Christie, Ralph Waldo

Controversial Navy torpedo developer, led submarines in SW Pacific, clashed with superiors

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Description:
(1893-1987) USNA 1915, played pivotal role in development of torpedo technologies. During WW II, commanded submarine operations out of Australian ports of Brisbane & Fremantle. Trained in torpedo design and implementation, one of 1st members of the Submarine School at New London. MIT 1923 with Master's in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in torpedoes. During the 20s, involved with project G-53, highly secret program to develop a magnetic influence exploder for torpedoes. The result of this was the Mark VI magnetic exploder and the Mark 14 torpedo. He also developed a design for an oxygen torpedo, designated project G-49 or "Navol”. After Pearl Harbor, he was posted to Brisbane and commanded submarine operations in the SW Pacific during the Solomon Islands campaign. He returned to the US. as Inspector of Ordnance at Newport Torpedo Station. When the Commander, Submarines, Pacific Fleet, was killed in a plane crash, the job went to RADM Charles A. Lockwood, Commander of submarine operations in Fremantle, and in Jan. 1943, Christie returned to Australia in Lockwood’s former command. Despite growing evidence of problems with the Mark VI detonator and the Mark 14 torpedo, he remained convinced of their effectiveness. By middle 1943, Lockwood was convinced that the Mark VI was significantly flawed. On 24 June 1943, he ordered all submarines operating out of Pearl Harbor to deactivate the magnetic exploder. However, Christie was still committed to the detonator, and ordered Fremantle boats to continue using the Mark VI. This difference strained relations between the two admirals. In Nov. 1943, VADM Thomas C. Kinkaid, ordered final deactivation of the Mark VI in all combat commands. During 1944, Christie accompanied war patrols on submarines USS Bowfin & USS Harder. It was common for Christie to greet a returning submarine at the pier and award decorations to the crew on the spot. This bypassed naval award boards, and annoyed Kinkaid and Lockwood. Complicating matter was that MacArthur awarded army decorations to naval personnel; like Christie, he himself authorized the decorations rather than going through standard review procedures. These events compelled Kinkaid to forbid Christie to give pier side awards, and to keep Christie from recommending award of army medals to navy personnel. These events ultimately contributed to Christie's dismissal as Commander of Submarines in Fremantle. After his return from his combat patrol on USS Harder, ADM Nimitz recommended he and Lockwood meet in Brisbane and discuss joint submarine operations. The meeting resulted in a personal rift between the two who had already clashed over problems around the Mark VI exploder and the Mark 14 torpedo. Christie’s relationship with Kinkaid also worsened. In Nov. 1944, Kinkaid relieved Christie of command of submarine operations at Fremantle, and was given command of Puget Sound Navy Yard. After the war Christie commanded naval forces in the Philippines until his Aug. 1949 retirement as VADM. During his career he was awarded the Navy Cross and the Silver Star. Signed 1 ½ x 3 ¼ engraved calling card as RADM US Navy, adds “Cmdr. Submarines”, October 29 1945 date.

Condition: Very good
Type:Signed Calling Card






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