Sam Hevener got down on the floor, borrowed a flashlight from a Buhl Farm park ranger and peered into the body of a 4-foot-long metal cylinder.
He had seen in The Herald a picture of the cylinder found in Lake Julia and wanted to examine it for himself. Hevener volunteers on the U.S.S. Cod, a World-War II-era submarine docked in Cleveland and open to the public. The Cod has Mk 18 torpedo on it and Hevener wanted to compare what he knew about the Mk 18 with what had been found during the dredging of the Hermitage lake.
“It’s not a torpedo,” he said, agreeing with what some park officials believed. After all, he said, there is no propulsion unit and the cylinder is much smaller than a 20-foot-long Mk 18.
“There’s no way they could fire a torpedo at Lake Julia,” he said, because of the lake’s small size
But, Hevener also agreed the cylinder likely was a test unit made by Westinghouse, which manufactured the Mk 18.
What were they testing? Hevener said he cannot say for sure, but the unit and accounts of the torpedo’s development gave him some ideas.
One of the first things he looked at was an apparent switch on the side of the cylinder.
“It’s almost like the one they had on the Mk 18,” said Hevener, a Sharon native and resident of Richfield, Ohio.
The starting lever on the outside of an Mk 18 was activated when the Mk 18 was shot out of a submarine torpedo tube. The switch released air from three cylinders that activated the gyroscope, the depth steering engine and the motor control unit. The idea was to keep the torpedo heading in the proper direction without drifting with the tide or currents.
David O. Woodbury’s book “Battlefronts of Industry” subtitled “Westinghouse in World War II” – Hevener bought his copy at a flea market – said the company had problems with the valves connected to the air cylinders; they leaked. Engineers tried a number of different materials before settling on a copper ball-and-socket valve and a nylon gasket.
Hevener, who retired as a computer engineer from National Semiconductor, said the Buhl unit might have been used for testing the material in the valve.
“One of the main valve seats is on that start switch,” said the 1963 Sharon High grad.
The cylinder tapers on one end to a point. Mk 18s had rounded ends, and Hevener believes the point might have been an attempt to disguise the test unit.
“They tried to make it look like something it isn’t,” he theorized, noting Lake Julia was not secure, while Pymatuning Lake, where Westinghouse tested the Mk 18, was.
There are pins on the slope that seem to be connected to the air tank, which Hevener guessed might have been valves to put air in the air tank.
Screws stick out at the beginning of the bevel. They could have been used for lowering the tester into the lake as there probably was no launch unit. At Pymatuning, Westinghouse built a “test house,” Woodbury wrote.
“Because they didn’t have a submarine, they had a ski ramp-type affair,” said Hevener, who worked at Westinghouse as a coil winder for a month following his Army discharge in 1967. “They let the torpedo come down the ramp into the water.”
While anecdotally officials have heard that another part of the apparent test unit was retrieved years ago, Hevener said he was hard pressed to imagine what might have been attached at the open end of the cylinder.
“I’m thinking nothing because there are no tubes or wires there,” said Hevener, who also volunteers at the Cuyahoga National Recreation Area.
The park is displaying the find in the conference room of the Buhl Timblin Casino.