Hey everyone, if I can get 64 more people to visit this site before midnight tonight, that’ll be 4,000 visits this month, a record, and quite a nice one, wouldn’t you agree?
Back to the story.
Midnight passed, and the moon rose higher, causing the people in the kumpit to fear the maru might see them if they were really looking. Howell kept working the CW Keying on the small radio, and Russo kept flickering the flashlight out into the night, though less enthusiastically than two hours before.
Suddenly Howell, checking his cry of success, told Russo to stop signaling, Redfin saw them!
They heard her before they saw her, she was steaming on the surface from out at sea. Austin, on deck, ordered Redfin to reverse just before they came up on them to stop the giant steel sub from knocking over these small wooden boats. They lowered the deck to just above the surface of the water, and Al was so eager to get onboard that he forgot his formal Navy manners and didn’t ask permission to board, just grabbed the first Redfin’s hand that reached for him and scrambled on board. Of was 0043 (or 12: 43 am) August 31, 1944. The Flier’s ordeal was over, after 18 days.
Everyone was quickly brought on board, including Mrs. Edwards, embarrassed to be seen without her carefully kept shoes. Every pair except her best had long since rotted away in the humid environment. She kept her best pair in their box so she would not have to be rescued, if rescue ever came, barefoot…only to discover, as Redfin approached, that a couple of years barefoot in the Philippine jungle caused her feet to swell so much her shoes would not fit!
Alastair was amazed to be on board a real submarine, though Heather, by most accounts, watched silently from her mother’s arms.
Redfin’s CO had news for everyone too: faced with Americans needing evacuation, Redfin received orders two hours before to grab the evacuees and head straight for Darwin, Australia, the nearest Allied port, and not to attack anyone or reveal themselves in any way between now and then.
So when the Coastwatchers asked for a few donations (the Redfin agreed during Crowley and Austin’s radio interview the night before to giving a gallon of lubricating oil for the kumpit) the Redfins turned over everything that wasn’t needed for survival for seven days. The list of things given is really amazing:
(2) .30-caliber Browning Automatic Rifles
(2) .30-caliber machine guns
(2) .45 caliber Thompson Machine Guns
(4) Springfield .30 caliber rifles
(10) .45 caliber Colt Pistols
(3) .30 Caliber M-1 Carbine Rifles
20,000 rounds of .30 caliber ammo
3,000 rounds of .45 caliber ammo
2,800 rounds of .30 caliber ammo for the carbines
(3) Bags medical supplies including sulpha drugs, quinine and atrabrine to fight malaria
Canned Fruits and Vegetables
200 cartons cigarettes (it was 1944, lots of people smoked)
And that’s just the list from the official inventory. According to the Redfins, the men gave some of their change of clothes and one even handed over his pair of 9-1/2 shoes for Mr. Edwards when he heard Mr. Edwards had none.
If the Japanese feared Brooke’s Point before, they would doubly now, since Coastwatchers and guerrillas were well armed, had real ammo, and were well fed, entertained, clothed and shod. This list, I think, shows something else: how little these people had been operating with for years. It really makes their story just as amazing as the survivors.
That Japanese ship just sat there though. Captain Austin, who was shocked to see Palacido, who he had dropped off two months earlier a hundred miles south, suggested that his men might need some deck gun practice. If he did, would Palacido be sure to be responsible and clean the beach of any and all supplies and capture any men who washed up?
Palacido eagerly agreed, and the men left on the kumpits, now heavily laden with the equivalent of four years of Christmas.
The refugees were hustled downstairs and the civilians were quickly assigned cabins where they were required to stay unless they were escorted by a member of the crew to the head or the Mess. It may sound cruel, but it was a necessary step to ensure everyone’s safety in case of trouble. Civilians would not be rushing around, getting in the way of crew members who would be trying to help.
George, Charlie and Red, despite being military, were also confined to cabins, since they were not qualified by the Sub School to be on a submarine.
Only the Fliers were permitted some freedom, though it was limited since they had no duty stations, the three Flier officers were not going to be part of the decision making of this crew, and at most, they were free to throw themselves in any unoccupied bunk to try and rest.
Redfin soon shuddered under the thunder of her three deck guns. The first flash blinded the gunners themselves, who had to rely on the directions given by the lookouts overhead.
The Maru, now in danger, quickly picked up her anchor and headed south,hugging the the coast all the way. She must have had a very shallow draft, since she glided over coral reefs Austin didn’t dare send Redfin into, or even shoot a torpedo at (they had a tendency to blow up coral reefs ather than ships over coral reefs)
It was over, the Redfin turned her nose south west, heading away from Flier’s last route through Makassar, and away from Flier’s last position. Of the eight men who would forever remember their shipmates, only one would ever see those islands again.
And Captain Crowley, once again through no fault of his own, faced investigation into the loss of his boat. The same boat.