Lockwood, Charles Andrew, Jr. (1890-1967)

Photograph of Charles A. Lockwood

U.S. Navy. Via California Military Museum.

Charles Lockwood was born in Virginia but raised in rural Missouri. An indifferent student (graduating in the lower half of his class at the Naval Academy), he sought an assignment with the Asiatic Station and was lured into the submarine service in the Philippines in 1914 by the prospect of commanding his own boat. Thereafter he more or less grew up with the submarine service.

Assigned as a division commander in 1917, Lockwood investigated gasoline explosions on A-7 and A-2 that had killed nine sailors and helped ensure that no American submarine ever experienced another gasoline explosion. He later was assigned as executive officer on a captured German U-boat and concluded that American submarine technology was well behind. As commander of the new R-25, Lockwood managed to save his boat after a sailor failed to close the main induction valve during a dive. A similar incident was responsible for the Squalus disaster, in which Lockwood coordinated the rescue efforts. Lockwood later served as judge advocate for the Court of Inquiry following the loss of S-51 in a collision with the liner City of Rome in 1925. His service was rewarded with command of the new V-3 in 1927.

During the 1930s, Lockwood was a strong advocate of the fleet submarine, designed to have the range and speed to operate with the main battle fleet. However, the performance of the first fleet boats in exercises was unimpressive. Their role under Plan Orange, the contingency plan for war with Japan, was changed to distant scouting and laying ambushes against enemy warships. Commerce warfare was not contemplated because of the traditional American opposition to unrestricted submarine warfare. But Lockwood succeeded in persuading the Navy's General Board to approve construction of the six boats of the Tambor class, against the opposition of the chairman of the Board, Thomas Hart, who firmly believed in smaller, simpler submarine designs. The Tambors proved to be excellent boats, the first to successfully meet the ambitious fleet boat design requirements.

By the time war broke out, Lockwood was a 52-year-old naval attaché in London, where he was allowed to inspect a captured German U-boat and was told that the British had given up on magnetic torpedo detonators in favor of reliable contact detonators. In April 1942, he was promoted to rear admiral and assigned as commander, Submarines, Southwest Pacific. His suspicions about the reliability of the Mark 14 torpedo were aroused almost at once, and within three months (having failed to get satisfaction through normal bureaucratic channels) his staff, under the direction of Fife, were performed tests that proved that the Mark 14 ran an average of eleven feet (3.4m) deeper than its nominal setting. However, Lockwood continued to have faith in the magnetic detonator.

Lockwood soon found himself at odds with "Chips" Carpender, who had overall command of Allied naval forces in western Australia. Because the submarines were the only real naval forces in western Australia, Carpender injected himself constantly into Lockwood's operations. The two men soon came to cordially hate each other.  Lockwood also clashed with Ralph Christie, whose squadron was shifted to eastern Australia in late 1942 but ought to have remained under his command. Carpender, who by then had been promoted to command of all naval forces in the southwest Pacific, did not concur and blocked Lockwood's bid to keep Christie's submarines under his control.

In January 1943, following the death of Robert English in a plane crash, Lockwood was assigned as Commander, Submarines, Pacific Fleet. Here he was briefed for the first time on one of the most important Allied assets: Superb intelligence, including code breaking. Lockwood recognized its importance at once. However, the submarine force was still inadequate in numbers and wrestling with torpedo shortages and malfunctions. Lockwood flew to Washington, D.C. to complain about the torpedoes in person:

If the Bureau of Ordinance can't provide us with torpedoes that will hit and explode ... then ... get the Bureau of Ships to design a boat hook with which we can rip the plates off a target's side.

The final straw came when Trigger fired six torpedoes at Hiyo on 10 June 1943. Two of the six cleanly missed -- which was not particularly unusual -- but one detonated prematurely and another hit but failed to explode. Hiyo was badly damaged but made it to port for repairs. Lockwood had Nimitz issue an order to deactivate the magnetic exploders. This cost him his friendship with Christie and left submarine commanders uncertain what to do when transferring between the Pacific and Southwest Pacific commands; the latter ordered that the detonators not be deactivated. Nor did sinkings increase very much.

Lockwood became convinced that there was yet a third defect in the Mark XIV, this time with the conventional contact detonator. His smoking gun was the report from Tinosa that she had crippled a converted whale factory, Tonan Maru III (19,000 tons), with six torpedoes. Tinosa's commander than squared off his boat and fired no less than nine torpedoes at the cripple, one at a time and from a theoretically perfect angle and range, and saw every single torpedo fail to detonate. Lockwood ordered torpedoes to be fired against the cliffs of Kahoolawe, and when one of these was a dud, it was gingerly disassembled and examined. It was found that the contact detonator was too heavy and weak and tended to jam when the torpedo scored a perfect, solid hit. Lockwood's staff fabricated lighter, stronger replacement detonators from the propellers of wrecked Japanese aircraft -- the irony of which was duly noted.  The Mark XIV was finally a reliable, if still not a wonderful, weapon. Sinkings increased significantly.

During the summer of 1943, Lockwood ordered daring forays into the Sea of Japan through La Perouse Strait between Hokkaido and Karafuto. These accomplished much less than Lockwood expected, but created consternation in Japan, which previously had assumed that ships in the Sea of Japan were safe from submarine attack.

Lockwood was initially skeptical of wolf pack tactics, in which a group of submarines operated in the same area and coordinated their attacks against convoys. The Germans had used wolf packs in the North Atlantic, initially with great success, but the Allies had countered by tracking the heavy radio traffic between subs and base using high-frequency direction finding (HFDF, pronounced "huff-duff.") Lockwood had a change of heart in the autumn of 1943, at about the same time that his staff began to recognize the importance of the Luzon-Formosa bottleneck, through which many Japanese convoys passed. Lockwood experimented with wolf packs in this area, and finally settled on a doctrine of three submarines operating together under the tactical direction of the senior sub skipper. These wolfpacks were moderately successful, though the smaller size of Japanese versus Allied convoys worked somewhat against the concept. Lockwood was wise enough to avoid the communications between base and submarine that proved the bane of German wolfpacks, and submarines in a wolfpack often tracked each others' positions through their mutual radar interference, which was difficult for the Japanese to home on.

Lockwood was promoted to vice admiral at the end of 1943, largely in recognition of the important role played by his submarine force. His leadership improved the performance of the U.S. submarine force tremendously and led to the destruction of the Japanese merchant marine.

Lockwood was skeptical of the surrender terms ending the war, believing that Hirohito was as much a war criminal as Hitler or Mussolini. He attended the surrender ceremony on Missouri. His men suffered 22% casualties, the highest of any branch of the U.S. military, but sank 1,314 Japanese vessels of 5.3 million tons, including a battleship, eight aircraft carriers, and eleven cruisers.

Following the surrender, Lockwood became Inspector General of the Navy, an assignment he detested. He was disappointed at the refusal of the Navy to create a Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Submarines, a post he craved, and chose retirement in 1947. He despised Rickover, the father of the nuclear submarine. Lockwood died in June 1967.

Service record


Born in Midland, Virginia
Graduates from the Naval Academy (standing 136 in a class of 156)

Commander, A-2

Commander, B-1

Commander, Submarine Division 1

Commander, G-1

Commander, N-5

Commander, UC-97

Commander, R-25

Commander, S-14

PG Quiros

Commander, Submarine Division 13

Naval advisor, Brazil

First lieutenant, California

Executive officer, Concord

Instructor, Naval Academy
Commander, Submarine Division 13

Submarine staff officer to Chief of Naval Operations
Chief of staff, Submarine Force, U.S. Fleet

Naval attaché, Great Britain
Rear admiral


Commander, Submarines, Southwest Pacific

Commander, Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet
Vice admiral     


Inspector General of the Navy


Dies at Monte Serena, California


Blair (1975)

California Military Museum (accessed 2007-11-8)

DANFS (accessed 2007-3-9)

Newpower (2006)
Pettibone (2006)

Sasgen (2010)

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