Posts Tagged ‘Surviving the Flier’

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.

 

 

Book Proof!

The Book, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 28 2010

It’s here!  It’s here!  It’s here!

Actually, it was here on Monday.  But between the camera being dead, and my schedule and finishing a surprise that I hope the families of the Flier crew will love, I hadn’t gotten around to taking proper photos.

But I have now.  Here we go.

There's the front cover. What do you think? (Seriously, I'd welcome the feedback)

There it is in all its glory.  This is  a proof, meaning it’s for the author’s eyes only, and it’s a last gasp chance to make sure everything is perfect, all photos, graphics, wording, everything.

It’s a good thing too, because despite my every effort, I’ve had to replace five photos that came out too dark and a handful of typos and some stuff I forgot about last minute, including three thank yous and seven bibliographic references.  Thank goodness, they only charge for one more upload rather than per correction!  (If you purchase this book and happen to find a typo or something PLEASE don’t tell me for at least a week!  I’ll need the time to adjust to not-panic drive!)

This is a pretty cool book, even if I am prejudiced.  Here’s the start to Chapter One:

The opening to Chapter One. That is an actual photo of the crew of the Flier likely receiving their awards for the stellar job done on the first patrol. I wish there was a date for this, whether it happened shortly after Flier arrived, or shortly before she left, but a number of men on the Flier received commendations such as Bronze Stars and Silver Stars, and Crowley received a Navy Cross. If you're curious about the coffee reference in the opening pages, that's a true reference. Al remembered this strange thing about the Flier crew: they insisted on Hills Bros. coffee, and nothing else. Though he couldn't taste a difference, he said some of the crew were dead serious about that coffee.

And another random spread in Chapter 2 with a map included.  I was able to put over 20 maps, photos and diagrams, though they are not evenly spaced throughout the book.  Since obviously, none of the men were carrying a camera during their escape, there are few photos in the middle of the book.

From Chapter Two where Al and the other officers learned where the Flier was going for her second patrol. In order to keep submarines as safe as possible, only the Commanding Officer was told where they were going before the submarine left port. If, like Flier's case, they had to stop somewhere to refuel, no one else was told where they were headed until after the submarine had left the last vestiges of Allied civilization behind. Thanks to the later investigation and the Operation Orders of the Flier, we know where they were supposed to head, and how and when they were supposed to get home, had Fate not intervened.

Despite the title and the fact that this book is centered around the doomed second patrol of the Flier and the escape of the eight Fliers themselves, there are a number of backstories and flashbacks in this book to try and flesh out Flier’s life and that of her crew before the explosion.  The most frustrating thing was, of course, with eighty four men onboard Flier, I couldn’t feature or name them all during the course of the book, but I hope this shows a good cross section of who these guys were.

So its 294 pages long, 14 of which is Bibliography alone  (I might shrink the text in the Bib to give me more room if I need it).

As soon as the proof is re-sent with the final final FINAL (I hope) revisions, we’ll finish up the e-books starting with the Amazon Kindle version.  I’ll let you know when we get that up for those who are interested in that sort of format rather than a hard copy.

We were hoping to do a Barnes and Noble Nook version, but we can’t seem to find any information on how to convert these books into that format.  If you know, please contact me about how to do that.

Audiobook version will be coming.  It just might not be ready for the launch.  Sorry.  It’s coming, I promise.

Well, now back to work.  I have a deck log to photograph, a DVD to create, and another Exhibit to design.  I’m swamped.  (in a good way)

And where was Flier, Redfin and Robalo? Robalo is definitely lost now, though how many of her men remain alive and/or free or imprisoned is still a matter of debate.  Flier is in drydock having her starboard mechanical everything thoroughly gone over, and the Redfins are reporting back on duty.  The Coastwatchers are well and settled in Brooke’s Point, establishing one radio station on the beach and one on the side of Addison Peak a mile or so inland.  They have no idea Balabac Straits are definitively mined (it was assumed, not known that Balabac was mined at this time) and their radios are having problems again anyway, so they haven’t told HQ.  This fact will have deadly consequences for more than the submariners.

USS Flier, reporting for duty

Memorial Ceremony, The Book, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 25 2010

Well, two days ago, the Flier’s men reported for duty.  Flier had been worked over through the past two weeks under the command of a Relief Commanding Officer, whose name is not recorded (whoever he was, he had been reassigned out of Australia by the investigation  in September).  Following the refit, a Training and Fire Control Officer, Captain George Patterson, was assigned to Flier to run training runs and practice firing  drills.  These were customarily done for two reasons.  One, there were often new crewmemebers onboard a departing submarine.  As much as one-third of the crew could be new and these new men and the established crew needed a chance to work together and mesh in less-stressful circumstances.  This also gave the CO and XO an opportunity to observe the crew and get rid of men who showed signs of high nervousness and stress, indicators that they would not be able to thrive or be an asset the 50-80 day patrol.    Flier carried, according to the investigation following her loss, thirteen new crewmen. One was a new ensign, Philip Mayer, and the rest were enlisted.  I do not have an exhaustive list of the new men, but I know that Fireman Elton Brubaker and Fireman Donald See were assigned to Flier at Fremantle.

The second reason was to allow the homeported training officer a chance to watch the submarine’s CO, XO and crew in action, and report back to HQ.  If a CO in particular showed signs of being too passive, too abusive, or otherwise ineffectual, he would have to be removed from command, likely on the next time the submarine came into port.  (If a CO was so abusive it was unlivable, then the crew would more than likely have reported the CO long before now, and his removal would have been already been assessed and or completed before the crew reported back aboard.)

Today, Flier was in the waters west of Perth, running her engines at high speeds, low speed, diving, surfacing, testing her engines and props and hull.  This test was primarily to listen to the submarine, and see how she sounded.  A Diesel submarine, properly shaped and running, is almost undetectable underwater (this is still true, a modern diesel sub is quieter than a nuclear submarine), but slight variations in the propellers, a dent or bulge in the hull, worn bearings, misaligned struts, could cause bubbling or swishing noises that a surface ship could use to find a submerged sub.

And Flier proved why these tests were necessary.  Her starboard prop was very loud, so Flier turned to head back for Perth to see what the trouble was.

On the book front, the proof was mailed overnight air mail to me via UPS.  Alas, mailing something via overnight mail at noon on Friday means it turns into three-day mail, and will be delivered on Monday.  Using the tracking number, I discovered that the book is in fact, at the UPS depot here in my town, and a part of me is sorely tempted to break in, find my package, and leave a note.

I’m fairly certain that will get me arrested though, so I’m resisting!

On the Memorial front, we have some rather funny news.  Turns out, there is a change of command at the submarine base in San Diego on…yup, Friday August 13, 2010.  So a speaker hasn’t been secured just yet, as quite a few people were scheduled to be there.  But the Navy, who is the one who sends someone to these National Naval Memorial Services, assured us that they will be sending an excellent speaker.  In the meantime, even without a speaker, details of that weekend are coming together to help us honor these men and their memories.

100th Post

The Book, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 22 2010

I wish I had a more interesting post for the 100th post on this site, but today is rather quiet.  Tomorrow, the 23rd, is the day the men of Flier report aboard for training duty before leaving for Flier’s second patrol.

I wish I knew what they were doing.  All I know about Al’s movements at this time is he bought three boomerangs and a lamb skin rug and mailed it home to his family.  (One of the odd blessings about researching the Navy is the paperwork is immense and all filed, usually in some kind of “-plicate”  (Duplicate, Triplicate…)   Some of the guys probably got Digger Hats, an Australian kind of Cowboy hat that was often purchased by American sailors on R&R.

Flier and Redfin meanwhile are being fitted out by the Submarine Tender Orion, who is in the process of reloading all her own stores  since she has received orders to leave Fremantle and head for the port of Mios Woendi on Papua New Guinea.   Flier, Redfin and Jack will be her last three submarines to outfit before heading out herself.

Fremantle is absolutely packed with American Submarines right now, coming and going.   Flier came to port on July 5.  The day before, the Gunnel and Muskallunge also came to Fremantle.  Since Flier arrived, the Harder, Redfin, Hake, Jack, Haddo, Paddle and Mingo arrived.  The Cod, Gunnard, Ray, Aspro, Puffer, Bluefish, Raton, Guitarro, and Rasher all left Fremantle at the same time.  If you think every submarine carried on average 80 people at this time (and often more), that means that approximately 1,520 submarine sailors filtered through Fremantle’s North Warf during the month of July alone.  This doesn’t include the sailors stationed in Fremantle on the Orion and Griffin, the relief crews, and the submarines and destroyers across the way that belonged to the Brits and Dutch.

Memorial Booklet is now done, and I’m trying to learn how to do three dimensional modeling on Photoshop.  This should be interesting.

My husband and I are working on setting up e-books for those who prefer their books that way.  We’re working on Kindle, Nook, (which I keep calling “Vook” much to my husband’s amusement) and iPad versions in addition to a .pdf, so those who prefer their e-books, we’ll probably have a format for you.  We’re not prejudiced.

An audiobook is on its way, but at the moment, we’re looking into how to do that, whether to hire out studio time, or what.  I’ll keep you posted on what that is.

I’m expecting the proof of my book any day now.  This is a copy of the book created to let an author, editor, ect. take a look at the book in the finished form to make sure this is exactly what is wanted.  The bookblock (interior of the book) has been accepted and now, as soon as the cover is accepted (or not) the book will be shipped to me in finished form so I can take a look at it.  I can’t wait.

Fun with Graphics

The Book | Posted by Rebekah
May 13 2010

As anyone who has ever worked with the graphics presentation for a large project can tell you, it’s a lot more complicated than you may think.  When working with a corporation, they tend to have standards for presentation and colors that can be used, and those colors are VERY specific.  U of M is not just Blue and Gold, trust me, they have a VERY specific blue and gold in mind, down to the amounts cyan, magenta, yellow and black that are in each color.  (Heck, it would not surprise me at all if they named it “U of M Blue” and “U of M Gold”.)

So I did that for the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum a while back for their main exhibit hall, and when the Flier project ramped up suddenly this winter after the announcement of her discovery, I did a related one so this unit has a distinct feel that is still related to the Main Exhibit Hall below it.

And that graphics standard has passed into the look of this website, the letter head, the business cards, and now, the book.

I’ve been monkeying around with the cover for  a while now, and I think I really like this one, so I thought I would put it out there to see what some of you think.

When  first started working with graphics and ideas for the Flier, the image of a set of footprints coming up out of the beach really struck me, but it took me a long time for me to get it to work.  I also colored the jackets and faces of the guys on the Flier, as an attempt to kind of bring them to life a little bit more.  Sometimes, I know at least for me, since color photos were so new during WWII, and we see so much black and white footage and photos of WWII that they always seem removed from modern life.  I love seeing the few color photographs of WWII that I can find since that vivid color always seems to reach out to me, make the scene more tangible, more realistic.  So I colored the men on the cover.

I don’t think I’ll do it to any internal photos, both due to extra cost and because the coloration IS just guess work, but I think I rather like this.

It ended up being more colorful than I originally planned, (and now that I’ve pasted the cover in here, it’s a LOT more vivid than it is on my Photoshop program, I may have to re-adjust before final publishing) but these colors are still within the graphics standards.

What do you think?