Well, the formal proposal is finished. 11 custom graphics for it. And of course, as is normal, I realized after I sent it that I forgot a few things and had to send several addendums in follow-up e-mails. Oh well.
One of the fun things to do with the proposals is establish a basic exhibit, then build layers on top of it. It’s rather like a menu. If you get past the baseline you can start to pick and choose what you want for additions. Whether you want floor graphics, or touchscreen interactive documentaries or quizzes, or what. It’ll be interesting to see what this will end up looking like. Once I get clearance to show what we have in mind, I’ll post it here.
One of the most interesting things about this exhibit is working with the crew of the USS Redfin, the submarine that not only rescued the Flier survivors, but who also, four months previously, dropped off the Coastwatchers that sheltered them and set up the rescue. The Redfin survived WWII, then went on to serve until 1969. Her crew gets together every year to tour, swap stories, and in general, have a good time. They’re very good at that, and very welcoming (not to mention, hilarious).
When they had their 2008 reunion in Muskegon, they asked me to talk about the Flier and Redfin’s rescue. It was one of the best evenings in my life. The next year, they contacted us to say that one of their number had located the Redfin’s bell and, on the condition we put it on display, they wanted to donate it to the museum and in particular, to the long-talked about Flier exhibit.
Submarines tended to leave their bells behind when they left on patrol. If they remained mounted to the exterior of the submarine, it could ring during the concussions of a depth charge attack, allowing their enemy to hone in and target the sound. If they brought it inside, it would just use up valuable storage space. Moreover, if they never came back, their bell could serve as a memorial. Some of these bells are used for that purpose today. Some, due to the fact they’re made of nearly 100 pounds of solid brass, were sold and melted down. (The bell for the USS Narwhal was rescued from the scrap metal heap only a few years ago and is now at the Bowfin Museum inPearl Harbor, Hawai’i: http://archives.starbulletin.com/2006/09/24/news/story19.html )
It is tradition to ring a bell in memory of lost boats and their crews. The Redfin bell will do that for the lost Fliers and nearly 3500 men who have given their all in the submarine service.
The Flier’s bell is still missing. It may have been destroyed decades ago. It may exist somewhere, long forgotten in someone’s attic. If anyone ever finds an old brass bell engraved “USS Flier 1943 (or possibly 194)” we would love to hear from you so she can sit next to her sister.
And where was Flier 66 years ago today? About halfway back to the United States.