Archive for the ‘Where was Flier 66 years ago today?’ Category

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.

 

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!

Flier Grounded

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jan 16 2011

I’ve been spending the day working on a model showing exactly how the grounding of Flier occurred.  In this, I am indebted to Mr. Michael Sturma, author of USS Flier: Death and Survival on a WWII Submarine, since he so kindly sent me the actual transcript of the investigation into Flier’s grounding.  It helped explain a lot more, seeing it over an over in the men’s own words, what actually happened, and how, and why, the Flier ended up the way she did.

But alas, we’ve all been laid low by something, so it is no where near done.  I did not want today to pass without an acknowledgement of Flier’s grounding, nor the passing of Mr. James Cahl of South Holland Illinois, who drowned in the seas near Midway Island.

So instead of the model, I thought I would  post a transcript of the deck log from that day: how the grounding happened in real time.

Sunday 16 January 1944

Pg. 16

Zone Description +11

0000-0400

Underway in accordance with COMSUBPAC operation order #22-44 on course 285°T going ahead at f/s 14 kts. With 3 ME on propulsion.  Aux. engine on battery charge.  0225 c/c to 253°T

J.W. Liddell

0400-0800

Underway as before.  0748  Changed course to 262°T

J.E. Casey

0800-1200

Underway as before. 0947  Changed speed to standard speed on two main engines.  Commenced charging batteries on one main engine.  1000 Changed course to 220°T.  1127  Changed course to 255°(T)

B.J. Germerhausen

1200-2000

Underway as before on course 255°(T).  Going ahead as s/s 14 kts. With 3 ME on Propulsion. 1230  Made radar contact on land bearing 286°(T) range 25,50 yds.  1232  c/c to 270°(T)  1315 Sighted MIDWAY ISLANDS bearing 290°(T)  range 15,000 yards.  1328  Steering various courses and speed approaching entrance buoys.  Received signal from SAND ISLAND to standby for pilot.  1425  Lying to aft entrance buoys waiting to pilot.  Secured main engines and closed inductions.  Tug with pilot aboard stood out and directed Flier to follow tug through channel since heavy seas prevented receiving pilot aboard.  1523.  Passed entrance buoys abeam apparently equidistant on both sides.  Going ahead at 2/3 speed 10 kts.  Using main storage batteries for propulsion on course 350°(T) following pilot aboard tug 1000 yds ahead.    Own vessel bearing set to right of channel by heavy seas.  Immediately after passing through buoys, ship swung to 008°T.  Set full left rudder and endeavored to come to 340°(T).  Vessel  grounded at 1524 bearing 345°(T)  at lat. 28-12-3.15 N long 177-21-13.5 W.  The fathometer had been in continuous operation since 1510 and indicated four fathoms immediately before grounding.  “All ahead full”  attempting to pass over obstruction.  Unable to clear to gave “port stop, left full rudder”  trying to turn clean.  Maneuvering room reported fire which subsequent investigation showed to be rags ignited by sparks caused from screw driver [sic] falling across terminals for #4 MM.  Fire was quickly extinguished without loss of power.  Continued bearing full and emergency bells and full rudder trying to head vessel into sea.  Started lightening ship by emptying variable tanks #1 & 2 NFOT and #3 & % FBT  1540 Ship had swing left to 300°(T) headed into sea, so tried to let go anchor in attempt to keep from being driven further up reef.  The following two men in anchor detail

Apprived: J.D. Crowley

Examined By: B.E> Adams, USN Navigator

Sunday 16 January 1944

Pg. 16

1200-200 Cont’d:

Were washed overboard:  CAHL, JAMES FRANCIS PEDER, 725-72-09  TM 3/c, V-6, USNR., and GERBER CLYDE ARTHUR 328-81-09, TM i/c USN.  CAHL drifted out of sight.  CANCHER, GEORGE JOESPH, 663-91-06  MoMM 2/c V-6, USNR went over side with life preserver and life ring in attempt to reach GERBER, CANCHERO and GERBER eventually reached sand spit together.  COMSUBFOR, PHCFLT, SUBORDINATE COMMAND reported that GERBER was taken to hospital and BANCHER to rest and recuperation center Sub Base #1504.  Ship continued to swing left to 150°T then back to 200°T.  Continued using full and emergency bells as lightening of ship continued.  Used three main engine alternately because coral found sea suction causing overheating.  #4 main engine out of commission due to being unable to zero out board glands.  By use of trim and drain pumps and bucket brigade managed to keep ahead of water while taking up on pecking glands.  When ship was as light as possible it became apparent that vessel could not pull clear by use of own power so at 1720 let go anchor with 35 fathoms of chaing and re-flooded tanks in effort to settle ship more firmly to reduce pounding.  At time men were washed overboard, DAGGY, WAITE HOYT 386-24-89  F1c MoMM2/c  V-6, USNR received the following injuries in line of duty.  From being washed against conning tower:  laceration of right side about two inches long and on inch deep jagged laceration of lower lip which severed small vein, teeth #12 & 13 broken off, #14 loose and out of line preventing proper closure of jaw, #28 broken off, #25, 26, & 27 loose and  out of line with possible fracture of jaw.  At approximately 1720  USS MACAW (ASR 11) grounded on north heading approximately 75 yards west of Flier.  1730  Ship’s position lat 28-12-31.8 N long 177-21-09 W as fixzed by following bearings of objects on SAND ISLAND: SW Radio Tower 276 ½ °(T)  NW Radio tower 277 ½ °(T),

J.W. Liddell

2000-2400

Aground as before.  Pounding of seas excessive.  Stress noises in framing in ballast tanks noted.  Both propellors seemed to be on bottom, turning shafts as the ship rolled.  2340  Pumped forward trim tanks full in attempt to sease pounding of ship on bottom.

B.J. Germerhausne

Approved: J.D. Crowley

Examined By: B.E. Adams, USN Navigator

Finally off to war…

Uncategorized, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jan 12 2011

I just wanted to take a moment today to commemorate the 67th anniversary of Flier finally leaving Pearl Harbor on her way to the front.

We don’t know where she was assigned to go: it’s likely that she was part of the advance force for the upcoming battles in the Marianas.  Wherever she was headed, she was assigned to top off her tanks at Midway Atoll.  Since Midway was 1300 miles closer to the front than Pearl, that top-off could make a difference in amount of time or distance allowed to spend on patrol.

Pearl Harbor, now two years into the war, was busting at the seams.  They had only JUST (as in the last two weeks before this date in 1944) finished floating the last casualty of December 7 that was planned to be reclaimed.  The Arizona was going to remain as a memorial, and so was the Utah (albeit unintentionally.  The Utah was simply too old and useless to waste wartime resources to even float enough to salvage.  After all, before December 7, she had been a target ship, a ship the active warships shot dummy torpedoes and guns at to practice aiming and firing.  She was, however, capsized in a main traffic lane. THAT was going to be fixed.)

Nope, the workers at Pearl Harbor, had finally, after two years of engineering, designs and labor,  figured out how to roll the USS Oklahoma over, float her and drag her into drydock.  (Sadly, drydock would reveal that the damage was beyond worth of repair.  The great battleship was, for all intents and purposes “Totalled”.  She was moved to a quiet part of the harbor until 1946 when she was sold to a scrapper.)

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Fascinating example of the engineering ideas that rolled this battleship over. The date on the photo is correct: March 1943. It would still take until December 28, 1943 before she was able to float on an even keel reliably enough to tug her into drydock. Flier would have been there to see that final step.

Another view of the rolling over of this behemoth, taken a few days later. You can see Oklahoma sitting at about a 30-degree list and the cranes with their lines are now on Ford Island. In a rather ironic end to the story, the salvager that purchase Oklahoma was located in San Francisco, and had to tow the hulk of Oklahoma to California. A storm hit about 500 miles out of Pearl Harbor, and Oklahoma did not make it. Despite all the engineering and efforts, Okie chose to remain on the bottom. Which, I guess, is a fitting end for a warship.

The business of war never stopped, and neither was Flier.

Captain Crowley, by this time, was one of the most experienced submarine Commanders.  A Naval Academy grad of 1931, he already had commanded the USS S-28 through five blisteringly cold patrols in Alaska’s dangerous seas.  He’d commanded submarines out of Pearl Harbor, New London, San Diego, and Dutch Harbor, as well as through the Panama Canal.  Despite his experience, there was one major American Submarine port he’d never been to yet: Midway.

But dozens of submarines were in and out of Midway every week.  The channel going into the harbor was narrow, but deeply dredged, and straight, angled due north a 000 degrees.  All you had to do approach from the south, wait for the pilot to come on board, then drive straight north until through the coral wall that surrounded the base.

How hard could this be?

Panama Canal-Finally!

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Dec 14 2010

Well, time to back up and return to the Panama Canal.  Flier finally received clearance to cross on December 5, and the pilot H.V. Rowe boarded and guided Flier through.  Jim Alls remembered Panama fondly.  (I’m still struggling to edit the tape, sorry.  If I can finish this thing I’ll post it here, though I make NO promises to have a polished final product. Hopefully, I’ll get the hang of Adobe Premiere soon.  If not…I have two brothers who will teach me whether I like it or not!  (Love you guys!))

Jim Alls, who had been told that the best (and cheapest) place to get a custom tailored garment was Panama, got a pair of new blues.  He remembered them fondly too:  Navy wool, lined in silk, with a dragon embroidered under the cuffs, and his name embroidered inside.  He felt like a king, striding down the streets  of Colon and Balboa (on the other side of the Canal) with the huge bell-bottomed pants.

In fact, they were so large, that his first wife (who passed away a number of years ago) used them to make a winter coat for their daughter.

In Balboa, on the Pacific side of the canal, they Flier had to deal with the immense  tidal levels: in some cases, 40 feet high.  The lines tying Flier to her dock would have to be let in and out as the water rose or fell.  When Jim told me this, I laughed and said, “So you can walk off the submarine to go to town, but you’ll need a ladder to get back aboard.”  and he said, “And some of the men had problems with that ladder when they came back!”

But the war was still on, so and they had to get to Pearl Harbor quickly.  They left the morning of December 6.

The deck logs of the Flier from the 6th to the 14th reveal just how busy they were:  Daily drills, exercises and more (WE went on three engines, then four engines, secured engines and dived, surfaced, dived, surfaced, Put three engines on propulsion and one on battery charge…day after day after day.)  Jim Alls, who had been unqualified when he joined the crew in October, used this time to get qualified before Flier even reached Pearl Harbor, freeing him for more R&R time aboard.  Most unqualified men were only permitted to sleep, eat, be on duty, and studying for exams.  He particularly remembered one question for the qualifying exam that he said was really odd, but you could do if you stopped to think about it.

So there they are, on patrol, looking to get to Pearl Harbor as fast as they could.  Once there, Pearl would outfit them again with any newer technology, possibly change some crew members, and Crowley would receive his orders for Flier’s first patrol, the first time boat and crew could prove themselves.

<Sigh>  Stupid Premiere.  Can’t get the hang of this yet.  Sorry.

Postcard from the Dead

The Exhibit, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Dec 04 2010

Flier is still sitting in Coco Solo waiting for the pilot to take her through the canal, and the men are thoroughly enjoying Panama.  How much are they enjoying it?  Dunno, but we know they behaved well enough that there was no official record of it.  In fact, today’s deck log is dull.  I’m not going to bother post the actual log.  It’s that boring.  I included the transcript below.

——————————-

Saturday, 4 December 1943

Pg. 48

Zone Description +5

0000-0800

Moored starboard side to another submarine on west side of Pier A NO.B (or NO. 13) COCA SOLA C.Z. 0545  Moored startboard side Pier A

J.W. Liddell, Lt. USNR

0800-2400

Moored as before.

——————————-

While on liberty, the men of the Flier were free to send letters for the first time for days, but this included more intrigues.  All letters sent by military men had to be read and censored before they were permitted to be mailed home.

Flier’s radioman, Walter “Bud” Klock, had been in the Navy since 1938.  In the first few years , he wrote home frequently, informing his mother of the cities he was stationed in, the name of the submarines he was posted on, the places he visited.  But following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the beginning of letter censorship, Klock started telling his mom that he was in that place where it was never winter (Hawaii) or he was assigned again to the first place he was right after boot camp (San Diego) or that his first real boat had been lost at sea. (USS ARGONAUT).  At times, when he heard of a military man heading home on leave, he would write a letter in plain language and give it to the guy leaving for him to mail from a civilian mailbox once home (where it wouldn’t be pre-read).  Klock never said anything that would have been considered treasonous, but it was easier to talk plainly to his mom when he got the chance.

It became a game of cat and mouse with the censors who were, of course, looking for any information that might tell and enemy when and were a ship had been or might pass through.  Sailors had to resort to codes, or shared memories of the recipient to relay where they were and what they were doing.  Since the return address was always the boat, and the postmark was always Honolulu or San Diego for a Pacific sailor, that didn’t help either.  Things got quite creative.

It might be the fact that a postcard from another Flier man, Oliver Kisamore, clearly showed the Panama Canal that caused its hold up.

This card is intriguing and a little creepy.

The front is simple enough.  It’s a colorized engraving of the USS Pennsylvania as she crossed the Gatun Locks.

This might be Pennsylvania’s 1937 crossing, but there’s no date marked on the card.  The back of the card is a piece of stationary, flipped over and taped to the back of the card. Oliver Kisamore, a Motor Mac from Andover Ohio, wrote a quick note to his father:  “Dear Folks:  Just a few lines to let you know I am O.K. Hope you fellows are too.  Is it ever warm here.  I’m pulling out soon.  I’ll write you when I reach my next destination.”  Love  [rest of name cut off]

Seems rather innocuous, and Kisamore mailed it from the Cristobal Post Office in the Canal Zone, and likely never thought about it again.  The Cristobal Post Office postmarked it “December 4, 9 30 AM, 1943, CRISTOBAL CANAL ZONE” and passed it on to the censors to pass inspection before they released it to the civilian postal service.

This is actually the Christobal post office that Kisamore mailed this postcard from.

But for whatever reason,( maybe it fell on the floor, or the censor thought the picture and description revealed too much information, who knows?) the postcard was not passed into civilian postal service, and it wasn’t delivered in 1943.  Or 1944.

There are two more clues on this card:  In the upper left edge there is a faint blueish stamp: “Released by O.N.I”  .  O.N.I. in this case, is most likely “Office of Naval Intelligence”, the department responsible for the search and censure of all communications between military and civilians.  Below it, is the date of the release:  Sep 4-1945.

Two days after Japanese representatives signed the surrender of Japan on the deck of USS Missouri.

And Kisamore had been dead for over a year.

I can’t even imagine how his family felt, seeing this last missive from their son in his handwriting so long after they had been informed of his death aboard the Flier thousands of miles away somewhere in the Pacific.

But today, sixty-seven years ago, Oliver Kisamore mailed what would become his last letter home.

My thanks to the families of Oliver Kisamore and Walter “Bud” Klock for sharing their family’s letters to help flesh out the story of the Flier for a new generation.  We’re still looking for photos and other letters from  Flier men, if you are interested in donating them for the purposes of research, preservation and education here on this site, for the Flier exhibit at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum.  If your family would rather hang on to the original letters, I happily accept digital scans or photographs of the originals, or am more than willing to receive originals, photograph them and return them.

Panama Canal

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Dec 04 2010

So the Flier is at Panama Canal today.  I wondered what the Panama Canal looks like when I did the research for the book.  Everyone has heard of it, I’d seen documentaries about how it was built, but never really looked at it.  So I had fun, and I hope you enjoy the discoveries.

First the deck log for today (Whoot!  two days in a row!  I’m on a roll!)

Deck Log for today. Sorry it's so dark. Transcription to follow.

So here’s what that says: ————————-

Friday, 3 December 1943

Pg. 47

Zone Description +5

0000-1200

Moored starboard side to port side of another submarine at Berth A, Pier 3 Coco Sola, Canal Zone

J.E. Casey, Lieut. USN

1200-2400

Moored as before

J.W. Liddell, Lt. USNR

————————-

Most people know the Panama Canal is cut across the narrowest part of Panama, and hence, the narrowest point of North and South America.  What I didn’t know however, was that the canal does not cut straight through the land of Panama, it cuts from the Atlantic coast to a lake called Gatun, then from Gatun to the Pacific Ocean.  But Gatun is partially created through damming a number of the rivers that fed out of the lake into the oceans, so it is too, partially man-made.  It’s fascinating really.

Here’s a Map:

It took me a while to make this. It's a composite of a few different maps, each of which (of course) had something I needed to show, and lots of extra stuff I didn't. So here's the end result. Flier is in Coco Solo circled on top. When she goes through the Panama Canal, it will only take one day. It just won't be today. Tomorrow doesn't look good either.

Going through the Panama Canal is dangerous enough that any ship needs a trained pilot to go through.  There are a limit to how many of these pilots there are, so, regardless of the fact that Flier is at the Panama Canal, it will be another two days before she goes through. (Today the wait time is generally between 20-30 hours.

In the meantime, the men had some time to get out and about and on the town.

I just listened to Jim All’s account of Panama (It’s not long, but interesting–and yes, I am editing it.  I’m catalouging it on the other computer as I am typing on this one.) and hope to have that edited soon.  Having to learn Adobe Premier is quite the learning curve, but I’m working on it.  He remembered docking at Colon, not Coco Solo that the records state, but then again, the two cities were across a bay from one another.  Coco Solo was essentially the secured military district, and Colon was the actual town.  They were there for four days, and when not on duty, I can guess where most of the men ended up.  Jim did say he “had a great time”.  How great, he wouldn’t say beyond that!

Coco Solo is on the bottom left, the edges of Colon on the upper right. Taken in 1941, this is the military base Flier is tied to on this date in 1943.

Taken a few years earlier (when O-boats were all the rage) this is a close up of the submarine base in Coco Solo. No idea if this photo shows "Pier A, Berth 3" that Flier is tied to. Be really cool if it did though.

Well, I tried to post two days in a row.  Had I typed faster or Midnight not been so stealthy passing four minutes ago…oh well.

Uncategorized, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Dec 02 2010

It’s been quite  a long time.  Sorry.  I have two small children which means that the moment you make plans to travel to see family for the holidays, they must get sick…and cranky…and trade diseases back and forth until new and more disgusting varieties emerge…oh the joys of motherhood.  I’ve been busy with that and of course Thanksgiving.  I’m just glad we only have to bring soup and pies and not hold it here.  Eep!

But it was a great holiday, and I got to see most of the family.  It’s a blast.  I hope most of yours were as fun too.

I’ve started receiving items from family members, which are wonderful in revealing the character of the Flier.  One particular postcard must have been truly nerve wracking for the family…but I’ll share that when Flier passes through the Panama Canal…which she will in just a day or so.

Back to the Deck Logs.  There are just too man yto post, and literally, of the 20 that I could post to technically catch up, eight say “Underway, No Administrative Remarks”.  There’s some thrilling reading.  Several more simply note that Flier is moored at the sub base, took muster, raised colors, went out on an exercise, came back, retired colores, and reported everything to the OOD.  Another thrilling day.  When not under attack or attacking someone, submarine life was REALLY boring.  At least officially.

So I’ve pulled the interesting ones from the days we missed.

Between November 10 and November 15, nothing much happened.  A number of sailors reported aboard Flier for a day’s patrol and training runs, but left at the end of the day, so there were no permanent additions to Flier’s crew.

There is an interesting anomaly in the Deck Log:  The page for November 15 is missing.  It’s been cut from Lt. Liddell’s copy of the deck log (created sometime after declassification in 1968 and before his death in 2001.)  whether by the National Archives of Lt. Liddell is unknown, but the missing page was not found in Liddell’s library.  What’s really interesting, is Flier leaves the Submarine Base on November 14, and is still underway the 16th adn 17th until she returns on the 18th.  So what’s on that page?  The actual deck log is located in Naval Records Archives in Baltimore, but being a thousand miles from there, I can’t tell.  But it could be anything: a U-Boat sighting, or “Underway as before, no remarks”.

So here’s the first page I decided to post today.  It’s from 21 November 1944.

The notable thing here is Edwin Canady arrived aboard.

So that was for the Canady family.  Then, another infusion of crew happene don 23 November.  Payne, Skow and Dolshea reported aboard.

Chester Payne, Alvin Skow and another man reported aboard today. She's getting ready to leave.The third man, Dolshea, must have transferred off at some point, for he is not listed in Flier's second patrol list. In addition, provided he stuck with submarines, he likely survived the war, for he is not listed in the On Eternal Patrol database.

And finally, today a James Johnston was transferred off of Flier, and Flier was underway at 1130 pm. What this doesn't tell you is that Flier is now underway for the Panama Canal and then to Pearl Harbor.

Today, 67 years ago, Flier ported in Panama for the crossing of the Canal. For the next four months for some reason, the deck logs will be handwritten and far more detailed than before. We'll learn about just how many drills and things that happened. We'll also get more details about the crew.

Since that Deck Log is difficult to read (you have no idea how many filters nad monkeying I had to do in Photoshop to read some of that writing) I took the liberty of transcribing it earlier.  I’ll post the transcriptions with the deck logs for those truly interested in what they say.

——————————

Thursday, 2 December 1943

Pg. 46

Zone Description +4

0000-0400

Underway in accordance with COMTASKFOR 25 operation order #180-43 on course 226° T making standard speed (15 knts) using two M.E. conducting battery charge using one M.E. 0135 Secured from battery charge and one M.E.

J.W. Liddell, Lt. USNR

0400-0800

Underway as before.  0703 Made…course 226° T  0740 Surfaced …

J.E. Casey

0800-1200

Underway as before.  1128 Sighted land bearing –6° T distance 16 miles.  1145 Changed base course to 24-° T

B.J. Germershausen

1200-1600

Underway as before.  1215 Sighted merchant vessel bearing 255° T on opposite and parallel course.  Steering various courses and speeds to pass well clear.  1230 Set clock to +5 zone time.  1252 Steaded on course 135° T to close west vessel.  1305 Steering various courses and speeds conforming to rules for entering CRISTOBAL HARBOR . 1443 Various courses and speeds enetering – of COCA SOLA Naval Operating Base/  1502 Moored starboard side to another submarine on west side of Pier A. NAVAL OPERATING BASE, COCA SOLA C.Z.

J. W. Liddell  Lt. USNR

2000-2400

Moored as before

———————————

Hope you enjoyed today’s post!

The Deck Logs and a Memorial Service for a Flier Man

Memorial Ceremony, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Nov 09 2010

The National Memorial Service for the crew of USS Flier might have been back in August, but there are services still happening around the country every day to honor men lost during WWII, and one of the men from USS Flier, electrician’s Mate, Thomas “Sonny” Bohn, will be honored at 11 am on Thursday, November 11 (that’s Veteran’s Day for those paying attention) at the Memorial Shrine in Easton PA.

There were a LARGE number of Flier families originating in that area, so if you can make it, go, and then introduce yourself to Donna Musselman and Terry Bohn, niece and nephew of Thomas Bohn.  All her life, Donna grew up with the photo of her lost uncle displayed at her grandmother’s house, but little could she find out about his loss, until recently.

She, along with her cousin Terry, decided to give her uncle the burial and memorial service he couldn’t have in 1944.  As a veteran who died in military service, he was entitled to a military marker (there’s something I enjoy sending my tax money in to support!) but she still had to raise enough money to purchase the base and pay for the stone erection fees on an existing grave (his parent’s).

She contacted her local news channels and in a few days, not only had her community given enough to pay for the marker’s placement, but also an indetifying tag linking him to his brother (another military veteran buried in the same graveyard) and also found a scholarship in her uncle’s name at his alma mater.

It’s nice to know that even when the world seems to be going crazy (then and now) people still like to draw together as a community to honor those who gave their all so the rest of us could live in peace and freedom.

Thomas "Sonny" Bohn, and the memorial marker being dedicated at the memorial service on Thursday. Rest your Oar, Sailor. And Thank You.

So if you can make it, 11 am, Memorial Shrine, Easton PA.

And below, you’ll see the deck logs for today.  <YAWN>  Actually, I’m sorry to say, most of November is a yawn.  But there are little nuggets that peek through, and when they get REALLY boring, we’ll just talk about other things, like what does a submarine look like inside and out?  How could these men escape a damaged and sunken sub? How can divers and ROVs be used for shipwreck exploration?

The deck log reveals why the Navy is both brillant and annoying. On 7 Novmeber 1944, the only things that happened on Flier was the crew had roll call to make sure they were all there (they were), then they charged the batteries twice during the day and at the end of the day, told the OOD (Officer of the Deck) all about it. I'm sure he was enthralled. And that's what happened, but thanks to Naval paperwork requirements we KNOW that's all that happened (worth official note, that is.)

On 8 November even less happened. They took attendance and stayed moored at the dock all day.

Today, 9 November, they at least took on Battery water. THis is significant, because it indicates that Flier is getting ready to leave to transit to Pearl and real patrol. Battery water had to be purified. Any chemicals at all could cause a problem. At sea (where water trucks are not plentiful) Flier carried filters to make seawater into fresh water, but there was a catch: any salt that got past the filter, if it came into contact with the battery during the daily washings, could react explosively and destroy a submarine. There are a number of submarines whose fates are completely unknown, even from the Japanese records, and a battery explosion is one very likely scenario for their fate. A battery explosion DID happen on USS BONEFISH in 1988, killing 3 men and forcing the submarine into early decommissioning and scrapping.

A fascinating first person account of the USS Bonefish fire.