The Memorial

The National Memorial Service for the USS Flier took place on Friday, August 13, 2010 on the 66th anniversary of her sinking.  Complete footage of the service can be found at the bottom of this page.

The service was beautiful. Three T-28 Trojans flew overhead. These post-WWII planes, which are similar to many WWII prop planes, are kept in working condition near Muskegon and fly for these sort of ceremonies.  We could hear them over Muskegon Lake as they flew low overhead, down the channel and over the Silversides.  They turned north, circling over the dunes then crossed back across the channel, flying the missing man formation in honor of Flier’s lost crew.

Taken by Benjamin Greenhoe, the Trojans perform the Missing Man Formation as they cross back over the Silversides in honor of the Fliers. 

There was a full military color guard, courtesy of the local Sea Cadets, though the severe heat was brutal and our keynote speaker, Rear Admiral Yurina, asked that they retire after a few minutes, rather than risk the heat stroke.

One of the Sea Scouts standing guard on the Silversides. While those posting the colors retired to the museum after a few minutes, these guys stood guard for the entire ceremony. No one fainted either.  Photo taken by Benjamin Greenhoe

Overall, the ceremony was wonderful, and the remarks from the museum’s director, Bryan Hughes, and keynote speaker, Rear Admiral Michael Yurina were gracious and inspiring, but the high point of the ceremony for everyone I think, was the tolling of the bell.

Each Flier crewmember who was represented by a family or a family group selected one person to ring the bell in honor of that family member and throw a rose into Muskegon Channel where it would be swept into Lake Michigan.  Those crewmembers whose family could not make it to the ceremony were “adopted” by the family members of other crewmen, including some of the relatives of the survivors.  I know Captain Crowley’s grandsons took two names, and Clyde Banks’s family, God bless them, adopted over a dozen of Clyde’s crewmates. My husband even rang the bell for James LeRoy of Ely, Minnesota.  There was no hurry with the roses, those who wanted to stand at the rail and wait while they remembered long lost siblings or husbands or fathers were welcome to do so, with no hurry.  Silversides ended up surrounded by a field of floating roses.

Seen from the bow of our other boat, USCGC McLane, Silversides is surrounded by the roses in memory of the Flier’s crew. Due to the current, they were first swept to Silversides’s stern, then out to “sea” in Lake Michigan. Photo taken by Benjamin Greenhoe.

The ceremony ended with a beautiful rendition of “Taps” by a truly accomplished bugler, and a 21-gun salute by the local VFW.

To cap it off, we ran Silversides’s engines to honor her lost sister, and the crowd of family got to experience the sights, sound and SMELL of a WWII diesel boat.  Following the ceremony, they were invited to tour the boat while her engines ran to really get the full experience, and judging from the crowd on her deck after the benediction by Al Jacobson’s son Nelson, most took advantage of that fact.

It was a beautiful, bittersweet day, as many said they could feel more at peace now.  I met two sisters of lost men who said that finding the submarine and being able to say good bye to their brothers was the healing that their families have been looking for for decades.

I was so honored to share that day with you.

Below see more images from Benjamin Greenhoe’s collection.   If you’re intersted in any of them, contact me at ussflierproject@gmail.com and I’ll put you in touch with him.

The stern of Silversides that morning.

Museum Director Bryan Hughes gives the opening speech, describing the Trojan planes and the significance of the flyover.

The VFW honor guard.

Some of the Flier families waiting to honor their loved ones. I recognize Jimmy Elder’s brother who was only six when his beloved older brother died, several members of the Clyde Banks family, Thomas Kimmel, whose uncle Manning Kimmel died on the Robalo, among others.

The bugler playing Taps. She was quite accomplished, her rendition sent shivers down my spine.

Two veterans look on as Admiral Yurina gives his keynote address. He talked about the unique aspects of the Submarine Service, the special pain families were caught in when a family member died on a submarine and how all submariners, past, present and future are linked together in one large family.

The roses floating on the waves. Several Flier families took a Lake Michigan cruise a few hours after the ceremony and said their boat was surrounded by these same roses out in the Lake Michigan. They thought it was a wonderful thing, knowing where they had come from and why.

The VFW Guard and Silversides

The VFW Guard and Silversides

The WWII-era 48-star flag (more commonly called “Old Glory”) flying from the stern of Silversides as the families of the Flier crew throw their roses in remembrance.

Below, you can watch the entire Memorial Service in five parts (the service starts at about the 50 second mark on part one).

3 Responses

  1. Christa Emerson says:

    Becky,
    It was so nice to meet you this weekend! The Memorial really exceeded our expectations. We can’t thank the Jacobsons, the museum staff, the Dive Detectives and so many other people for putting on a first class event. One of the highlights for us was meeting Jim Alls and hearing that he remembered my husband’s uncle. He even identified Ervin’s wife in one of the pictures you have posted and told us about a nickname that we weren’t aware of. Other unexpected highlights were the handouts given to us, the flyover with the missing man formation, the ringing of the bell and flower ceremony, and viewing the Dive Detectives episode, among others. Thank you for all your hard work and diligence. The Exhibit is really coming along nicely. We look forward to reading your book.
    Christa Emerson Borlick

  2. kevin kennedy says:

    Becky,
    I had a great uncle (Frank L. Niles) go down with USS Trigger SS237 one of Silverside’s sister ships. Been doing on and off again research on him and Trigger since 1992. May our loved ones rest in peace.

    Sincerely, Kevin Kennedy
    St. Cloud, Minnesota

  3. Dave says:

    My grandfather served on the Flier as a LT, was rotated off the day before their last voyage. We still have a silver napkin ring from the wardroom with Flier engraved on the side. He was quite lucky . . .

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