Flier’s new Friend

Posted by Rebekah
Jul 01 2010

One of the things that happened occasionally on a submarine was they took “prisoners”.  Now sometimes, a submarine would find survivors of a wreck or torpedoed ships (usually not their own, if a submarine was not having the stuffing depth charged out of them, they often couldn’t afford to surface near a wreck shortly after an attack lest the boat be swamped by the surviving sailors and either be compromised and possibly sunk or damaged as well, or worse, hijacked,) and if there were only a few people, they would be taken aboard.  If they were Japanese, they were extremely valuable, but sometimes they were native people of the area the submarine was passing through.  Once they were taken aboard they had to complete the patrol and be escorted off the submarine once she came into port where the person would be taken into the custody of the Marines, and interrogated.  Beyond that, I don’t know what happened to these people.  It wasn’t a common situation, but it also wasn’t rare.

Hours after Flier ran across the Robalo, they found a sailboat, and closed with it for inspection.  What inspection, and why this vessel, the records I have access to don’t say, though I know this was a fairly common practice.  One man volunteered to come with them to Australia, and the others requested food.  Al’s memoirs mention that they had limited stores by this time (I guess they used up a good portion of their food stores on that sumptuous feast!) but shared everything they could spare, mostly canned food.

The man they took with them was a young, “brown-skinned male…nationality unknown”.   He spoke through gestures and communicated with the crew.  From what I was able to find out, this man was by and large housed in the Forward Torpedo Room where the guys there took a liking to him, teaching him some English, and were very vocal about the Marines who came to escort him off when they arrived in Freo to treat him well.

That being said, the first English phrase they taught him was “All Marines are Lousy”.  It’s tame really, compared to some of the stories about English lessons I’ve heard from other boats!

They never recorded his name, and after he was escorted off the Flier, his fate becomes unknown.  I wonder if those records are in Australia somewhere.

After handing over the food to the remaining crew of the sailing vessel, Flier crossed Lombok, likely that night, and was in free ocean at last, sixty-six years ago today.

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