Flier’s Midway Damage

Posted by Rebekah
Apr 02 2010

I promised I’d post something showing just how badly Flier was damaged during her grounding at Midway Island, January 1944, and so here we go.

As far as I can tell, there are no photographs of the damage, it’s possible they were not taken, equally possible they were later destroyed or lost in the shuffle  (which anyone who works in archives or records keeping can tell you, misfiling a record is a good as destroying it.)

Red indicates major damage, yellow moderate damage, blue the engines and cooling systems clogged with coral sand. Original diagram taken from navsource.org, Submarine Archives, USS Gato submarine.

Above, this is a basic cutaway of a Gato-class submarine such as Flier.  Major damage was done to the Flat Keel, Vertical Keel and Bilge Keel, most of which doesn’t appear above.  What this means:  the entire bottom of the submarine had been bashed beyond use.  You can see the bilge keel on the above diagram, the red stripe just beneath the cutaway, so imagine Flier being dented and destroyed from bilge keel to bilge keel.  Significant segments of the outer hull plating on the sides (and probably towards the stern, since the stern took the lion’s share of the beating) were also destroyed.  So Flier essentially had her entire skin removed and replaced.

Admittedly, some of this damage HAD to be repaired at Pearl Harbor:  the engines and cooling systems had to be cleaned out of the coral sand that was clogging them, and the propellers replaced and the rudder and shafts restored so she could make the run.

But the delicate instruments, the liquidometer (sub speak for gas gauge) and fathometer (which tells you how deep the water is beneath you) and most troubling, the damage to the hull frames and ballast tanks was going to require a nearly entire rebuild.

Flier's sister sub, Silversides, under construction at Mare Island. Notice the circular construction of the submarine. These are the hull frames, which would keep the submarine from imploding on itself in deep depths. In many ways, they are like the ribs of a submarine. Since Flier's hull frames were damaged, they would have to be replaced.

Above you can clearly see the hull frames on the submarine Silversides, early in her construction.

Here, red indicates the major damage to the ballast tanks, and yellow the moderate damage to the hull frames. Not all the ballast tanks or hull frames were necessarily damaged, but my resources don't list the specific ballast tanks or frames that were. What is highlighted are frames and main ballast tanks that might have been damaged.

It was truly a massive amount of damage. A few submarines were retired rather than repaired if the damage was bad enough, but since Flier was a brand new submarine, and every submarine was needed at the war’s front, she was overhauled and quickly turned back out.

On a new front, while reading the transcripts of the investigation , I discovered that only four officers were left on the Flier when she was put back into commission after her repairs: Crowley and Liddell as CO and XO, Lt. John Edward Casey, Torpedo Officer, and Ensign Herbert (Teddy) Baehr, Asst. Engineering Officer.  All the rest, Jacobson, Paul Knappe, Bill Reynolds, Herb Monor, and likely one other, were assigned to Flier now, and would report around the 15th of April.  Why one more?  Because we know one more officer was assigned to Flier at Fremantle, so it’s more than possible that one was removed at Fremantle to make room for him, but his name is not known (at least to me).

But most of this is behind Flier finally.  She’s brand new again, better in fact, for anytime a submarine was taken to Mare for a scheduled overhaul (or emergency overhaul in this case) all her technology was updated to the latest available.   No doubt all her crew were anxious to take her to sea and earn her stripes.

And my apologies to anyone who got excited reading the former title of this post and thinking I was revealing Flier’s fatal damage that sent her to the bottom of Balabac.  I have not seen a wreck survey or photographs and would only post that with permission if I had.  My apologies.

One Response

  1. Brenna says:

    I’ve been browsing online more than 3 hours today, yet I
    never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me.
    In my view, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be a lot more useful than ever before.

Trackback URL for this entry