Posts Tagged ‘Dive Detectives’

The Wreck of the USS Flier

Lost Subs | Posted by Rebekah
Aug 13 2015

71 years ago today.

70 years ago that Flier, still a new boat, hit a floating mine and sank in seconds, taking more than 70 souls with her the the bottom of the Balabac Strait.

In only seconds, still running full speed and listing to her wounded starboard, she collided with the stony floor, crushing and twisting her bow, until it fell.

Her six torpedo tubes, and the keel, running along Flier’s back, slammed into the ocean’s floor, yanking her to a stop.

Her stern, still driving the Flier forward, bent the upper part of Flier’s superstructure, between frames 10 and 15.  The torpedo tubes, solid brass, held the lower hull. but the upper superstructure cracked and broke under the compression.

The stern, still several feet above the seafloor, dropped.  Based on the side-scan sonar, the force of the stern landing may have flattened Flier’s pressure hull.

During the construction of the USS Flier exhibit at the Silversides Submarine Museum in Muskegon, I had the honor of being able to view the raw footage that Mike and Warren Fletcher brought back from the Flier when they investigated it (I was the museum’s historical consultant for the Flier exhibit). It’s over an hour of footage, which revealed more than YAP was able to display in the dive Detectives: Submarine Graveyard episode.

Several things popped out at me–the debris field on the starboard side, and several former vertical struts for Flier’s wire rails are all pointed to the starboard.  The superstructure was torn off with force.  When you look at the wrecks of the Lagarto and Wahoo, two sisters of Flier, the teak decking has rotted and fallen in large areas, but the steel scaffolding beneath the wood deck remains intact and vertical. On Flier, the entire superstructure, including steel scaffolding, is gone.  What parts of the formerly vertical scaffolding remains is savagely bent to the right forward of the fairwater.

The debris field is extensive on the starboard side.  I cannot speak to the port side, since the filming that the Fletchers did on the port side did not focus enough on the portside floor to see a significant field.

On the starboard side, Flier’s landing blew an impact ditch into the ocean floor. On the crest of the ditch the superstructure landed.  There are large chunks, but there were several small chunks of superstructure.  To be honest, it looks shattered–several pieces that had limber holes (in Flier’s case, the half-moon shaped holes along the bottom of the superstructure forward of the fairwater) are torn so you can only see a portion of one or two holes.

There are parallel horizontal stress cracks running along Flier’s starboard hull–not surprising.

She has a small, square hole between frames 38 and 39–just before her bilge keep begins.  This appears to be stress related.

The most startling thing to me, however, was two things the Fletchers captured on tape.

One was a look inside the control room, while the Fletchers were documenting the blast site.  While they never penetrated the Flier herself, as is tradition out of respect for the Flier’s crew, the camera did glimpse right into the control room.  I diagrammed out where Main Air Manifold pipes, the wiring, and what I believe is a glimpse of the General Quarters alarm.  These were traced over stills from the raw footage, because I do not have the permission to show any of the raw footage, including stills, and I respect YAP’s copyright.

 

Traced and drawn over three stills from the raw footage brought back by Mike and Warren Fletcher working with YAP Films, this shows what I believe to be a glimpse into the Flier's Control Room shot from a low angle near the ceiling.

Traced and drawn over three stills from the raw footage brought back by Mike and Warren Fletcher working with YAP Films, this shows what I believe to be a glimpse into the Flier’s Control Room shot from a low angle near the ceiling.

Main Air Manifold Pipes detail

Taken aboard the USS Silversides, my old boat when I was curator/archivist/exhibit designer, these are the main air manifold pipes which I traced in green above.

Silversides Periscope Well

Also taken from the Silversides, this is the periscope well, with two alarms. The torn junction box, seen at the bottom and cut off of the frame, I believe is torn on a diagonal in the drawing. This area was traced in red.

The most startling thing, however, was where the two forward ready-ammunition lockers ended up…on top of each other, starboard of the Flier, buried in the sand.  These things held 10 four inch shells EACH, and were welded to the Flier’s forward gun platform in front of the bridge.  That they ended up there, shows how hard she hit bottom.  The two heavy missiles broke free of their framing and launched clear over the side of the boat.

Yet, the ready ammo locker on her portside aft fairwater, remains–though it is now wedged between the engine room air intake and one of the pipes going back to the engine rooms…these are frequently broken as well.   It’s a puzzling wreck in many ways, but one thing if for sure, when she hit, she hit violently.

All in all, the raw footage gave me a lot to think about.  I wish I could explain it all here, but as we are going through some personal changes in our lives at the moment, this project got put to one side.  I would rather wait and debut it at a later date properly, than make a flurried and poor attempt now.  I will continue to sketch and draw and see if I can get permission to show some stills from the Fletcher’s dives, but I also highly recommend the episode crafted around this dive and exploration: Dive Detectives, Submarine Graveyard.  It is available on iTunes.

 

 

For the story of the USS Flier, her sinking, survivors, and discovery, check out my book, “Surviving the Flier” here or at Amazon and Barnes and Nobles.

 

 

Dive Detectives Update

And now for something completely different... | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 29 2011

You know, I just realized that I posted this on my Facebook page, my USS Flier Project Facebook page, and my newsletter to the Flier Network, but not here.  <facepalm>

Last time I updated about the Dive Detectives and their show on the discovery of Flier, YAP Films announced that the American rights had been sold to an unnamed channel to be shown at some future (unknown) date.  That was way back in October.

I’m happy to say that all the details have been hammered out.  The Dive Detectives has been purchased by the Smithsonian Channel, and will be shown Sundays at 8 pm beginning THIS Sunday.  I’ll post links and schedules below.

I’ve seen the Flier episode at the special preview held during the Flier Memorial Weekend in Muskegon, and also managed to get my hands on a full presentation of Lost A-Bombs, and I have to say, by and large, I’m really impressed.  The two divers, Mike and Warren Fletcher, were highly professional when I met them that weekend (so yes, I’m more than likely prejudiced in their favor) and more than happy to spend time answering multiple questions from the surviving families, and describing the resting place of Flier.  I’m just disappointed that right now, in my life, I don’t have television AT ALL much less access to a channel like this.  Though, I must admit, I’ve been enjoying the free full episodes Smithsonian streams.  I’m not completely deprived.  Depraved…that’s a matter of opinion.  Deprived…not so much.

Smithsonian seems to sell a number of their series and episodes, both at an online store and on iTunes, so that’s where I’m going to be shopping when the full run is over.

Dive Detectives premieres on Sunday, April 3, at 8 pm with an episode about the iconic Lake Superior wreck Edmund Fitzgerald.  The show about Flier will air on May 1, at 8 pm.  I will post details about the purchase of that episode or the whole series once it’s available/I can find it.

Excited!

The Smithsonian Channel’s page on The Dive Detectives

 

BREAKING: DIVE DETECTIVES TO BE SHOWN IN USA!!!! (Plus: News from the Museum)

And now for something completely different..., The Exhibit, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Oct 19 2010

We interrupt my blog post I’ve been desperately trying to put together for the last few days to announce that YES!!!!  YES! YES! YES!!!!  Dive Detectives will FINALLY be coming to the USA.  Dunno when, dunno on what station, but YAP Films announced on their site (not the Dive Detectives site if you’ve been checking there) that the series has been purchased by an American broadcaster and will be shown later this year!!!!

WOOOO   HOOOO!!!!!

And now back to that blog post I’ve been working on…

So I’ve been off the reservation for several days now.  Vacation was fun, but of course, when you bring the children, there’s a limit to the fun to be had.  I’m starting to understand the various veins and twitches I saw in my parent’s faces while growing up.  Goodbye sitting in the sun for hours blissfully reading or dozing, hello panicked dashing after children convinced that plugging a fork into an electric socket would be fun.

Oh well, it was a fun time.   Back to some updates…

The interview with James Alls is, if all goes according to plan, this weekend in New Castle, Indiana, the hometown of Flier Chief Kenneth Gwinn. Gwinn’s parents owned a diner that I hope is still in business.  If you have a question you’d like to ask Mr. Alls, be sure to comment or e-mail me at ussflierproject@gmail.com  I can’t promise we’ll get to it, but I’ll sure try.  I’ve already got questions about how the Flier was decorated, if they had any pets, did some sailors think Flier was unlucky (survivor Earl Baumgart later claimed he thought she was from day one), if they had any Crossing of the Line Ceremonies,  and on.  If you’re curious about anything, be sure to ask.  I will be filming, audio recording the session and if he gives permission, will be posting excerpts here and on YouTube.

The museum is (tentatively) hoping to open the exhibit this summer. Everything, of course, depends on money, time and schedule, but winter is our best time to build something like this: we’re less busy.

Now, since the Flier story is almost over, I thought we could do something interesting on here for the next while.  I’ll be delving into the stories of some of the Lost Submarines, but in addition, courtesy of Lt. Liddell, his son Kirk, and the National Archives, I have the complete Deck Logs and War Patrol Logs of the USS Flier (of course, the ones about the second patrol were lost in the sinking.)  They’re an interesting read, and I thought we’d start here on the 18th and 19th of October: the day Flier was commissioned into service, and started taking on food.  (There’s an eye opener!)

This is the record of Flier's first day as a Naval boat. The names of all the commissioning crew are written here: Officers first, by rank, the Enlisted alphabetically by last name.It's amazing how many of these men would still be around in ten months for the second patrol, and which ones wouldn't be. There is a second page for this day, but all it says is: "2200: (hours, or 10 pm): Finished Fueling. Received 50,138 gallons on board." You can click on the image to get a MUCH larger one if you're curious about reading it.

This is the record for the following day, when they started to take on stores while still testing systems at the dock. That's a lot of food, and that list will only get longer, not to mention all the stuff they'll unofficially get their hands on if the Fliers were like some of the other boats I've been told about! Then, as newest boat in the fleet, she was toured by some of the top commanders, including Admiral Daubin. (See Entry for 1300 hours). Interesting, since eleven months from this date, he would be investigating the same CO that's giving the tour of Flier, over the loss of this same boat and crew.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the photos taken of the Commissioning parties.  If you see someone you recognize in them, comment or e-mail, that’s what we’re trying to do, identify people, and tell this story.

More Dive Detectives

And now for something completely different... | Posted by Rebekah
Oct 05 2010

Sadly, this is not the episode that most of us have been waiting patiently (or not so patiently) for.

But if you are interested in the whole Dive Detective Series, like I am, you’ll be interested to know that the first episode was posted online in various places a couple of days ago.  Since these episodes also seem to originate from a Nat Geo website, this appears to be legit (I wouldn’t want to post an illegal copy and rip the Dive Detectives and YAP Films off.

Since this does appear to be legit, I thought I would post this episode, which concerns the A-Bombs and the assembly island Tinian.  It was quite interesting, and I hope you all enjoy it.  My only caution is that it takes a while to download (at least it did for me, it might have more to do with my particular connection or FireFox throwing a tantrum, who knows?)  So it might behoove you to get it started, then pause it for an hour then play it all the way through.  That’s what worked best for me.

http://www.runningshows.com/dive-detectives-season-1-episode-1-episode-1

In the meantime, I’ll keep scouring the web for news about the Dive Detectives going on-air properly somewhere in the US, and of course, if these episodes go on sale in some form and/or are streaming on the web.  I actually like this series, despite the fact I’ve only seen two of the six episodes, and hope they get renewed and shown in the US.  Surely the History channel can cancel a few dozen replays of Modern Marvels: The Brick/Beaver/Corrosion and Decomp/Eggs/The Potato (SERIOUSLY?!) to fit these six episodes in.  Or maybe the American Nat Geo channel can bump three days of Drug shows (I’m looking at the lineup right now.  Sunday the 17th is showing Four hours of shows about Cocaine, Meth Marijuana and Cocaine–yes a repeat, and the very next day they’re showing the same three shows arranged in the order of Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroin (ooooh, a new show!) and another showing of Marijuana.  Sigh.

Hey Cable channels!  If you’re that hard up for programming, I know a good, short series that you can show!

More Exhibit things

Lost Subs, Memorial Ceremony, The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 21 2010

Well, one day closer to the memorial weekend, and if you need a hotel and haven’t gotten around to it yet, you might want to move.  In addition to the Holiday Inn, the museum also has some rooms at Shoreline Inn across the street. Depending on the room, both hotels have views of Muskegon Lake, and are within walking distance of the Frauenthal Theater, the Hackley and Hume Homes, Hackley Park, and LST-393 Museum (for another taste of WWII Naval History, this time, the European Theater!) plus a number of small independent stores and restaurants.   (Walking distance here being defined as within a mile)  My favorite food store in the whole world is only about a mile and a half away from those hotels too. Be careful if you visit, it’s ADDICTING.

I understand that the episode of Dive Detectives is beautiful and haunting,or at least, so I’m told.  The staff at the museum decided to run the movie completely through their system so they could get a replacement copy in time if there was a problem or glitch, and wouldn’t you know it, none of them seemed to have anything else to do while the test was running!  Some of you don’t know this, but I’m an independent contractor for the museum, and actually live about five hours away by car, so I haven’t seen it yet either!   AAArrghh!  But they said it was a beautiful film, very well done, so hopefully, we’ll all like it.

Here you see the scale depths of the five submarine wrecks discovered since 2005, as well as an overhead silhouette of a WWII-era submarine done to the same scale. (The triangles representing the wrecks are not to scale, but the depths are) All of these wrecks with the exception of the Grunion were explored using human divers.

One of the biggest problems they had in filming was the depth of the Flier herself.  Of the five submarines discovered since 2005, Flier is the deepest except for the Grunion.  She is, in fact, at the very edges to human endurance using SCUBA gear underwater.  For every dive aboard the Flier, which was three hours long, the divers were only able to take ten minutes on the Flier herself, so while they apparently did an amazing job filming, they were still limited to short takes and quick passes, since they had to document as quickly as they could.  If permission is granted later for a more thorough survey of the submarine, it would likely be done by ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) since they don’t have to take the precautions human divers do.

That being said, it is still, apparently, amazing.  If we weren’t down to one car now, I’d be half tempted to drive the 10-hour round trip to see it!

I’m finishing up the memorial booklet now.  I ended up doing the covers, Flier’s Story pages and the Flier’s crew page.  I finished everything except for the crew page, which is in the final stages right now.  (It’s really difficult to fit 79 men on two pages!) I hope everyone likes it, but you now know who to blame if you don’t!

As soon as this is done, I have to update some pages and work on the permanent exhibit layout.  Whew!  This is so going to be worth it!

Exhibit update and Dive Detectives

Memorial Ceremony, The Book | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 17 2010

Well, the book has been submitted to the publishers, and I’ll get a proof back in five days.

It’s called Surviving the Flier.  It’s 294 pages long, with lots of maps and photos. Most books these days do the whole, half the books, a bunch of glossy pages with photos, and the other half of the book.  Personally, that drives me nuts, since that interrupts the flow of the words and the photos cover the entire span of the story, without consideration of where you are in the story.  This publisher won’t do that, so the photos are placed where they are actually relevant, as well as the maps.   Thanks to the Official Navy Photos of Flier (of which there are far too few) and the Jacobson and Liddell families, there are more photos in this book than the average, some which haven’t been seen before.  I hope you all like it.  I’m rather proud of it, and as an artist, I’m usually the most critical of my own work.

The temporary exhibit is well on its way, and will be in the same general area as the future permanent exhibit.  The area used to be our library, but that was purged of all non-reference books, and moved into another area of the museum.  The walls were painted black and we’re working on lighting and displays.  We’ll have some authentic artifacts on display this time, though what we’ll have permanently on display will partially depend on sensitivity of the artifacts to light.  Give me a few days now that the book is done (and once I finish the memorial booklet) and I’ll see what I can post about the exhibits.

The “Submarine Graveyard” episode of Dive Detectives  has been delivered, and is on site in preparation for the memorial weekend.  It will be showing in our 72-seat theater which has really comfortable seats and a fantastic sound system.

Anyway, it’s late, and after chasing my kiddos around on four hours of sleep a night for most of the week, I need to head for bed.  The good news is, I should be more regular updating the blog from now on, especially updating some of the pages.

Good night all, I can’t wait to meet many of you!

Dive Detectives and the Flier Wreck

Memorial Ceremony | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 08 2010

I have an announcement about the Dive Detective show that everyone has been looking for in the US.

As most who have been following this show know, the documentary about the Flier’s discovery and wreck has been shown in Canada and the UK, but the distribution rights in the US are still being negotiated.

YAP Films, however, has graciously given one copy of the film to the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum for our guests to see.  The paperwork we had to sign dictates that this film will be used for show only, we may not copy, sell, distribute, or otherwise use it except to show it in our theater.

So for those who have been desperate to see the documentary, literally, the only place to see it in the United States for the foreseeable future, is the museum, and we will not be able to accommodate those who cannot come to our grounds to see it.  Sorry.

Hopefully, the distribution rights for this film will be settled soon and the Flier documentary will be shown in the US along with the other five episodes the Dive Detectives did.  (Though I’m nearly desperate to see the Flier episode, I’m also very interested their show in the Edmund Fitzgerald and the 1812 warships in Lake Erie, and the one about the Atom Bomb assembly island.)

But on August 13, 2010, if you are in Muskegon Michigan, you can watch the “Submarine Graveyard” episode of Dive Detectes.

Whether Mike and Warren Fletcher, the divers who found and filmed the Flier, will be there too, is still up in the air.  I’ll keep you posted.

Just a quick update…

Memorial Ceremony, The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 19 2010

Snatching a few moments just now to update all of you Flier watchers out there…

After a meeting yesterday, we have some details about the Flier ceremony and the temporary exhibit which we’ll put up in time for the ceremony, and the future permanent exhibit.

If you are planning on coming to the festivities that weekend and you need a place to stay, the museum has reserved 70 rooms at the Holiday Inn downtown for Flier families.  Just mention that you are part of the group.  Don’t wait to reserve your spot, since Muskegon is a tourist town, AND that weekend is the Unity Christian Music Festival, and the hotels are telling us they are expecting to be full that weekend shortly.  If you find that place is full, give me or the museum folks a ring and we can see if we can help you locate another museum or bed and breakfast nearby.

While the memorial ceremony at 11 am on Friday August 13 is open to the public, if you are attending the entire weekend, you will need to register.  All those Flier family members should have received their packets by now.  If you haven’t, let us know and we’ll get them to you.

Between time and financial constraints, the permanent Flier exhibit will not be ready in time, we’re so sorry.  Since it won’t be ready in time, we have opted to not start it during the summer, which is our busiest season.  We do, however, have a traveling exhibit area prepped and ready and will be putting together an exhibit there.  In a way, it’s better, since we’ll be posting more of the original work than we otherwise normally would.  Since these items will come down and go into storage later,  delicate objects that shouldn’t be out in the light for long CAN be put on display here for the temporary exhibit.

Weather permitting, the ceremony will take place on the deck of the Silversides, Flier’s sister, where we will read each man’s name and then ring the bell in their honor, while throwing a flower into the water.  When it’s done, Silversides is surrounded by a cloud of flowers, it’s really quite striking.  The Navy is sending someone to make the address, but who this person is has not been announced yet.  (According to an inside source, this person won’t be announced until about a month before the ceremony.)

For those who have been wanting to see the film about the finding of Flier’s wreck, a copy of it IS scheduled to come and debut during that day.   From what I’ve been told, the rights to the film in the USA are still in question because they are still working on signing with a distributer for the whole six-part series.  There WILL NOT be copies for sale (due to the above-mentioned reason), but it will be shown.  Since we’re expecting about 200 people for the ceremony and our theater only seats 72, we’ll be running it all day.

The future exhibit will be located on the second floor of museum and is currently planned to have a place to show the Dive Detectives documentary, as well as some interactive exhibits.  The location and size of the exhibit changed recently, which means I’m re-drawing what it will look like, so take the images on the “Exhibits” page with a grain of salt.

And finally, my book will also debut that weekend!  If you’ve been interested to read more of the Flier’s story, you’ll have the opportunity.

I’ll try to post later this afternoon about what Flier’s up to today, and some interesting information I discovered about the last time USS Crevalle crossed Balabac Straits.  Why does it matter?  Because the Navy gave the path Crevalle took through Balabac to the Flier to help them navigate safely through, but there were some interesting quirks about that path…

The Map

Lost Subs, The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 14 2010

I am looking at the most extraordinary nautical chart today.

Over the weekend, I visited with the Jacobson family, and one of the items they allowed me to borrow was a chart of the Balabac Straits.  This, on its own,  would be interesting enough, but thanks to both Al Jacobson’s son, and Jim Liddell’s son, this chart is extraordinary.

From what I have been able to find out, after the Flier survivors reached the States, they went home to their families then on to their new assignments.  With the exception of Cmdr. Crowley and Lt. Liddell who were stationed together on USS Irex and remained close friends after the military, the survivors lost contact with one another.

But in 1994, with the help of Dr. Elaine Foster who located all eight Flier Survivors, they decided to meet together at Cmdr. Crowley’s home in Baltimore.  Only Crowley, Liddell, Jacobson, Miller and Russo were able to make it.

It was in a video recording of that meeting that I first saw this chart.  Lt. Liddell’s son came with his father, and recorded as the men pinned this chart up on the wall in Cmdr. Crowley’s living room and talked about where they had gone down and where they had swum.

In 1944, Cmdr. Crowley had to guess where the Flier went down, and he guessed “Comiran Island bearing 190 degrees T at 6700 yards”.  That bearing put the location of the sinking at 7 degrees, 58 minutes, 45 seconds North Latitude and 117 degrees, 13 minutes, 10 seconds East Longitude.  I marked that position below.

Now, the men also debated whether they swam in a straight line to the islands ans even which islands they landed on.  During WWII, Crowley decided that they must have landed on Mantangule, which you can see above, but Al, after studying the maps, was more inclined to believe that they landed on Byan, the tiny speck of green to the left of Mantangule.

They debated this for a while, and decided that the sinking position was correct, though they did land on Byan, not Mantangule, and probably either swam around the Roughton Reefs in the current, or swam between them.

It was a fascinating bit of video to watch.

In 1998, Al decided he wanted to go back to that area in the Philippines and see the places he didn’t mean to pass through in 1944. While there, he took this same chart along with him, and traced the route that he took in visiting his old haunts.  I can follow his 1998 boat coming down the eastern side of Palawan, passing within photo distance of Cape Baliluyan (where he met up with a guerilla outpost) snaking through the reefs until he made it to Comiran Island where they spotted the light that the lookouts on Flier saw moments before she went down, to the spot where she went down, back to Byan Island and Bugsuk Island, then back up the eastern coast of Palawan.  I also have the photos from this trip, which is helping me get a sense of what happened.  I’ll see if I can get permission to post them.

The most interesting thing to me is when Al got to the accepted coordinates of Flier’s sinking, he decided the surroundings didn’t match his memory from that night.  See, Al wasn’t watching the stern of Flier just before the mine hit, he was admiring the surrounding scenery.  It was, to his dying day, one of the most beautiful this he had ever seen.

So he asked the captain of his charter boat to keep moving until the scenery matched.  When it did, he marked it on the chart, but also recorded the GPS coordinates of it.  It was south(ish) of the accepted WWII estimate by more than a mile.

Al hoped someday that he could come back with professional gear and divers to look, but his health did not permit it.  When the Dive Detectives came calling after Al passed on, this chart was one of the things that they were given in the hope that the wreck could be found.

Al was always known for his thoroughness in his research and planning.  I wonder if he knew just how closely he had nailed the location.  From what I’ve been told,  when the Dive Detectives ship dropped the weighted sandbags down on the 1998 coordinates, they landed on the Flier herself.

Provided the Navy does not object to the display of this chart (they’re a little touchy about revealing the locations of their wrecks for security reasons) this map will hopefully make it into the exhibit.

BREAKING: New Trailer for Dive Detectives

And now for something completely different..., Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 20 2010

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While those of us in America wait with baited breath, I hope to offer something in the interim.  This trailer comes from the British National Geographic website, and you can get a few more glimpses of the damage done to the Flier and the wreck itself.

Enjoy!