Well, I know several people have been waiting to hear about the interview with James Alls, one of the last crewman who was ever stationed on the USS Flier. It took place Saturday at Mr. Alls’s residence in Kentucky. Why so long to post about it? I think I’ve been running myself longer and harder than I realized. Every time I sat down to do this I pretty much fell sound asleep! (Either that, or I’m more boring than I thought…)
We had a wonderful time, talking on tape for about three and a half hours. With two camcorders and a voice recorder, we made sure that we got it all, and at times from several different angles. But as always happens, once we turned the cameras off after deciding we had covered everything and no one could think of anything else to ask, we turned everything off, broke the cameras down, and one short phrase started a whole new round of stories. I took notes, and now have to convert everything and edit a lot of dead air out. It will be worth the wait, I promise.
Before this interview, I thought that Jim had been injured a night or two before the Flier left port, but that wasn’t the case. Sounds like the injury happened at least a five days before Flier left, if not much earlier. According to a letter written by Donald See’s aunt to Oliver Kisamore’s family, See, who replaced Alls, was officially assigned to Flier on July 30, so by then, it was apparent Jim wouldn’t be back aboard for the second patrol.
And it would have been Alls’s last. He was never outside once Flier entered enemy territory and spent most of his time in the engine rooms and the Crew’s Quarters. He would not have made it.
How did he get out of it?
He had been assigned Shore Patrol, and was supposed to go with another guy to clear out the Fremantle bars that night, and tell the guys to get on the buses back to their hotels and barracks, liberty was canceled.
He and his partner decided to split up (a move that was against regs) and in the next bar, Jim discovered an Army Ranger Sergeant, a little in his cups, threatening to take on a bunch of newly-arrived New Zeeland soldiers. Jim steered the guy out of the bar, but a parting insult inspired a soldier to grab the empty beer mug and Jim’s world went dark.
He woke up outside the bar, the barman or someone apparently decided to move him outside to avoid trouble. His jaw wasn’t just broken, it was shattered. He managed to wave down an Australian passing by who took him to the hospital, where he had to wait two days while the Navy and the civilian hospital debated who was the proper person and had the right facilities and techniques to best set the jaw.
They did a good job, I’ll say. No one looking at Jim today would guess that his jaw had once been that badly broken.
But the Flier didn’t desert him. Capt. Crowley put a retainer on Jim, reserving him to come back on the crew as soon as he was medically cleared. Since Flier was, according to the final investigation, scheduled to return to Fremantle in early September had the second patrol gone well, he likely would have rejoined the crew then.
But of course, she never did.
The interview was long, talking about people things, places, even the unusual “flag” the Flier had. What is Gilly juice and how does it affect the men? (Answer, a torpedo component, approximately 190 proof and with that description, I’m sure you can use your imagination!), the way the men showered in the Engine room when the showers were full of potatoes and later dirty laundry, the reason why their Christmas turkey feast didn’t turn out the way they expected, even stories about various crew members, though, since Alls was a Motor Mac, he tended to hang around with the other motor macs. It was fun, amazing, and Alls is a natural storyteller.
I now have this great sense about what the Flier was and how she and her crew worked together as an individual (and quite unique!) boat, rather than an echo based on statistics and stories of a number of similar boats.
Deck Logs later. Sorry.