Battleship Wiring

A view from behind one of the switch panels in the 16 inch gun control compartment, deep inside USS Massachusetts BB-59:

USS Massachusetts BB-59 - Gun Laying Control Cables
USS Massachusetts BB-59 – Gun Laying Control Cables

Although the doc isn’t contemporaneous with Big Mamie, the Navy can still teach you to lace your cables like your life depends on it (starting on page 2-94, 157 of 1412).

We explored the interior for several hours, all the way to the lower Turret 2 barbette:

USS Massachusetts BB-59 - Turret 2 Lower Barbette 16 inch Shell Storage
USS Massachusetts BB-59 – Turret 2 Lower Barbette 16 inch Shell Storage

Each 16 inch projectile weighs 2700 pounds, with 800 shells distributed around three turrets. Looking at the drawings doesn’t make up for seeing the machinery.

The Massachusetts did shore bombardment during the Solomon Island campaign, where my father was assigned to guard a forward observer targeting Japanese redoubts and caves. He said the first rounds went over the far horizon, the second group landed short in the valley, and, from then on, the observer called out coordinates, walked the impact points down the valley, and wiped out each target in succession. BB-59 may not have been on the other end of those trajectories, but he said the Navy saved them plenty of trouble and inconvenience …

Capital ships became obsolete during the Battle of Midway, but battleships remain impressive hunks of engineering.

10 thoughts on “Battleship Wiring

  1. Nice, I bet that was very interesting. I have never seen laced cables that large before. I would hate to have to repair any of them.

    I toured the USS Blueback (SS-581) submarine this summer. It was only 45 minutes and not nearly long enough. I later found out there is a much longer tour available that can be booked in advance that I’d like to take some day.

    1. The main trunk down near the deck is bigger than my thigh. I’m sure they included a few spare wires, Just In Case, and I spotted some abandoned-in-place wire ends (all neatly bound and taped off, of course).

      Mary read a qualification test for an electrician: get roused from your bunk, run to your battle station, locate and diagnose a failed lighting circuit, and restore proper operation … while blindfolded.

      BB-59 tours are “self-guided”, which translates to “wander around on your own”, and we met perhaps half a dozen other tourists during our hours below decks. Being the kind of tourists who read all the labels, it was just about ideal!

      1. Regarding the spare conductors and tapped ends, remember how folks used to say “there’s an app for that”? I think with anything regarding the various branches of the military it could just as well be “there’s a procedure for that”.

        Self tours can be great but often listening to someone else describe the stopping point helps. Wonder if the qualification test still stands today? I’ll have to check with a much younger friend to see if he had to do anything similar when he was in the Navy a few years back. He might not be allowed to say … ;-)

        I forgot to mention that the USS Blueback is in Portland, OR is case anyone wondered of didn’t have time to look it up.

        1. Turns out they had videos of interviews with crew members running at several locations throughout the ship, but we’d rather examine the actual hardware than “watch TV” for the few hours we had available.

          Former crew members led the tours when the Massachusetts first went on display in the mid-60s, a mere 20 years after she was decommissioned. Obviously, those folks aged out and live on only in video interviews …

        2. Not sure what other places have old submarines on hand, but Muskegon, Michigan and Chicago both have WW II vintage boats. Muskegon has the USS Silversides, while the Museum of Science and Industry has the U-505, IIRC the only German sub captured at sea. Haven’t been in either one, but tours are offered.

  2. One of my first jobs after college was at a small 8 person engineering company building building an autonomous unmanned submarine for the Navy. We were not allowed to use a microprocessor, as none were qualified at the time, so we designed and built a cpu with discrete cmos chips on 32 cards with 30 gauge teflon wire on the logic busses between cards and sensors. The big bundle was almost 7 cm in diameter and included 10% spares. We all took turns lacing the 3 meter bundle and had calluses on our little fingers from doing it. It was a miniature version of Ed’s photo but had the same appearance.

    1. Ya gotta wonder about the relative reliabilities of a CPU chip on a PCB vs. hand-wired TTL on a backplane …

      1. “Gone are the days when a complex project required a suitcase full of TTL ICs and a wire-wrap gun.”
        Steve Ciarcia: The Best of Ciarcia Circuit Cellar (Why Microcontrollers?). Printed 1992.
        It has been in my bookshelf since 02.04.1994.

        1. Those were the days! [sigh]

          It’s worth noting Atmel’s AVR microcontrollers date back to the mid 90s, but Arduinos are goin’ strong.

Comments are closed.