In light of the fact that the trial was quite long and easily bogged down, and I’m in the midst of a bunch of family stuff that cannot be put off, we will no longer be following the Flier on the 66th anniversary. The Board of Investigation into the loss of Flier and Robalo began on Thursday, September 14, 1944, and continued to Saturday, September 16. A day or so later, the men started their journeys back to the US where they were going to be debriefed, thoroughly interviewed by the press (though with strict guidlelines about what could and could not be said, leading to some interesting news articles), then each to 30 days leave with his family then back to service, whether aboard Submarines or not would be up to the men.
While all this was going on, and before the men were allowed to write many letters home, the news of Flier’s demise was slowly leaking out. Like the service today, the Navy wanted to wait until they had informed the family members (by letter or telegraph) before the official announcement, but the fact that there were survivors of the Flier lead to articles saying most or all of the crew had been saved, leading to some crushed hopes for many people stateside.
Since this story will now become so complex, I’ll be spacing things out a bit for a few weeks. I hope you’ll find it interesting, but it takes the pressure off of me to stay on timeline and allows me to NOT write mini-novels every day for the next two weeks. We’ll catch up and start doing some more stuff again soon.
Oh, by the way, The “Look Inside” thing is up one my book at Amazon.com, so you can check it out. The Kindle version will be coming soon (provided I don’t shoot Adobe InDesign).
And now back to our regularly scheduled blog entry…The men reported to the “courtroom” such as it was, aboard Submarine Tender Eurayle.
The last time Captain Crowley had faced a panal of people questioning his ability to command the Flier, he acted as his own defense attorney. This time, he opted for representation and requested Commander Charles “Herb” Andrews, commanding officer of USS Gurnard who had pulled into Fremantle at about the same time the Flier’s had returned. He had also been “recruited” into this position less than 12 hours before, so this was going to be interesting for him.
Admiral Christie, likewise, opted for counsel and requested George Patterson to stand with him.
The first morning was a lot of preliminary items. Crowley confirmed that he was the Commanding Officer at the time Flier was lost. Admiral Christie confirmed that he was the person who assigned Flier and Robalo the routes they took.
Admiral Christie was the first one in the hot seat. He was thoroughly questioned by Admiral Daubin about how and why submarines were routed to their various posts from Fremantle. The reasons why various submarines were routed the ways they were routed were really complex. Even the phases of the moon were taken into account (because the phases could impact depths of water and strengths of tides during various points in the phases) when planning submarine routes. No submarine could travel with another, no route could become a beaten path lest the enemy start to patrol more often.
Balabac, as it came out during the trial, was fairly well traveled, and had been crossed over 40 times in the 18 or so months since Christie commanded Fremantle. (about 2-3 times a month) During the investigation, Christie even referenced the fact that since the first suspicions that Balabac might be mined back in February, the Crevalle (three times), Tinosa, Puffer, Ray Bluefish, Bonefish, Roblalo (during her last completed patrol)and Lapon had all safely crossed Balabac and, as a matter of fact, the route Crevalle used when she crossed it in 8 May 1944 was given to BOTH Flier and Robalo to help them get through the strait (the route is listed point by point in the records).
With the loss of the Flier on the heels of the suspected loss of the Robalo, Balabac was ordered closed until further notice.
Christie also listed the reasons why each submarine was routed through the various places and the disadvantages to each when the decision so send this boat this way and that boat that way were made. How depths and currents made some places unminable but more traffiked and patrolled. How Balabac strait could be crossed through a number of channels: Middle, Main, Lumbucan and Natsubata, but only Natsubata could not be mined in the deep water routes, which is why all submarine captains were recommended to cross there. It was well known that the water in Natsubata was over 100 fathoms (600 feet) deep everywhere, though a strong cross current was also there, pushing submarines west.
Next up, was Captain Crowley, and we start learning more about what all happened that night…