacts within the container. Both conditions are simultaneously feasible, as I shall attempt to explain. The gun director could be operated manually or in automatic, being driven (controlled), by signals from the computer.

Convenient switches in the director permitted corrective input into the computer during automatic in the event that the computer was not keeping the director on target. The director could be manually controlled by men within in several ways. The trainer and pointer could function either by manually activating power drives or by manually cranking through physical exertion. If levers within the director were set to permit manual activation of power drives, then the gunnery officer in the director, through a special lever, could override the input from the pointer and trainer and very rapidly turn the director and point the sights by “slew” switches. The design of the silver contacts in these switches was such that during a “slewing” operation, they would arc, spark, and heat to melting temperature, with the result that the contacts would fuse together and control would then be lost and the power drive system would drive the director into the stops in the direction of the last signal.

Henceforth, operating control could only be maintained by deactivating the power drive system until the fused contacts were separated. Such was the situation during the time in question. Turning the director in manual control, without the aid of the drive system, was a slow and laborious task. The director was undoubtedly turned toward the incoming plane. As it slowly turned in manual, I would have walked around below on the railing at the appropriate level to facilitate my continuing effort of taking off all the nuts holding the cover up. The range finder operator could thus focus on the target and transmit range signals to the computer. I can recall during my activities at the cover, hearing the burp of the 40mm’s and last the chatter of the 20mm’sóthen the feeling of the ship shuddering, the momentary blackness and the sound of the explosion followed by voices.

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