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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll put you in touch with him.
Below, you can watch the entire Memorial Service in five parts (the service starts at about the 50 second mark on part one).
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