MPA Logo, San Francisco Maritime National Park Association, USS Pampanito, Historic Ships at Hyde Street Pier, Education Programs Maritime Park Association Home Page Maritime Park Association Home Page Events Maritime Park Association Home Page Maritime Park Association Home Page Maritime Park Association Home Page Volunteer Membership Donate Maritime Park Association Home Page USS Pampanito Submarine Historic Ships at Hyde Street Pier Education Programs About Maritime Park Association Home Page Directions to Maritime Jobs at Maritime Facility Rental at Maritime Trustees of the Association Calendar Press Room Store Maritime Map
Photo of torpedos on production floor.

Tin fish in production.
(photo by Art Forde/Seattle Times, 1943)

CHAPTER FIVE
Wartime's Hardtimes
Were the Best of Times
1940-1949

46


Photo of station with tower in the foreground.
NTS looked more like a quiet neighborhood than an industrial Naval Station in this 1940 photo. The house in the center, framed by the legs of the radio tower, is the Commanding Officer's quarters. Most of the homes to the right of it would not be so visible from the lagoon causeway today due to the shops and office buildings that have since filled in the open space surrounding them.

Commanding Officers
Captain Theodore D. WestfallMay 19, 1942-September 3, 1946
Captain Carl H. BushnellOctober 7, 1946-June 30, 1951
In the early 40's, employees were hired on at Keyport daily through the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Civilian employment at Keyport increased to such an extent that a housing project of approximately 300 units was built in Poulsbo to accommodate the new employees and their families. That project is low-income housing today.

World War II turned Keyport into a hive of activity almost overnight. Along with this activity came stringent security measures, and powerful search lights were mounted on concrete bases. A strong link fence enclosing the entire station was built and constant patrols served as deterrents to would-be trespassers.

As a result of the war, the President of the United States ordered torpedo production, overhaul, proofing

 

Photo of shop workers in the shop.
The civilian workforce increased significantly during World War II The dramatic increase in women is evident in this photo of Igniter Shop employees. (photo courtesy of Carman Lame)

 
47

Group of men standing behind a Mk 14 torpedo.
NTS C.O. Captain Theodore Westfall and Captain Carl Bushnell of the Bureau of Ordnance, third and fourth from left respectively, inspect the Station's first Mk 14 in 1943. The Mk 14 was World War II's most successful torpedo having sunk four million tons of enemy shipping. Captain Bushnell was to later relieve Captain Westfall as Commanding Officer.
 
A torpedo is lowered into a test rack.
A "tin fish" is lowered into a test rack at one stage of mass production. (photo by Art Forde/Seattle Times, 1943)
  and issue to be increased in speed. This resulted in a steady increase in civilian employment and constant pleas for more published in the paper in 1941. Employment reached an all time high of 2,035 civilian and 821 military.

Employees began working a seven day week with the eighth day off. Women began working in the industrial shops to replace the men who went into the service. Forty-two percent of the civilian workforce was represented by women.

Sometimes as many as 100 torpedoes were produced and tested in one single day. In 1944, the workload reached a peak of 7,000 torpedoes produced in that year.

Torpedoes began changing in the 1940's, demanding newer and more refined methods of testing. Thus, in January of 1944, studies were begun which eventually resulted in an acoustic range on Hood Canal.

As early as 1944, the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) of the University of Washington became associated with Keyport. The most important phase of this association was the eventual development and operation of the 3D Tracking Range on Dabob Bay not far from the Hood Canal Range.

 
48

A torpedo is shown in flight with the Chief observing through a looking glass.
Keyport mechanics constructed this device, used to launch aircraft torpedoes, from salvaged metal. Chief Torpedoman E.E. Blackwell decked out in his rain slicker, is prepared for the shower of spray that is about to drench him. (photo by Art Forde/Seattle Times, 1943)
 
Photo of Robinson familly working on two torpedoes.
Entire families answered the call to support the war effort by working at the Naval Torpedo Station. Shown here in the final assembly shop are members of the Robinson family, from left Colleen, 16 years old Mrs. Robinson, Grant, and Gwendolyne, 20. Son and brother, Zane 19, worked at the Station until joining the military. The Robinsons lived in the newly built housing project in Poulsbo and took an eighteen-minute ferry ride to get to work each day. (photo by Art Forde/Seattle Times, 1943)
 
49

Because torpedoes being issued to the Fleet in 1943 tended to behave erratically, the APL, which was interested in the experiment and development of underwater weapons, components, and tracking systems, was commissioned to create a more reliable exploder for these weapons.

In 1945, the Station received the Army-Navy E award for its contribution to the war effort and soon after, drastic reductions in personnel and funds commenced as a result of the war's end. The work force diminished in 1945 from an average of 1,800 to 416, and in 1946 to 275.

In 1946, Keyport received the Bureau of Ordnance

War in the Pacific in 1944 brought accelerated work to Keyport as the "Silent Service," armed with torpedoes struck deep into Japanese territory.
 

A torpedo is shown in flight after leaving a torpedo tube.
Production and testing of torpedoes increased greatly at Keyport during World War II. In 1944, a record 7,000 torpedoes went through NTS.


Over a dozen ships are shown underway.
World War II ships steam past Port Townsend Bay near the Naval Net Depot Indian Island-an activity that was soon to become a detachment of Keyport.
 
50

Illustration showing the Proving Range, Naval Torpedo Station, Keyport, Washington - During the Great World War II, Dec 7, 1941-Sep. 2, 1943
Testing torpedoes was quite different in the 1940's from what it is today. As the diagram shows, above, torpedo speed and depth measurements were made by a visual system at the Keyport range. Barges were set up at each 1000-yard point on the range and buoys were set at specified distances between those barges. Observers on the barge would time torpedoes as they passed between buoys. Originally, a rough, visual estimate was used to determine the depth the 'tin fish' swam. Later, depth was determined with the use of nets placed strategically to allow torpedoes to pass through them. The location of the hole made by a torpedo indicated how deep it had gone.
 
Naval Ordnance Development Award. In December, APL and 110 of its former and present staff members were honored by the Navy with an E award for development of a new type torpedo exploding mechanism. This proved highly successful and had been a definite asset in the war effort. The development of the Torpedo Exploder Mark 9 was the beginning of a series of coordinated efforts between the University of Washington and Keyport in the field of improving weapons and systems.

The Radio Station was decommissioned in this year. The landmark towers were later dismantled and were transferred to the Radio Station, Bainbridge Island.

In 1947, information was issued to the public of the efforts being made by the Navy to perfect a "target seeking electric torpedo."

In 1948, the average number of civilians had jumped from 275 in 1946-47 to 351. Keyport was cited by the Secretary of the Navy in a personal letter for its attainment of 100 percent Savings Bond participation. Keyport was the first Naval activity in the United States to receive this honor. It was an enviable record

  Crane operators posed infront of a crane.
Crane operators, left group, and riggers gather for this photo on August 21, 1945. The operators are, row one, from left, O. Harsila, C. Hodge, P. Wahto; center, from left, S. Holcomb, E. Hagen, E. Gardner, B. Parrach, J. Wells; top, C. Carison. The riggers are, row one, from left, O. Wilson, S. Nelson, C. Fugleberg, H. Hellerud, J. Gaffey, J.F. Bond, row two, from left, N. Holton, A. Holm, L. Lowry, H. Louis, E. Engh, J. Bone, K. Armstrong. (photo courtesy of Lucille Strom Downey)
 
51

Marines shown at the gate.
Marines in charge of guarding the Keyport main gate in 1945 were proud to pose for a photo. From left, James Lane, George Emerick, John McGarey, Edwin Lehr, and Charlie Thompson. The Bachelor Officer's Quarters, which looms in the background to the right, is now the Station's Command Conference Center.

Public Works people gather for a dinner in 1945. Some familiar faces include, second from
left, Juanita Bloomquist, in the back at the end of the table, Herman Boldt, and sitting across
from Juanita, Agnes Carpinella. Next to her is Mr. Keyport himself, and head of Public Works,
Louie Strom.
Public Works people gather for a dinner in 1945. Some familiar faces include, second from left, Juanita Bloomquist, in the back at the end of the table, Herman Boldt, and sitting across from Juanita, Agnes Carpinella. Next to her is Mr. Keyport himself, and head of Public Works, Louie Strom.
 
52

Photo of the base from above.
All's quiet on the Keyport front in this 1947 photo. Production rolled to nearly a complete halt and the civilian workforce was sliced to less than 15 percent of what it had been during the height of the war.
 
Empty street shown in front of the main gate.
With World War II over, the streets of the town of Keyport are quiet for the first time since the Pearl Harbor attack. During the war, the town was full to overflowing with people who answered the calls for more workers. New employees came from everywhere-even other states-and accommodations were not easy to find. Some people even resorted to renting oversized closets as rooms from Keyport homeowners. (photo courtesy of Rosemay Olson)
  and congratulations poured in from other Naval shore establishments and dignitaries.

For the first time in Keyport's history, an open house was celebrated on Navy Day. The Station was open to the public for inspection. Navy Day activities also included a Marine attack demonstration, diving exhibition, torpedo firing, parade, and a Navy Day Ball.

In 1948-49, it became apparent that our torpedo ranges in Port Orchard Inlet and Hood Canal were much too shallow to test the deep running antisubmarine weapons which were then coming off the drawing boards. A nationwide search revealed that the only protected body of salt water that would lend itself to a torpedo testing range was Dabob Bay.

The site was selected for its favorable oceanographic features such as 600 foot water depths, lack of tidal currents and man-made noises, and other characteristics.

 
53

Twelve of the oldtimers pose for a photo.
Bennie George, center, is surrounded by Keyport "oldtimers" in this 1962 gathering. To the left and right of Bennie are Herman Boldt and Louie Strom. These three played leading roles in the shaping and building of the Station.
 
Bennie George: Just a Stone's Row Away

In 1945, Keyport bade farewell to its 17th employee, Bennie George.

Bennie first came to Keyport in 1915, leaving his job as longshoreman at the Port Gamble Mill. According to the writings of longtime employee, Herb Hindle, Bennie paddled his canoe to Keyport "to smoke the peace pipe and bury his tomahawk for all time if they would let him come to work on the (Pacific Coast Torpedo) Station."

He was promptly hired as a laborer and was issued badge number 17. Throughout his 32 year career, he was fiercely proud of his "plank-owner" status.

His new job at Keyport was some distance from his home in Port Gamble and in those days, such a commute would have been a major journey. So he packed up his belongings and, with his wife Martha and their children, he moved to Suquamish where he built a cabin with a tent on each side to house his growing family (Bennie and Martha had 10 children altogether: six boys, four girls).

Bennie's new home was across the bay from Keyport near Suquamish; however, it was still a major commute's distance by land, though not as the crow flies-or as the fish swims. So he went by sea rather than by land.

For 27 years, Bennie rowed to work in his dugout canoe. Over those years he chocked-up more than

  30,000 miles on his oars. He rowed rain or shine, shortening the watery commute only during rough weather; on those occasions he would go to Lemolo, directly across the bay, and walk home from there. Only once did the weather make his trip impossible and that was because the cold winter north wind caused ice to form on his oar lock, causing his oars to slip.

Bennie's canoe commute came to an end during World War II when security became so tight the guards wouldn't let him land at the base dock.

Over the years, Bennie became a trusted employee and during the wartime years, the Station's Commanding Officer confided in him to be on the lookout for subversive acts on base. Bennie discreetly reported to the Captain every week and during one of those meetings another officer asked, "can you speak any foreign languages?" Bennie looked at him and said, "Certainly, English." Being a Native American (Indian), he knew what he was talking about.

Bennie retired in 1945 with 32 years of government service. The Station newspaper, the WARHEAD, of May 4, 1945 reported that Bennie was planning to catch up on everything he'd been wanting to do for the past 30 years. "When the Indian summer rolls around," said Bennie, "and the Indian in me starts acting up, I'm going fishing."

Bennie George died in 1971.

Small end of section scroll graphic element.

 
54

Troops marching on a road.
Battery "E" hikes into Keyport after a 25 mile hike to Lofall Park in 1943. (photo courtesy of Darlene Munroe)
 
Army Artillery: Protecting an Important Torpedo Station

The war brought many changes to the small Keyport community; perhaps most startling was the presence of the United States Army in what had always been Navy territory.

The Army was not there to take over, but rather to provide protection in the event of enemy attack.

Community homeowners witnessed the migration into Keyport as Army troops moved into their backyards overnight, leasing land and fast becoming neighbors and friends.

By August 1942, the first Army unit was fully set up on Station and soon, troops were trained as backups in the maintenance of torpedoes.

Huge blimp-like structures, known as barrage ballons, loomed overhead during alerts, circling NTS, in a protective effort against enemy aircraft. Cables attached to the balloons, which floated as high as 150 feet, were said to clip the wings of low flying enemy planes; Keyport would, fortunately, never have firsthand knowledge of that fact.

Colonel Donald Munroe USA (Ret.), who was a platoon officer of one of three units inside Station gates, remembers the scene: "There were 10 sections of 40-mm anti-aircraft weapons and the same number of 50-caliber machine guns on anti-aircraft mounts."

Seven more units, he continued, formed a ring around the Station from Keyport to across the bay in Lemolo. Troops constructed piers out of sand bags and cement.

As the war slowed down, the need for the anti-

  aircraft units and balloon sites diminished. Army personnel made a gradual exodus, taking equipment with them, to new assignments.

Today, just south of the Station in what is known as the "Old Forkey Place," evidence of the Army's presence remains. A rundown structure, once the cookhouse and barracks, echoes with a remembrance of the protectors of a very important torpedo station.

Small end of section scroll graphic element.

Two soldiers posing in front of a 40mm gun.
Two members of the Army protective force at Keyport Sergeant Hosty and Sergeant Axeleon, strike a friendly pose next to a not-so-friendly anti-aircraft gun. The Station barracks are in the background in this 1943 photo. (photo courtesy of Darlene Munroe)

 
55

Previous chapter
Previous Chapter
TorpedoTown Home
TorpedoTown Home Page
Next chapter
Next chapter

 

Copyright © 2013, Maritime Park Association.
All Rights Reserved.
Legal Notices and Privacy Policy
Version 3.00