Dropping the Watchers

Posted by Rebekah
Jun 08 2010

66 years ago today, Flier had come to the pass between Formosa Island (now Taiwan) and the north Philippines.   Today she spotted something rather strange for 1944: an unescorted ship.  Hardly anyone dared venture through the waves alone now, and Flier tried to close in on her, but being unescorted, the surface ship was running at full speed, and her head start was just too great.  Flier gave up the chase, and is preparing to turn south.

Redfin, meanwhile, is getting ready to drop off the Signal Service Coastwatchers.  They passed through the northern Balabac Straits and anchored near the northeast corner of Ramos Island.  The Coastwatchers were unloaded with a radio, food, supplies, hundreds of dollars, in boxes, waterproof bags, and any other means they could move them.

Seen here, the positions for Flier and Redfin 66 years ago today. Robalo is still in Australia.

Despite practicing the unloading at Perth and Exmouth Gulf, the rough and shallow seas made the actual process very difficult.  The raft flipped more than once, and, unknown to the Coastwatchers, some of their food and nearly half the money (with which they were expected to buy more food, supplies or cooperation and the local’s silence) got lost in the surf.

Before they left though, someone took a Phillipine Peso bill, and all six Coastwatchers signed it.  Larry Coleman, a young Redfin sailor, was entrusted with the note, before the Coastwatchers left for the last time.

The plan was to live behind enemy lines for as long as HQ needed them to, moving to stay ahead of the enemy patrols.  When the time came to be extracted, if any of them were still alive, they would be pulled out by ship or submarine.  With over 200 submarines actively working the Pacific, they probably, logically, expected they were seeing the last of Redfin as she pulled away from shore and sank into the waves.

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