DECEMBER 2019

DECEMBER   2019
Please, Have a Merry. Please. Oh, and get rid of the Orange Jerk!

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

TALE TELL POE

I admit I smiled when it was revealed that Martin Eisenstadt, the McCain campaign staffer who admitted to being the source behind the “Sara Palin is an diva” leak during the 2008 Republican campaign, turned out to actually be the team of Dan Mirvish and Etan Gorlin. These two pranksters had actually taken the time to “Punk” the media by inventing Mr. Eisenstadt. And a lot of major media had swallowed their gag. But I smiled at the adolescence of the thing, not the inventiveness. Claiming to have fooled the news media is like claiming credit for inventing the “Get the Ball-Where’s the ball” game with your dog. It’s been done before; a lot.
In August of 1835 the “Penny Dreadful” New York Sun published a series of articles entitled “Great Astronomical Discoveries Lately Made by Sir John Herschel…” John Herschel was a famous astronomer who was the son of a famous astronomer. Using a new telescope he reported that he had observed on the moon “…nine species of mammalian …” including tail-less beavers that walked on two legs and lived in huts, unicorns and four foot tall people with bat wings.
Of course Sir John Herschel had made no such report because he wasn’t nuts. But neither was Richard Adams Locke (above), who was the grandson of the philosopher and the actual author of the moon-beavers story. He was a one-time editor of the Sun, and an acquaintance of Edgar Allen Poe - who claimed he knew of “…no person possessing so fine a forehead as Mr. Locke”.
The story of the moon-beavers raised the Sun's circulation from 15,00 to more than 19,000, which gave it an advantage in its sales war with its rival the New York Herald. On 18 September, 1835,  the paper admitted the joke, and the only people not laughing were the editors of the Herald, who felt they had been made to look foolish for not knowing it had been a gag. But it is helpful to remember that in our age with unlabeled Corporate Video News Releases (VNRs) padding out local news programming from sea to shinning sea it’s gotten easier to fool the fools, not harder. In Edgar Allen Poe’s day fake news had to be an inside job. Even Edgar himself did it.
Edgar had already written “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “Murders in the Rue Morgue” but when he moved to Baltimore with a sick wife he had just $5 in his pocket. And myself , as a hungry writer, who has produced articles for such distinguished men’s publications as “Velvet” and “Velvet Talks”, (back in the 1980's they paid $125 for 1200 obscene words and $25 for three accompanying obscene “letters”) I sympathize with Edgar.
Now, Edgar Allen Poe was “odd”. Both his parents died when he was young. He was adopted by a wealthy manic-depressive patriarch who was alternately loving and vicious toward him. The result was that Edgar became an un-socialized morose alcoholic who as a college student confided to his roommate that he had “joked” that he was going to murder their landlord, and the landlord had believed him: ha, ha.
Edgar had gotten married when he was 25, to the sickly Miss Virginia Clemm, who was just 13 years old - Sigmund Freud would have had a field day with this guy. Faced with imminent starvation Edgar sought out Locke’s advice, and probably based on what Locke told him, Edgar wrote what would later would be called “The Great Balloon Hoax of 1844”, or as I like to call it, “72 Hours of Hot Air”.
The headlines in the Sun read, “Astounding News by Express, via Norfolk! The Atlantic Crossed in Three days!...in the Steering Balloon “Victoria”, after a passage of Seventy-five hours from Land to Land! Full Particulars of the Voyage!”
According to the 5,000 word front page story, the plan had been to cross the English Channel suspended beneath a silk dirigible filled with 40,000 cubic feet of coal tar gas. But once airborne above Wales, and impressed with their “Archimedean Screw” propeller, the decision was made “on the fly” to sail to North America instead. “We soon found ourselves driving out to sea at the rate of not less, certainly, than 50 or 60 miles an hour…as the shades of night have closed around us, we made a rough estimate of the distance traversed. It could not have been less than 500 miles…The wind was from the East all night…We suffered no little from cold and dampness…
"Sunday, the 7th, this morning the gale…had subsided to an eight or nine knot breeze, and bears us, perhaps, 30 miles an hour or more…at sundown, we are holding our course due West...Monday the 8th, the wind was blowing steadily and strongly from the North-East all day…Tuesday, the 9th. One P.M. We are in full view if the low coast of South Carolina. The great problem is accomplished. We have crossed the Atlantic – fairly and easily in a balloon! God be praised!”
According to Edgar’s unbiased reporting, on the day of publication the Sun’s offices were besieged. “As soon as the first copies made their way into the streets, they were bought up," wrote Edgar, "at almost any price. I saw a half a dollar given, in one instance, for a single paper…I tried, in vain, during the whole day, to get possession of a copy.” And Edgar was there in the crowd, telling anyone who would listen, that he was the author of the story, and…that it was a gag. Now why would he do that?
Poor old Edgar had a number of personality traits that confused even the people who liked him. For instance, he could not stop himself from maintaining contact with Elizabeth Ellet, a carnivorous little “pot-stirrer” and bad writer who made passes at Edgar in German. I mean, German has always been the language of love, hasn’t it? “Halten Sie mich schlieben, meine little Turtle Dove?” Doesn’t that make you feel all romantic? And then when Edgar cut off all contact with her, she told her brother that Edgar had insulted her. And he challenged Edgar to a duel. Luckily, since Edgar didn't own a gun the two fools ended up beating each other up, over a woman who clearly didn’t think much of either of them. Men. Sigh.
The point of all this, it seems to me, is that idiots who spend their time and energy perpetuating a hoax on the public are hoping the public will not be insulted. But even if the public is willing to laugh at themselves once, the chances are they will not trust the same source a second time, ever. Or, in the immortal words of George W. Bush, "...fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."
The very day after the Sun published the balloon hoax there appeared on the back page of the paper the following notice; “…the mails from the south…not having brought confirmation of the balloon from England…we are inclined to believe that the intelligence is erroneous”. Well, that’s one way to maintain journalistic integrity: NOT!
Me, I’m willing to bet that Edgar was paid $25 for writing the back page mea culpa. The publishing business hasn’t changed much in 200 years. And neither has the life of writers. Edgar’s wife died of tuberculosis in New York, three years after the Balloon Hoax.
And two years later the New York Sun, which sold for a penny a copy, was bought for $250,000 (more than $6 million in today’s money). That was the same year Edgar Allen Poe died in Baltimore, flat broke as usual. Sigh.
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Friday, May 11, 2018

I'LL TAKE MANHATTAN


I have to warn you that this story began as a search for the answer to a very simple question: just how much did the Dutch actually pay for Manhattan? The bill of sale and the deed were both lost long ago. But did Peter Minuit really buy the island for a measly $24 in beads and cloth, as the legends say? In 2005 Mr. Jonathan Miller, head of the property-appraisal firm Miller Samuel, estimated that the land value alone of Manhattan island was $8 trillion, leaving the implication that Minuit duped the Indians. But the Dutch did not use dollars. So what did they actually pay? And would anybody have ever actually used beads to buy an island?
If humans looked more like baboons or American Robins, we would have never invented jewelry. But, being naked apes, we have always adorned ourselves with tattoos, furs and objects we thought made us look pretty. The first “jewelry beads” were river pebbles, collected and buried with loved ones 40,000 years ago. The Egyptians were the first customers for glass beads 3,400 years ago. The Venetians cornered the glass bead manufacturing market a thousand years ago. And 500 years ago Christopher Columbus discovered that Native Americans were as acquisitive of jewelry as the nobility in Seville. The Dutch and the American Indians were no different than those fashion maven naked apes, Ferdinand and Isabella.
Specifically the Dutch were dealing with the Canarsee Indians. They were Delaware speakers living on the Brooklyn shore. They actually called themselves the Lenape, and owed allegiance not to a tribe but to their extended family (or clan).
They traced themselves through their female members, who tended crops and fished - feeding the family in the summer - while the men fished and hunted – feeding the family in the winter. And contrary to common knowledge the native peoples had a strong and nuanced understanding of property rights. While Europeans bought and sold land between individuals, separate hunting rights, water rights, farming and even mineral rights were traded between Indian clans. And when the Dutch “bought” Manhattan, the Canarsee were in fact selling the “European rights” to the island, meaning the Carnarsee had agreed only not to welcome any other Europeans to town. And it is likely this was exactly what the Dutch intended to buy - exclusivity. And that makes the $24 sale price look a lot more reasonable.
When the new governor of New Amsterdam, William Verhulst, arrived in 1625, he carried instructions that the natives must be “…given something to their satisfaction…” in exchange for the land. Verhulst bungled the negotiations and he was replaced in May 1626 by Peter Minuit, who quickly closed the deal.
On November 4, poor Verhulst arrived back in Holland as a failure, and the Dutch West Indian Company learned their managers on the spot had “…purchased the Island Manhattes from the Indians for the value of 60 guilders.” There was no mention of any beads.
In fact The Canaresee traded nothing for beads. Of importance to a Stone Age population were iron axes and knives, cooking pots and fish hooks. Iron is more durable than bone or clay and requires replacement less often, meaning it demands less of an energy investment to achieve the same benefit. The Canarsee traded Dutch access to Manhattan for an easier life for themselves and their children. We make the same choice every time a community legalizes casino gambling or a state authorizes an oil pipeline through a park.
A guilder had originally been a gold (or gulden) coin, but by 1626 it was usually silver. According to the “Annals of Public Education in the State of New York”, by Daniel Johnson Pratt, “A guilder is 40 cents”; or at least it was in 1872. And the 60 guilders paid for Manhattan “…equaled three or four months wages for the average artisan,” according to “The Dutch-Munsee encounter in America” by Paul Andrew Otto.
But the problem is the pay scale for artisans has altered a bit over the last 400 years. If we figure $24.00, (the alleged sale price) compounded at 3% interest over those 400 years, it would seem the Canarsee were paid the equivalent of about $1.5 million for Manhattan, which sounds reasonable. But that same inflation would today give our average artisan an annual income of $6 million, which seems a little high for an average artisan.
Another approach is to find something of value then, and compare it to its value today. The Encyclopedia Britannica says that in 1626 sixty guilders would get you 1& 1/2 pounds of silver, a “troy” pound being 12 ounces. Today (August 17, 2009) silver is selling for $14.03 an ounce. So the 18 ounces of silver which sixty guilders would have bought you in 1626 would today be worth $252.54 ; which seems a little low for access to an entire island forever.
Maybe the question we should be asking is not what the Dutch paid for the European rights to Manhattan, but what were the rights worth to them. According to Mr. Otto, those 60 guilders were equal in value to “…thirty beaver skins…”. What are beaver pelts worth today? The Fur Source web site lists “…prime quality (beaver) pelts from North America” at $279.99 per pelt (regular price). That would make the modern day sale price of Manhattan (30 pelts) about $8,399.70; still a bargain for the Dutch. But it was also something else.
The Dutch established a trading post on Manhattan, which they called New Amsterdam, where they bought beaver pelts from the Canarsee. In fifty years there were no more beavers in the area. In a century there were no more Canarsee. New Amsterdam was soon gobbled up by the British Empire. And asking who made the better deal seems beside the point. The Dutch profited from buying the island, the Canarsee by selling it. And asking who profited the most is useless 400 years later.
Whether the Canarsee had sold the island for an actual $8,400 in 1626, or for the $1.5 million, what were they going to do with the profit, buy an ipod, or a vial of antibiotics? In short, all things are relative. And having tried to establish the “actual” sale price of Manhattan, I have learned that the insight gained by allowing for inflation is over inflated.
http://www.worldfreeinternet.net/AmericanHolocaust/stealing.htm
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Thursday, May 10, 2018

THE BELLE OF BEDLAM

I wonder what was going through the mind of lawyer M.E. Leliter, on the afternoon 27 April, 1908, when he was told Mrs. Belle Gunness was in the anteroom of his Main Street office. I doubt he was pleased to see her. But you never think the worse, do you?  Belle was a genial and pleasant, 48 year old church-going woman, but substantial. And at 6 feet, even taller than "M.E.".  Community gossips said that Belle had been seen carrying two 100 pound hogs, one under each arm.. Still, "M.E." thought he could detect the aura of hidden pain behind Belle's sharp blue Nordic eyes.
In Chicago, the stout young Belle (above) had buried two of her children -  not an unusual tragedy in the nineteenth century.  But then,  in 1900,  her husband Anton Sorenson, had died of heart disease. With the proceeds from Anton’s two life insurance policies,  Belle and her three daughters had purchesed a farm on the northeast outskirts of La Porte Indiana, out on McClung Road past Pine and Fish Trap lakes. 
It was there a year later she had married widower Peter Gunness.  on 1 April, 1902.  But tragedy seemed to have followed Belle.  That very summer, Peter’s young daughter had died after a short illness. And then in December, Peter himself had been struck on the head by a falling sausage grinder, and killed. Well, life on a farm was hard, and dangerous.  And "M.E". forced a smile as he stepped out to greet the lumbering,  280 pound now middle aged woman.  But this day Belle was not interested in pleasantries. Someone, Belle announced,  wanted to murder her.
Her tale had a tinge of unreality to "M.E,"'s ears.  He was one of the most prominent of the 14,000 citizens of La Porte,  Indiana. Fifteen passenger trains a day passed through on their way to Chicago, 60 miles to the northwest.  Perched atop the prairie, the town was surrounded by farms, including the one owned by "M.E.", and, of course,  Belle's. But it was also home to the Meinaid Rumely Factory, whose 2,000 employees assembled steam powered thrashers,  and were rushing to manufacture one of the world’s first internal combustion farm tractors, the “Kerosene Annie”.
As befitted a prosperous middle class community, just down the street from "M.E."’s office stood the new red sandstone Romanesque Court House (above), with oak paneled court rooms and stained glass windows. The disturbed Belle and her accusations seemed more fitting to the lurid crime ridden alleys of Chicago than the small, quiet, proper, Victorian, La Porte, Indiana.
The potential assassin was Ray Lamphere (above), who until recently had been Belle’s hired hand. Six weeks ago, Belle said,  she had fired Ray, and he had threatened her and her two youngest daughters. “I'm afraid he's going to kill me and burn the house,” Belle told "M.E." . Thank goodness Belle’s eldest daughter, Jennie, was safely away at a finishing school in Los Angeles.  Yes, Belle had spoken with the police. Twice she had charged Ray with trespassing. But, explained the angry Belle,  the police had refused to grant her a protection order, and had dismissed her allegation that Ray was insane. Now, out of an excess of caution, Belle wanted to amend her will.  She wanted to be certain that her estate would to go to her children. And, if for some reason, they were deceased,  then Belle wanted all her property to go to a Norwegian orphanage back in Chicago.  "M.E." took down the information, and made an appointment for Belle to return in a few days to sign the completed document.
Then shocking news came with the morning light. There had been a terrible fire at the Gunness farm in the early morning hours of 28 April, 1908.  Despite the noble efforts of Belle’s new hired hand, and two passing men, no one had made it out of the house alive.  Eventually the beams and the furniture had crashed into the basement.
By noon the heat had retreated enough for workers to shift the ashes. There they found the pitiful bodies of Belle’s three children, Myrtle and Lucy Sorensen, and Philip Gunness, aged 5,  as well as the blackened, headless corpse of a woman presumed to be Belle. And when the cops arrested Ray Lamphere, he blurted out, “Did widow Gunness and the kids get out all right?”  It seemed an open and shut case. Except... when told of the bodies, and of the charges Belle had made against him the day before,  Ray was heard to ruefully say, “After all,  she wanted me killed because I knew too much..”  Was this the foundation for an insanity plea, or even self defense - from a woman?  But it did cause the police to think.
And then there was the mystery of the woman’s body. When doctors examined the corpse they described it as belonging to a woman weighing no more than 150 pounds.  Neighbors who had sewn clothing for Belle were adamant that the corpse could not be Belle's   So back to the ashes went the searchers. And what they found raised even more questions; they found men’s pocket watches, rings and wallets. A lot of watches, rings and wallets.
While the police were still mulling over this perplexing development, a man named Ray Helgelien arrived in town,  looking for his brother.  Andrew Helgelien (above) had responded to a notice in a South Dakota lonely hearts column. “Wanted — a woman who owns a beautifully located and valuable farm in first class condition, wants a good and reliable man as partner in the same”.  The lady needed help paying off the farm's mortgage, and offered matrimony and love in return. After exchanging several letters, Andrew had left home with $300 cash in his pocket.  Ray had not heard from his brother for several weeks, and finally opened the last last letter, post marked from La Porte. It read,  “My heart beats in wild rapture for you, My Andrew. I love you. Come prepared to stay forever.”  Having seen newspaper stories about the grisly finds in the La Porte burned out farm house, Ray suspected that Andrew may have done just  that.   Had Belle placed that notice?  The local post office confirmed that Belle had mailed and received 8 to 10 letters a day, for years. The searchers spread out across the farm and started digging.
First they found and disinterred the body of daughter Jennie,  who was supposed to have been away at school in Los Angeles.   Then, under the pig pen the searchers found the bodies of ten to fourteen men and women, many of whom had been last seen visiting Belle’s farm, or working  there as maids and cooks.
Included among these remains was a body identified as being that of Andrew (above). In his corpse, as is in many of the others, the medical examiner found cyanide. The police were now more than willing to think the worst. 
How many victims had been fed to Belle’s hogs, or buried in undiscovered graves elsewhere on the farm? When finally added up the list of known and suspected victims reached forty.  Belle Gunness could well have been the most prolific, and one of the most hard working serial murderess in American history.
The jury at Ray Lamphere’s trail found him not guilty of murder, but guilty of arson. The jury also issued a statement asserting that Belle’s body had been found in the ashes. That did not match what the medical examiner had to say about the body. And Ray insisted to the day he died that Belle had escaped.
For the next decade, sightings of Belle (above) were reported from all over America and Scandinavia. But the most intriguing story was that of Esther Carlson, who in 1931 was arrested in Los Angeles,  the location of Jennie's supposed finishing school.  Esther was charged with the murder of a Norwegian immigrant, which matched Belle's preferred victims.  Like Belle, Esther's motive was alleged to be theft of the victim's money.  Also like Belle, Esther's weapon of choice had been cyanide. But nothing was ever proved, and Esther died in jail  while awaiting trial.
But two expatriates from La Porte identified photos of Esther Carlson (above) as Belle Gunness. The ages were a close, Belle would have been 71 years old in 1931, and if Belle had lost weight,... Could they have been the same person?  Did Belle slaughter every human being close to her,  pin it on a simpleton fall guy, and escape to California, where she went on making a living by killing?   If that seems far fetched a tale, remember that it is the nature of most people, that when they hear of a tragedy,  their first thought is sympathy,  and almost never of evil - even though sometimes that is exactly what a tragedy is.
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Wednesday, May 09, 2018

LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION

I think if you think you have a problem, then you have a problem. The reverse is not always true, but most problems are not really the problem we are think they are. They are a different problem. And that's the real problem. And, by way of illustration, the problem I'd like you to think about is how a World War Two American submarine captain went about sinking an enemy ship.
First, he - and they were all men -  had to find an  enemy ship it in the 165 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean. Then he had to get his 300 foot long “pig boat” to within half a mile of the target, close enough to see it in his periscope, which was a few inches above the wave tops. Then he would have to identify it in his silhouette manuals. These gave the height of the mast, which,  with a little geometry, would give an estimated range to the target. The target speed would be estimated, and its course relative to the submarine, which was called the “angle on the bow”.   
All these estimates would be entered into the mechanical Target Data Computer (TDC).   No electronics here. Just electrically powered metal gears and knobs. And only then could the captain actually try to sink the target ship.
The method chosen by the U.S Naval Bureau of Ordnance (AKA BuOrd), for sinking an enemy ship, was to detonate 643 pounds of “Torpex” explosive close to its hull. That required every member of the 50 to 70 man crew to aim and fire the 3,300 pound, 20 foot long, 21” diameter Mark 14 torpedo (above), which would carry the Torpex at 46 knots to the target. 
As the torpedo passed under the steel hull, a magnetic detonator (above) in the nose would set off the Torpex. Or if the torpedo actually hit the hull, the impact would drive a firing pin into the detonator. Either way, the shock wave of the explosion would rip apart the steel hull and sink the ship. The problem was, after doing all of that, the enemy ships were not sinking.
Just one week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on 14 December, 194`1, the USS Sargo was patrolling off the coast of Vietnam when she spotted two Japanese freighters. Having already lost one target because of a premature detonation, Lieutenant Commander Tyson Jacobs fired three torpedoes with the magnetic detonators disconnected, from a distance of 1,000 yards. He recorded no hits.  On  Christmas day,  Jacobs closed to within 900 yards of a target, and fired two more Mark 14's, and again got no hits.
After repeatedly risking his crew's lives and expending a total of 13 torpedoes, at a cost to taxpayers of $130,000 and making no hits,  Jacobs was so frustrated he radioed his complaints in the clear back to Pearl Harbor: “The Mark 14...torpedoes are faulty in two respects. First...(the) exploder cannot be relied upon...Second that set depth is not being attained...”
The BuOrd made their feelings clear when they stripped the Sargo of her torpedoes and her next mission was to ferry ammunition. Said a crew member, “We all felt Captain Jacobs was being punished for tinkering with the BuOrd torpedo.” And Jacobs was far from the only one. Historian Clay Blair, a submariner himself, would later note, “By the end of March (1942)...every submarine commander...believed the Mark 14 was defective.”  But Rear Admiral Robert English (above), Commander, Submarines, Pacific (ComSubPac) decided the problem was not the torpedoes but with the captains and the crews.  English began transferring captains whom were deemed “not sufficiently aggressive”, out of command. Someone with an nasty sense of humor saw to it that Jacobs was transferred to the BuOrd, back in the states.
Captains, desperate to hurt the enemy, and to protect their careers, began to secretly disconnect the magnetic detonators, and tinker with the depth settings on their Mark 14s. They also began to experiment with firing techniques to find the angle of impact that gave the best chance to detonate the Torpex.  Sinkings went up, but Admiral English thought this was because his new captains were being more aggressive. 
There were still reports of Mark 14s failing to explode under their targets, then circling back to threaten their own sub, of “clanging” into the target but not exploding, and even of Japanese merchantmen returning to port with un-exploded Mark 14 torpedoes jutting out of their hulls. Because of the ad hoc experimentation during 1942, it was impossible to know which of the “fixes” if any were actually working.  But during that year U.S. subs fired 1,442 torpedoes, but sunk only 211 Japanese ships.
Luckily for the United States for three crucial months in early 1942, Admiral Charles “Uncle Charlie” Lockwood (above)  was acting commander of the submarines in the Southwest Pacific, based in Australia – ComSubSoWesPac.  At a conference in San Francisco, Lockwood insisted the BuOrd should examine the torpedoes that were not exploding.  During a brake in the meeting Rear Admiral “Spike” Blandy, commander of the BurOrd, confronted his old friend. “I didn't know it was part of your mission to discredit the BuOrd” Blandy said . Lockwood replied, “If anything I have said will get the Bureau off its duff and get some action, I will feel that my trip has not been wasted.” The confrontation ended their friendship. But it also got some action.
An expert was dispatched from the Naval Torpedo Station at New Port News, Rhode Island (above). He reported the maintenance on the torpedoes was sloppy, and the depth settings were probably being done incorrectly.  Lockwood refused to accept the report and in June 1942, ordered a few torpedoes fired into 500 feet of fishing nets hung in Frenchman's Bay, Australia,  These found the Mark 14's were running ten to eleven feet deeper than the depth set on the torpedoes.  Lockwood ordered all the depths reset, and the magnetic detonators disconnected on all the torpedoes in his command.
The BuOrd argued the nets were not hanging properly, and did not give a fair measure of depth  But when Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ernest King, read the report, and matched it with similar problems reported by his destroyer captains in the Atlantic with the Mark 14 (above), he “lit a blowtorch under the Bureau of Ordnance".  So on first August, 1942, the BuOrd finally agreed the depth control system on the Mark 14 had been “improperly designed and tested.” Admiral English at Pearl Harbor still refused to believe there was any problem with the magnetic detonator, and Lockwood's experimentation played a part in ensuring that “Uncle Charlie” was not given permanent command of ComSubSoWesPac.  The man who was, immediately ordered the magnetic detonators reconnected.
Then God, or chance, intervened. On the evening of Wednesday, 20 January, 1943, Admiral English and eight members of his staff left Pearl Harbor in a 4 engine Pan Am flying boat, bound for another briefing in San Francisco.  At about 7:30 the morning of Thursday, 21 January, the plane slammed into a 2,500 high mountain, killing all 19 on board, and decapitating the staff of ComSubPac. The resulting confusion at headquarters meant nothing was done about the Mark 14 torpedoes for another
6 months.
At the end of August 1943, the new ComSubPac in Pearl Harbor was  - guess who - Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood, who set out to prove he had been correct in his year old assessment of the Mark 14.  His first order upon assuming command was to conduct a series of test shots against the 700 foot high vertical cliffs (continuing another 800 feet below the surface) along the east shore Kanapou Island (above), 100 miles east of Pearl Harbor.  His second order was to again disconnect the magnetic exploder.
The first two shots against the cliffs exploded, but the third proved a dud.  Navy divers managed to raise the weapon, and bring it back for a post mortem. It was the kind of testing that should have been preformed before the Mark 14 had gone into production in 1930, but depression era budget cuts had eliminated.  When this examination was finally done, it was discovered the firing pin had indeed retracted on contact with the basalt cliff face, but at 46 knots, the collision had bent the guides intended to ensure the firing pin would contact the detonator charge, preventing detonation. Further testing at the cliffs and dropping warheads from a crane showed that a direct 90 degree hit almost ensured a 70% failure rate.
Lockwood immediately ordered his boats as sea to shoot so as to hit their targets at high angles, and never the text book straight on attack from 90 degrees.  And the mechanics at Pearl Harbor devised an ad hock solution to the 90 degree contact problem. Using steel from the melted propellers of Japanese planes shot down during the Pearl Harbor attack on 7 December, 1941, a simple rebuild of the guide fork s for the firing pins. And that sliced the 70% failure rate in half. 
The first corrected Mark 14s made their combat patrols in September of 1943. For that year, U.S. subs doubled their sinking of enemy ships, sending 335 targets to the bottom. And during the first four months of 1944, they sank another 183. Clearly the corner had been turned.
Over the entire year of 1944, U.S. submarines sank 600 Japanese merchantmen, as well as one battleship, seven aircraft carriers, nine cruisers and numerous destroyers and escorts. But during the first 7 months of 1945, they sank just 190 Japanese ships, only because the Japanese merchant marine had been finally swept from the sea by United States submarines. 
Oil, iron ore, copper, aluminum and food, stolen from the Philippines, China and Indonesia , could no longer reach Japan and feed its people or its war machine. After the war, submariner Paul Schratz admitted he believed it was “a violation of New Mexico scenery to test the A-bomb at Alamogordo when the naval torpedo station(in Newport News) was available.”
In four years of war, 288 American submarines with 16,000 crewmen, just 2% of the U.S. Naval personnel, sank 1,178 Japanese merchant ships and 214 warships, 55% of all Japanese ships sunk in World War Two. 
The cost to the United States Submarine “Silent Service” was 52 boats, and 3,405 officers and men, a casualty rate of 22%,  the highest for any American combat force in World War Two, and 40% of all U.S. Naval casualties in the Pacific. The majority of those deaths occurred during the first two years of the war, when the torpedoes did not work. Had the Mark 14 torpedoes worked from 7 December, 1941 on, it seems likely the Pacific war would have ended two years earlier, when the Japanese war machine ran out of raw materials, and before the fire bombing of Tokyo that killed 100,000 in one night, and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both of which killed another 100,000 souls each.
It turned out, the real problem with the Mark 14 torpedo was not the depth setting, the magnetic detonator, or the faulty firing pin guides or even all three. Nor was it the depression era short sighted budget cuts of testing a new weapon system. Any and all of those things, or other unrelated mistakes were bound to be made. The real problem with American torpedoes was that every invention was  designed and built by fallible, egotistical human beings, who often refuse to acknowledge that is exactly who they are.  Human beings are always the problem. And they are the only ones who can fix that problem.  And that has always been the real problem 
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