I just wanted to take a moment today to commemorate the 67th anniversary of Flier finally leaving Pearl Harbor on her way to the front.
We don’t know where she was assigned to go: it’s likely that she was part of the advance force for the upcoming battles in the Marianas. Wherever she was headed, she was assigned to top off her tanks at Midway Atoll. Since Midway was 1300 miles closer to the front than Pearl, that top-off could make a difference in amount of time or distance allowed to spend on patrol.
Pearl Harbor, now two years into the war, was busting at the seams. They had only JUST (as in the last two weeks before this date in 1944) finished floating the last casualty of December 7 that was planned to be reclaimed. The Arizona was going to remain as a memorial, and so was the Utah (albeit unintentionally. The Utah was simply too old and useless to waste wartime resources to even float enough to salvage. After all, before December 7, she had been a target ship, a ship the active warships shot dummy torpedoes and guns at to practice aiming and firing. She was, however, capsized in a main traffic lane. THAT was going to be fixed.)
Nope, the workers at Pearl Harbor, had finally, after two years of engineering, designs and labor, figured out how to roll the USS Oklahoma over, float her and drag her into drydock. (Sadly, drydock would reveal that the damage was beyond worth of repair. The great battleship was, for all intents and purposes “Totalled”. She was moved to a quiet part of the harbor until 1946 when she was sold to a scrapper.)
The business of war never stopped, and neither was Flier.
Captain Crowley, by this time, was one of the most experienced submarine Commanders. A Naval Academy grad of 1931, he already had commanded the USS S-28 through five blisteringly cold patrols in Alaska’s dangerous seas. He’d commanded submarines out of Pearl Harbor, New London, San Diego, and Dutch Harbor, as well as through the Panama Canal. Despite his experience, there was one major American Submarine port he’d never been to yet: Midway.
But dozens of submarines were in and out of Midway every week. The channel going into the harbor was narrow, but deeply dredged, and straight, angled due north a 000 degrees. All you had to do approach from the south, wait for the pilot to come on board, then drive straight north until through the coral wall that surrounded the base.
How hard could this be?