Posts Tagged ‘USS 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.

 

 

Shirley Temple and her (short) Submarine History

And now for something completely different... | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 11 2014

Saw the news this morning of child actress Shirley Temple-Black’s passing. Another golden age icon gone.

While I’m reading all these news reports about Temple, I’m noticing that one of her many accomplishments that’s being (I’m sure inadvertently) overlooked is her support for the military, before and during WWII.  It’s not surprising really, as many stars at that time did anything they could, and many did it quietly, with no press releases or announcements.  The only reason I stumbled across it was from a tiny photo.

USS Flier’s Chief Radioman was Walter Joseph “Bud” Klock, originally from St. Paul, Minnesota.  He joined the Navy to get training and work, but also support his single mom and little brother.  The Submarine Base in Honolulu was a far cry, in distance and environment, from his mother’s little apartment, and Klock wrote her frequently, sending all sorts of accounts of this things he was doing. (Two years into his hitch, he wrote home complaining that it was a cold 60 degrees in Honolulu that winter’s day.  I wonder what his mother, still in St. Paul, thought of that!)

Prior to WWII, servicemen like Klock, even aboard submarines, were allowed to take photos aboard, and write home talking about what they were doing and where they were serving, and Klock, armed with his old camera, sent dozens of photos home.  Sometime while he served on the massive ARGONAUT, Klock got to see a performance by Shirley Temple, and snapped a photo of her being escorted across the deck of his boat to send home.

After WWII started, letters from Klock became fewer and shorter.  Fewer because he could only send letters when he was in port, and shorter because the Navy had all sorts of rules against mentioning place names, ship and boat names, personal names of other servicemen, any information that could identify military tech in case a spy intercepted the letter (which, in the submarine force’s case, the entire boat was the latest technology, so nothing to see here!), and on and on and on. Some men complained that the only thing you could do was write, “As of today’s date, I’m somewhere in the world, doing something I can’t tell you, and I’m still breathing and healthy.  How are you?”

Klock sent his last letter home in mid-July, 1944, and died with the Flier on 13 August, 1944.  His mother and wife Velma, kept all of the letters, which were passed on to Klock’s nephew, whom Walter never had an opportunity to meet.

Klock’s nephew allowed me to see and transcribe these letters before their donation to the USS Silversides Submarine Museum in Muskegon, Michigan. While sorting them and putting them in chronological order, I found that fun little photo of Shirley Temple, in the late 1930’s (August 11, 1937: see update below), visiting the USS Argonaut (likely in Pearl Harbor, Honolulu).

Taken in the late 1930's when Temple was between 8 and 11 years old, then submariner Walter Joseph "Bud" Klock took this photo of Shirley visiting the USA's largest submarine at that time, the 358 foot Argonaut. To the left, the Argo next to a "standard" sized (between 207 and 240 feet) S-boat. The Fleet Boats of WWII were still largely in the planning stages, but would still be a good forty-six feet shorter than the Argo. Argo was lost with all hands on 10 January 1943. She would retain her "largest submarine" record until 1959 when the USS Triton (SSRN-586 ) and USS George Washington (SSBN-598) were commissioned, coming in at 447 (Smashing Argo's record) and 381 feet long, respectively. Photos courtesy of the family of Walter Klock.

 

Temple was thirteen when WWII began for the USA, and seventeen when it was over.  As an established celebrity, and moreover, a celebrity associated with positive, feel-good movies, she was valued as a morale booster for the country and the military. She worked for War Bond Drives, in both America and Canada, in her movies, making personal appearances, and serving and performing at the famed Hollywood Canteen.

The Canteen was a restaurant/entertainment venue for servicemen regardless of race (this was a segregated time period in American History, so a racially integrated venue, even for working servicemen, was extremely unusual) that was staffed and headlined by Hollywood’s best and brightest.  Chaired by Bette Davis, who had no problems calling personal celebrity friends from all over Hollywood, including from multiple studios (something that got her in trouble once, but as usual, she quickly pointed out that if the Hollywood head’s had trouble with their stars working together, doing their bit for the boys in uniform, she’d have no choice but to follow their wishes…and then call a press conference!  Studio heads promptly decided they had no problem with it!) celebrity chefs, anything and everything to entertain the boys. At one point, apparently, when meat rations were too scarce for The Canteen, Davis even called DC to inform them that as the Canteen served servicemen, she should be allowed to get better rations to serve them.  DC made that happen. Temple was one of her regulars, holding signs pointing the way, serving punch or cake, and performing. (Check out the link for tons of pics and a great story about the Canteen.  It was really something!)

Image

A Teenage Shirley Temple serving cookies to the troops at the Canteen ca. 1942-43. The Canteen would close in 1944. Photo from silverscreenoasis.com

 

After the war, she married two WWII servicemen (the first marriage ended in divorce) which, all things considered, wasn’t all that uncommon.  She later became one of the first women to publicize her battles with breast cancer, and even became an American ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia.

A truly remarkable women, who, when she was a child, brought smiles one day to a submariner who snapped a picture for his mom, far away in St. Paul. Let this desire to serve men and women in uniform, also be a part of Shirley Temple’s remembered legacy.

(BTW, if anyone can help me date the Shirley Temple submarine photo, please contact me at ussflierproject@gmail.com  I’d love to be able to add some more context to the photo for its records)

The Argonaut’s story on this website (includes more candid photos courtesy of Walter Klock and his camera)

 

UPDATE:  Talking to another person who inherited another photograph of Shirley that same day on the Argonaut gave me some new ideas for web searches.  Thank goodness for online archives and newspaper archives.  We now have a date!  Shirley Temple visited the Argo at Pearl Harbor on August 11, 1937, when she would have been 9 years old (and a six-year veteran of the movie industry already!)  A sailor wrote an account of the visit and sent it to the Chicago Daily Herald, which printed it!  It’s an interesting little article, though as a writer, I had to laugh a little bit towards the end when he describes Temple.  It’s also an interesting note in that Temple was given an officer’s dolphin pin during her visit.  This almost NEVER happens.  I know of only a few times a civilian has been bestowed with a dolphin pin, and here one.  Enjoy!

Chicago Daily Herald, Friday, September 10, 1937, pg 8 column 2

“Bronco Forszen helps Entertain Shirley Temple

“Merlin (Bronco) Foszen, who is a member of the US Navy and is stationed at Pearl Harbor Hawaii, has written an interesting account of the recent visit of Shirley Temple to Pearl Harbor and the Submarine USS Argonaut, which gives a first hand picture of the most popular juvenile star of the movies.  Mr. Forszen’s story follows:”

“On Wednesday, August 11, 1937, the officers and enlisted men of the Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, T[erritory of] H[awaii]  were honored with a visit by Shirley Temple.

Miss Temple was due to arrive at 10:30 a.m and all Navy Children were invited to be present.  Several house before Miss Temple was scheduled ot arrive a strained and somewhat tenseness wrapped itself around the base.  Every sturdy man O’Warsman tried hard to conceal the fact that he was just a little thrilled at the thoughts of seeing the little star.  And as could be expected, most of them were down on the dock fully three quarters of an hour before she came.  At 10:35, she arrived, her car stopping a few yards from the gangway of the USS Argonaut, the submarine she was to visit.  She was immediately swarmed by move photographers, autograph hound, and ardent admirers.

Due military honors were bestowed on the little Colonel, as the boatswain piped the six side boys to a “hard salute” as she came across the gangway.  Genial Lt. Commander L.C. Walton, skipper of the Argonaut, on receiving his honored guest, presented her with a gold submarine insignia.  Following this came an informal inspection of the ship’s crew, and the topside.  Points of interest were explained by Captain Wilson, Miss Temple’s Naval Aid, and skipper Walton.

On leaving the ship Shirley gave each of the side boys a snappy salute, and walked fearlessly into the surging crowd of women and children.  She was quickly freed and slipped in to an official car.  The car pulled away and the crowd quickly broke up.  But the little ray of sunshine and happiness hadn’t left as everyone one thought she had.  The reason for this was that she wanted to see the big submarine shove off and go to sea.  As the mechanical fish grew small in the distance, Miss Temple was taken to the Submarine Officer’s quarters.  Once there she had to go through the trying and tiring experience of being hostess to approximately seven hundred small children.  They touched her golden curls, felt her white silk dress, crowded around her, inspired by her presence, and no doubt longing and praying to trade places with her.

No amount of descriptive words can adequately describe the splendid character, vivacious personality and cool nonchalance that this internationally famous little girl possesses.  She could receive pompous military men, celebrated statesmen, pious clergymen, and stately demigods and still predominate the setting with her spakrling [sic] blue eyes, winsome smile, golden hair and above all, her outstanding, electrifying personality.

Miss Temple’s visit here made many children happy and relieved many men of heavy hearts and spirit.  No one could be dull or unhappy with an enchanting bundle of humanity like Shirley Temple around. 

I would like to thank both Mr. and Mrs. Temple for the honor and privilege they bestowed on the Naval Service by this visit.

On Eternal Patrol: USS Barbel lost 4 February 1945

Lost Subs | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 04 2012

<sigh> it seems like no matter my intentions, eventually I get bogged down by sick kids, and constant mommying. Or exhaustion.  I worked 20 hours a week through college, did extracirriculars, worked two jobs every summer.  I thought I was tired then!  It’s nothing compared to active young ones!  I love it, but I now must apologize to the men of USS E-2, USS S-26, USS S-36, USS Scorpion (I), and my readers.  To the subs and your crews, your stories are not forgotten and will be posted (albeit retroactively).  To my readers, I know, I keep apologizing.  One day, I’ll get this right! Thanks for the understanding.

USS Barbel, SS-316, was built and Commissioned April 13, 1944.  She actually commissioned with her sister Razorback (now on display at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum) and beat Razor to the war zone.

She had three successful war patrols under her commissioning officer, Cmdr. Robert A. Keating.  In an era when submarines were so successful they were starting to put themselves out of work, Barbel was a busy hunter.  During her first patrol she claimed four kills, three on her second patrol, and two on her third patrol, for a wartime total of nine ships in just five months.  Actually, rather impressive.  (The Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee (JANAC) later lowered that total to six, discounting one on the first patrol and two on the second)

During this time, the Allies were storming the Pacific.  The battle of Leyte Gulf happened during Barbel’s second patrol, and by her third patrol, the Allies were already deeply in the Philippines, landing on Mindoro Island.  Soon, the Japanese would be completely cast out of that nation.

Submarine bases were changing and moving too.  When USS Flier was pulling out for her last patrol on 2 August 1944, there were really only three (maybe four, if you counted Midway and no one wanted to R&R there.  No girls, only gooney birds.  Lousy dates!) bases: Pearl Harbor, Freemantle/Perth Australia and Brisbane, Australia.  But so much changed in the few weeks between 12 August when Flier left for eternity and 21 August when Barbel came in from her first run that she actually had R&R on Majuro Atoll with the submarine tender USS Bushnell (AS-15) who set up base that much closer to the front lines only a short time earlier.

After her second patrol, she R&R-ed in Saipan Harbor where she was refitted and sent out on her third war patrol in just seven days.

After her third patrol, she pulled into Fremantle, where her CO was replaced by Cmdr. Conde Raguet, and she headed back into the fray on 5 January 1945.

She was assigned to operate in a wolfpack with submarines USS Perch (II) and USS Galiban,  guarding the western entrances to Balabac Strait.  Since the losses of USS Robalo and USS Flier in or near Balabac Strait  in August 1944, Navy HQ decided to close it to all Allied traffic, but since the Japanese laid the minefields in the first place, they still used it.  So, submarines were assigned to guard either the western or eastern entrances, both which provided lots of entertainment.

According to “The History of USS Barbel” filed by the Navy in 1956, on 3 February, Barbel radioed Galiban as well as Tuna and Blackfin (who must have been in the area) that she was dodging more aerial patrols that usual.  Three times already that day, planes had buzzed overhead, dropping depth charges which she thus far, evaded.  Cmdr. Raguet said he would communicate more the following night (presumably, the 4th of February.)

No one heard from her that night.  Or the next.  On the 6th of February, Tuna sent a message to Barbel, ordering her to surface and rendezvous at a particular place and time on the 7th.  Barbel never answered and never showed.  This was reported to HQ and they listed Barbel as lost on 16 of February, 1945.

After the war, a record surfaced.  On 4 February, a Japanese pilot, spotting an Allied submarine SW of Palawan in the vicinity of Balabac Strait, dropped his two depth charges on her.  One missed.  The other hit the sub’s bridge, and she “plunged under a cloud of fire and spray.”  No other submarines were in that area or recorded an attack that day.  It’s likely this description was the Barbel’s fate.  Her loss date was therefore listed as 4 February 1945.  Her crew of 81 lie with her.

Following her loss, she was honored with a little sister: USS Barbel (II) SS-580.  The lead ship in the first designs of teardrop shaped hulls, Barbel (II) had an…interesting career.  Reading what little is in the public domain about her reminds me why I so admire the men (and now women) who crew these boats, and why I could never do what they do.  Barbel was decommissioned in 1990 and sunk as a target in 2001, but her triplet sister, Blueback (SS-581), is on display at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, if you ever want to see her.

Barbel (I)’s memorial is along the Oregon Trail Veterans Cemetery near Evansville, Wyoming.

To her 81 men, may I say, “Sailor, Rest Your Oar” and thank you, from a grateful citizen.

Photos of USS Barbel’s Memorial

Deck Logs of USS Barbel, including her official history (first three pages)

The Lost crew of USS Barbel

Hakusan Maru: The Troop Ship

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Oct 31 2011

AAAANND as soon as I say I’m going to try to post at least twice a week, the whole family comes down with the crud.  I don’t know what it is about kids that act as some sort of petri dish for new and exotic flavors of virus, but it’s been a long week.  Still we’re on the mend now, and they’re quietly watching a movie, which means I have some time to post….maybe.

There is a record of Hakusan Maru showing that her owners, NYK Line, intended to use her as a passenger/mail ship in 1939. There is no schedule for any NYK Line ships in 1940 that I can access. This either means that all NYK ships had been requisitioned by 1940, or that those records aren’t visible yet. Still, by 1 February 1941, while the USA is busy trying to stay OUT of war, and Japan is still not invading any place other than China, the Hakusan is now a military troop ship. In fact, she was the flag ship of the “1st Base Force”, at least she was UNTIL 1 Feb 1941, when the flag was transferred to the Aotaka.

All of Hakusan’s movements from this point forward, are courtesy of the research of the people behind combinedfleet.com, a website devoted to tracking nigh near each individual ship in the Japanese Navy during WWII, including a record of movement for each. Strangely, Hakusan Maru that met the Flier, is not one of them, but she did travel around with a number of other destroyers, transports, escorts, ect. so it was easy, if a touch time consuming to piece Hakusan’s schedule.  (The Hakusan Maru on Combined Fleet’s site is another ship, requisitioned after Hakusan I sank, and that one survived the war).

Anyway, now Hakusan Maru (I) has only about three and a half years left. And boy oh boy was she a busy girl.

Spring of 1942, Hakusan, with a bunch of other ships, headed from Mutsu Bay to Kiska Island Alaska. She was carrying troops to invade America, and her troops would actually win. That’s right, it’s a little known fact that the USA was successfully invaded and occupied during WWII. Not much of it, and we took it back, but still, America was invaded.

It was a hellish battle field too, the only arctic battle site in the Pacific.

These paintings by William F. Draper in 1942, show some of the harsh battles of the Attu and Kiska campaigns. Weather, and cold and show added to the misery of battle, and when it was finally all over, both sides abandoned military equipment on the islands, which can still be seen today. (Apparently, including a submarine!) Painting on the left: Fireworks (The First Japanese Raid on the Island) by William F. Draper Oil on Board 1942; Painting on Right: War and Peace (Ack-Ack- Fire Near a Russian-Aleut Grave) William F. Draper Oil on board 1942. Both paintings held by Navy Historical Center

And that’s definitely a whole other post.

Hakusan apparently did two round trips in the summer of 1942, dropping off men and supplies, ending in 2 August.  I found no more records of her for the rest of 1942.

Map of Hakusan Maru's routes through 1942 and 1943.

The next time I found records of her, she’s in Palau, heading for New Guinea, then Japan, back to Palau, Balikpapan, Yokosuka (her home port before this mess) then doing a number of routes between Truk and Rabaul, Yokosuka, then back to Rabaul. She certainly put a lot of miles in her wake.  One thing that is interesting to note is that by late 1943 the Japanese are still this close to Australia, despite the battles of Guadalcanal and the Battles of the Coral and Bismarck Seas.  They’re certainly tenacious, one of the things that made them so fierce and frightening to fight.

In Rabaul on November 2, 1943, Hakusan had her first hiccup.  The Japanese still held beautiful and seep Simpson Harbor in Rabaul at this point, and the Allies were trying to change that.  For six days, from 23 October 1943 to 2 November 1943, daily raids over Simpson Harbor were carried out, trying to keep things tied down while the Allies invaded Bougainville to the east.

It was in the 2 November Raid that Hakusan was hit and damaged badly enough that she could not flee out to sea.  One of the American bombers took photos of that raid.

This photo, taken from one of the bombers, shows the Japanese heavy cruiser Haguro, in the foreground. The ship burning back and off to the right is a Hakone class transport, or which Hakusan was one, so that may be her there. Photo is Official US Air Force Photo, now in the collection of the Naval Historical Center.

Another photo, from a different angle, showing the Haguro just on the left, nearly out of frame and the possible Hakusan (or at least one of her sisters) burning in the center left. Official US Air Force photo now in the Naval Historical Center.

 

It was a savage raid: only 25% of the 40 ships in harbor were undamaged by the end.

Hakusan remained in Simpson Harbor until the repair ship Hakaai Maru can arrive ten days later and patch her up.  by December 6, 1943 the Hakusan has been loaded up and departs Rabaul (with, I’m sure, a relieved crew!) and jumps the short distance to Truk (again.)

(Incidentally, the Hakaai Maru, the repair ship, would be destroyed by Allied bombers in Simpson Harbor herself on 17 January 1944)

She ends 1944 in Saipan, and by January 1945, she’s back in Truk, and then it’s off to Yokohama.

Track of Hakusan's final year. Records might be incomplete, but considering all the records that were destroyed (deliberately or not), lost, or ruined in the final two years of the war, it's not that surprising.

Her final convoy left Saipan on May 31, bound for Yokohama. Three days into the journey, another transport, the Chiyo Maru, was hit with two torpedoes in her starboard side by the USS Shark II during Shark’s first patrol.  Chiyo Maru sank in 10 minutes, and though the escorts dropped a number of depth charges, they didn’t damage Shark at all.

The convoy moved on, they had to, if they halted and tried to retrieve the people on the sinking ship, they could fall prey to another submarine (or it’s pack, if the sub wasn’t a lone wolf) Two days later, they crossed Flier’s path.  Crowley sent three torpedoes her way, two of which exploded against her starboard side.  Like Chiyo, she sinks in about ten minutes, taking her passengers and crew and even some families with her.  The escorts responded with depth charges, but like the Shark, Flier was unscathed.

Flier stalked the convoy for another day, but the escorts never let her close enough to get off a clear shot.  In a strange way, the escorts were almost immune from submarine attacks.  Not that submarines COULDN’T attack escorts, but their priority targets were transports, tankers, and cargo ships, with navy vessels below that, and escorts faaaar below that.  The submarine force was trying to slowly strangle the Japanese empire by removing all her raw goods, (steel, rubber, oil, tin, copper, ) making it impossible for her to create, repair or refuel any of her war machines, so torpedoes were not to be wasted on mere escorts, whose absence wouldn’t be as missed.

Hakusan’s wreck site was the only one that Flier returned to during her patrols.  Her crew recovered two life rings, and a number of codebooks, and other official paperwork that had been hastily wrapped and thrown into a lifeboat that drifted aimlessly.  According to Al Jacobson, who was on the deck, there were dozens of bodies in the water, far more than a shipping vessel that size should have had. That was how they figured out that this ship was a troop transport, though where these troops were going, no one knew.

Hakusan’s wreck has never been found.  Her wreck location is vague enough and deep enough that it may be a long while before she is ever discovered, IF she ever is.

Following the war, NYK Line, Hakusan’s owner, picked back up and brushed themselves off.  Of their 222 strong fleet in 1940, only 37 ships remained.  Most of the 185 lost ships were destroyed by American submarines.  NYK did well, and today, having long gotten out of the passenger and mail business, are one of Japan’s largest cargo fleets, her ships are a familiar sight all over the world.

And there’s even a new Hakusan Maru, a 73,000 ton container ship built in 1973, and sold in 1987.  Guess the legacy lives on.

 

The Hakusan Maru: The Civilian Days

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 28 2011

 

Postcard showing Hakusan Maru during her heyday in the 1920's.

Following WWII, the US Navy and Japanese Imperial Navy got together to swap records.  This was necessary for a number of reasons, but for Submarine Force, this was vital. 48 of the 52 boats had gone missing (the other four had grounded, and their fates and locations were known) and we needed to know why. Likewise, a LARGE number of Japanese ships had gone missing, and they wanted to know why.

So now they started a large game of cross-reference, in days before computers. “Our submarine claimed sinking a ship at this location on this date.” “Oh yes, here, we lost the ____ Maru at that location on that date.” Confirmed kill for the submarine, and the Japanese knew what happened to their ship.  “We lost a submarine after this date in this general area.” “Yes, we record a successful depth charge attack on a submarine in this area on this date.” The fates of Wahoo, Lagarto, Bonefish, AMberjack, Cisco, and a number of others were solved this way, though many of their wreck sites remain undiscovered.

Still, there were discrepancies, mix-ups, and since the Japanese had been in retreat for nearly three years, records were incomplete in places, and in other places, it didn’t matter (The Japanese, for example, have no records of attacking any submarine in the areas Capelin, Escolar and Scorpion were lost, and their cause and resting place remains a complete mystery. They also recorded destroying something like 500+ Allied submarines. Considering only 252 American submarines served, and a far smaller number of British and Dutch submarine, it’s obvious there were problems.)

For Flier’s remaining crew, this cross-check was somewhat disappointing, not because they didn’t know the approximate location and cause of their boat’s loss, for they did, but because this cross-reference re-wrote Flier’s score after the war from four confirmed sinkings, to only one: the Hakusan Maru. (And believe me, the Flier’s I’ve met or read their personal accounts on, they watched the ships they sank go down, so they never believed these final results. Who knows? Maybe the records were destroyed, or lost, or something. If someone has enough money and time and expertise, I have approximate coordinates. (You might even stumble across the wreck of USS Harder while you’re at it)

Recently, a lot of information has come to light about Hakusan Maru, and I couldn’t resist learning more about her, despite her end.

In Japanese, Hakusan means “White Mountain”, and there is a Hakusan National Park in Japan. Maru, simply means ship, it’s the equivalent of “SS” or “HMS” with a ship’s name. So the American equivalent might be the SS Yellowstone or something like that.

 

A postcard showing Hakusan at her home dock in Yokosuka, Japan in the 1920's to 30's. In an era before e-mail, television, internet, and radio was in its infancy, these postcards were very effective advertising.

The Hakusan Maru that would cross paths with Flier in 1944 was built in 1923, an era of beauty and wealth. She was a passenger and mail liner for the NYK Line (Nippon Yusen Kaisha), and regularly ran from Yokohama Japan to England via Singapore, Hong Kong, Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) the Suez Canal, Striats of Gibralter, and London. I don’t know how close to the White Star Line’s Titanic Hakusan was similar to in reference to her interior, but photos of her sister ships’ insides show pools, formal dining salons, beautiful  glided hand-carved woodwork. She was likely a stunning ship.

And the food!  Did her passengers ever eat well!

Check this out. This is a menu from the second saloon on 12 August 1936. The menu features a Permesan Sea Bass, Veal Cutlets, Roast Duck with Orange Sauce and Watercress, Egg Curry and Rice along with a cold buffet of roast beef sirloin and corned pork plus frozen desserts.  In addition, there were fruits, and nuts.  This menu is disposable, meant for the customer to take with them. On the reverse…

It folds in thirds, showing all the routes NYK ships run. On one third is a space for postage, and on the other, a space for a message.  Now THAT’S advertising. You’re on the Hakusan Maru and send this to a friend who wants to/needs to go somewhere and here is a menu, showing the quality of the food, a map of where these ships go, and a message from you saying how thrilled you are to be here.

I  have images of three of these menus from 1936, all showing some artwork (a Japanese Actor, a Japanese Samurai) a menu, (all of which make me hungry. I can’t read them before dinner!) and all available to be mailed home, to business, anywhere you want.

NYK had dozens of ships, and there was hardly a place they DIDN’T go in the two decades prior to WWII.  Though I have no records of Hakusan Maru going to America (at least, not as a civilian ship) note that several NYK ships did hit Honolulu, British Columbia, California, and Mexico and South America. It’s possible, that as German and Japanese influence grew more threatening, some people may have used NYK ships to get themselves and their families back to their home countries.

As Japan ramped up, and war looked inevitable (and one must remember, that for Japan and China, WWII began in 1931 with the invasion of Manchuria) the Imperial Navy looked at NYK Line’s fleet of ships and requisitioned the lot as freighters and troop ships. US Submarines would take a severe toll in the next few years.

Sometime in 1939 Hakusan Maru was officially taken and turned into a troop ship.  More on her military life tomorrow.

 

More Information:

NYK Line schedules from 1912 to 1953, showing Hakusan Maru’s routes.

 

A new Flier-related (sort of) website

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 11 2011

I had a wonderful surprise today.  Every few weeks I Google the names of several ships that featured largely in Flier’s history: Robalo, Redfin, Jack, Harder, Silversides, Orion, and of course, Macaw.   Usually, I find nothing, occasionally a new photo.

But today, I found a whole new website about USS Macaw, written by the son of Macaw’s Executive Officer, the most senior officer who survived the sinking.  It was incredible to read through and see the photos of this scarcely known ship.  The one on the home page was the best for me, a photo of Macaw as she sat, grounded, at Midway.  Wow.  THIS is why I keep sifting through the Internet to find stuff on Flier and all her connections.

So, I hope you visit the USS Macaw Website.

P.S.  It seems that particular area of Midway’s channel was VERY dangerous. Not only Flier, Macaw and that water barge (see March 23rds entry) grounded there, but so did USS Tarpon, another submarine on December 10, 1942.

From the War Patrol Report of USS Tarpon: December 10. 1942

1018(Y):  Grounded just before entering channel to NOB, Midway, bering 166 1/2 (degrees) T from W. H-beam pile, distant 850 yards.  Particulars of grounding covered in seperate correspondence.

1034(Y): Backed clear, proceeded up channel

1100(Y): Moored NOB Midway.  Diver inspected underwater condition of hull.

 

You’d think, with this warning 13 months earlier, someone should have blown that channel a little wider in 1943!  The strangest thing of this tale has to be the Executive Officer and Navigator of Tarpon that morning was Paul Burton.

Who, 13 months later, would be at Midway.  Commanding the new Submarine Rescue Ship USS Macaw.

I wonder if he felt a shiver go down his spine that morning in December.  13 months later, an unlucky number that (Flier would also sink on August 13, yeesh) He would drown in nearly the same spot.

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

 

A strange endpoint to Flier’s grounding….

And now for something completely different... | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 23 2011

Boy, when I go underground, I dig deep and never come up for air, huh? I do apologize for that…again.  Thanks for understanding.

An interesting postscript to Flier’s Midway grounding appeared when I was doing the research for this.  After the war, in the 1950’s, Midway was still a thriving base, complete with schools, housing, medical facilities, recreational facilities, ect. ect.  The one thing Midway didn’t have, however, was a well.  There is no source of fresh water in Midway, and no way to get enough through cistern means.

So it’s freighted in on water barges.  In the 1950’s Midway was struck by yet another major storm, and a water barge grounded…pretty much in the exact same spot Flier had a little over ten years earlier.  This barge is half sunk, either its bow or stern (what’s left of it) is still above water, and the rest gently descends below the surface.  The SCUBA sites for midway describe the water barge as a wonderful place to go snorkling, see fish, take photos, provided the tides and currents are all safe enough to do so.

This Water Barge is visible from Google Earth.  Not very detailed, but it is visible:

There you have it. From what I can gather, this is the point where Flier grounded. The Wreck of the Macaw is due west of it, in the deepest part of the channel.

I’ve never been able to find a good photograph of this barge until I stumbled on an old Blog called “Midway Ranger”.  It’s over two years old now, but it’s a fascinating look at what modern Midway Island is.  Only a handful of people stay there anymore, and tourists are strictly regulated.  It’s the main nesting place for a large number of different kinds of Albatross, more commonly known in WWII as “Gooney Birds”.  Nearly three million birds can be found nesting on Midway Atoll, and judging from the photos, they’re not shy one bit!

But this Ranger posted the only photo of this water barge I’ve ever seen taken from the ground.

Actually, I think this photo is quite stunning. I'm told there are monk seals that are quite fond of that wreck too.

Actually, Midway was also hit by the tsunami that struck Japan two weeks ago.  When it hit Midway, it was only five feet high, but it still managed to swamp Spit Island (the smallest), completely cover 60% of Eastern Island, and 20% of Sand Island, the largest, and only currently inhabited island in the atoll.  There was enough warning to evacuate personnel, but the albatross population was hit hard this year.

So there we are.  If you’re interested in more, check these out:

Midway Ranger Blog (interesting look at a year in the life of a Ranger living on Midway Island.

British Article Documenting the 2011 Tsunami Damage of Midway Island

Quick Question…

The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 18 2011

What makes you want to visit a museum, or return to a museum? I’m putting together a proposal about the USS Flier, but I need some help. So I’m asking for feedback.

What sort of thing makes you want to go see a museum, or return to it?

Is it interactive exhibits?
Interesting stories?
Getting to see items from these stories?
Seeing, hearing, experiencing the same things the people involved would have?
Having something different to experience each time?

What would you like to see in an exhibit about USS Flier? Or WWII submarines?

I want this story to honor the men who gave their all in WWII, those who incredibly made it back to safety to record where these men went down, but also make it interesting and really connect this time and these people to a new generation. So please, I’d love to see your comments.

If you’d rather not comment, you can e-mail me at ussflierproject@gmail.com

Thanks so much!

Flier’s grounding and the First of the Jim All’s films

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 17 2011

Hey everyone,

Sorry this has taken so long.   I’m having to finish the design for the potential exhibit in the next two weeks, and a few other, family related issues have swallowed my time.  I am sorry, I’ve been hating how little time I’ve had to devote to this blog lately.

But I hope the following will at least partially make up for the prolonged absence.

First, I thought for those who have never taken a look at Midway Atoll,  that you might be interested in just how Flier wound up grounded at Midway when so many other submarines came in and out of Midway all through WWII with little trouble.  I ended up doing a lot of research to help myself out here, and I’m indebted to Michael Sturma of Murdoch University in Australia not only for his excellent book, USS Flier: Death and Survival on a WWII Submarine, but also because he kindly forwarded a digital copy of the JAG investigation and transcript into this incident.

Reading about this incident in the Deck Logs and Sturma’s book was one thing, reading it, in the men’s own words, was another thing completely.  It brought new insights I hadn’t thought of.  Between the Deck Logs, the JAG Transcript and Sturma’s book, I put together a little video about how, exactly, Flier ended up on the reef.

Following this incident, and the tow back to Pearl, Crowley would be found responsible for Flier’s damage, but then again, a skipper is responsible for his ship and all of his crew.  He could have been asleep when this happened, and still be found responsible.  The fact that the investigation panel decided that even though he was responsible, it was through no fault of his own, nor negligence, or anything that could be helped.  In short, he’s responsible, but only because he had to be found such.  They permitted him to retain command of Flier, which says a lot about their opinion of his command abilities, and I’m sure, was a great vote of confidence for Crowley himself.

Jim Alls was on that patrol the day Flier ran aground.  For those who don’t know, Mr. Alls came to the Flier Memorial service in Muskegon this past August.  To my knowledge, he’s the only known Flier crewman still alive.  He was there the day she was commissioned and is listed among the commissioning crew, and remained with her until just a few days before Flier left Fremantle on her final, fateful patrol.  The only reason he didn’t go with her was he had his jaw smashed in by a New Zealand soldier a few days before departure.  All submariners are still required to be in peak condition before leaving on patrol, so Alls was left behind in Freo, with a retainer on him so he would re-join Flier’s crew as soon as he was cleared and she was back in port.

And of course, she never came back.

He’s amazing.  I mean, here’s a guy who lies about his age to join the military at 15 years old (making him 16 years old when this happens) then spends the next several years on the most dangerous and complicated equipment in the world in the middle of a war zone.  He has a great memory too, especially about these guys.  I got to interview him and his wife back in November, and he told story after story, about the men, gilly, Panama, Pearl Harbor, poker games, working in the engine rooms, and on and on and on.  Just incredible.

Since he was there the day they were at Midway, I asked him about it.  The thing that stuck out most in his mind was the surgery performed on Waite Daggy, and the burial of James Cahl.  I’m still working on the Cahl film, but here, in the words of someone who was there, is how surgery ended up being performed on a grounded submarine being thrashed by a winter storm.

And because I just can’t help myself, here’s a funny little bit about what happens when you screw up a Christmas Turkey on a submarine…

In case you’re wondering, I tend to complete these and upload them to YouTube as I find time, but it may be a while before they show up here.  As a result, all three of these movies have been available for two days to two weeks.  If you’re interested in seeing them as soon as I upload them, you can subscribe to the ussflierproject account, and YouTube will keep you advised as to when I upload these.  I will eventually feature them here, as I can and it fits, but there you go.

Enjoy!