Al and the Fliers were now on the slopes of Addison Peak, waiting for pickup. The moment Captain Crowley knew he had the ability to send a message to Brisbane Australia (the Coastwatchers, being an Army unit, not a Navy unit, had the clearances, frequencies, ect. to contact McArthur’s headquarters, not Admiral Christie’s, but of course, were willing to forward it to Fremantle) he sent a message saying Flier was lost with some survivors, and that they likely hit a mine in Balabac Strait, and needed pick up. Up until this point, it was suspected/assumed that Balabac was mined because it was such a used strait with such limited paths through making it nearly ideal for mining. But now, Crowley was convinced it was, and despite the convenience, should be avoided at all costs.
The message was embedded in the usual weather report (the Japanese could always be listening in, but since what the Coastwatchers sent was, more often that not, weather reports, it wasn’t too likely they’d listen closely), sent to Brisbane and quickly forwarded to Fremantle.
Fremantle, to put it lightly, wasn’t happy. Not. At. All.
The next night, they sent a blistering scolding to the Coastwatchers, who weren’t even their men, telling them that they were highly disappointed in the quality of the men’s observations and that they were supposed to be watching the straits for things like mines, and they expected much better in the future.
For the commander of the group, Armando Corpus, who had suffered from depression before during this mission, it might have been the last straw. If he followed the pattern established earlier in this mission, he likely withdrew from the other men and talked openly about how he was useless to do anything. The other men, lead by Palacido who was the de facto leader of the group, tried to tell him it wasn’t their fault, certainly not Corpus’s alone, and that he was a valuable leader of their band.
From what I have seen, the Fliers certainly never held the Coastwatchers responsible for what happened to their boat, it was the fortunes of war. Moreover, the Straits had been mined before the Coastwatchers got there. Personally, I think the accusation a bit unfair, but a lot of these facts came out after the war, and 1944 wasn’t exactly a relaxing time for anyone in the Submarine Force. Fresh off the realization that Robalo isn’t answering her repeated calls, nor calling in to report when she’d be in port, and is therefore, likely lost, to hear Flier was certainly lost in the same general area, had to be a devastating blow. To add to that, submarine Hake reported that her hunting partner, submarine Harder, had taken a severe depth charging from the escorts of their last targets, and wasn’t answering Hake’s calls. Hake suspected Harder was lost with all hands, including legendary skipper Sam Dealey. So news of all three submarines lost with their crews was hitting Christie’s office at once. It might have been too much to take for whoever composed the scathing message.
The Fliers meanwhile were sitting back and relaxing for the first time. As their feet healed, they started to participate in the activities of the mountain encampment and meet the people around here, including trapped missionaries, survivors of the Bataan Death March, and salvage divers.
But more on that tomorrow.