Commissioning and the Party

Posted by Rebekah
Oct 24 2010

This entry is going to be rather graphic heavy, but I hope you all enjoy it.  For those of you in the Flier family who have or have received their DVDs of the photo show, a lot of this will look familiar.

There are four significant events in a ship or sub’s life:  Keel Laying, Launching, Commissioning (at the beginning) and Decommissioning  (at the end).  There’s also disposal I suppose, and for a modern sub there’s only one option (scrapping) but I digress.  Think of the first three as Conceiving (Keel Laying), Birth (Launching) and Graduation (Commissioning).  There’s even tests and standards between the Launching and Commissioning, similar to school for a human child.

There are rituals and ceremonies inherent with each of these rites of passage, most of which are traditional and follow a standard pattern.

First, the US Congress has to order a submarine built and name it in Congress, then bid the job out to the various shipyards and awards the contract to one of them.  In Flier’s case, her contract was awarded to the Electric Boat Company in Groton Connecticut, which built submarines before submarines were officially part of the Navy.

Her keel, or the bottom portion of her hull, was laid on October 30, 1942.  At this time, the Flier had no sponsor, Captain or crew.  The only thing I do have from that time is the Cachets, or special envelopes designed by the Navy and sold on the day of the keel laying to commemorate the event.  You can see them below.

Two of the Cachets in honor of the birth of Flier

She was built quickly, as were most warships in the early 40’s.  And during this time, her CO was selected and reassigned to the Groton yard to oversee her construction. Cmdr. John Crowley, formerly CO of the old S-28 (and I do mean old-no offense to the 28, but she was already 20+ years old and serving in the Alaskan frontier.  I’m sure Crowley was thrilled to have a new boat–and a warmer climate: Connecticut.) was the choice for commanding officer, with Benjamin Adams as his XO, or Executive Officer (first Mate).

Eight and a half months later,  on July 11, 1943, she was complete enough to be launched into the ocean to begin her testing phase, making sure she was built properly and could withstand the pressures of the sea and war maneuvers.  Her sponsor, the person who would crack the champagne over her bow and name her, was chosen.  She was Mrs. A.S. Pierce, and did an admirable job spraying herself and everyone around her with the champagne.  Thankfully, the bottle was encased in a silver cage, so no one was hurt by flying glass!  Flier slid into the water, carrying several men aboard her on her deck.

The Launch invitation

The Program for the Launch, which gives an idea of a typical Submarine Launch. At this time in 1943, there was a huge push to "Keep 'em sliding".

Judging from the spray, Mrs. Smith Pierce did a commendable job christening the Flier. The bottle likely remained with her family, I know the Christening bottle for Silversides did.

And the launch.

The postal Cachets in honor of the launching of Flier

And now she had to undergo her sea trials to prove she was fit enough to be accepted for military service.  Today, this period in a submarine’s life can take a year or two.  Flier had three months, almost exactly.  She was Commissioned on 18 October 1943, and the men and their families were given a party in her honor.  In a few short weeks, Flier would leave for the front, and this party was kind of a grand farewell, a time for the men of the Flier to introduce their families to their world, and a time for the wives to get to know one another.

This was the invitation and entrance card for the Commissioning Party. I'm still looking for this "Longo's Inn" on W. Norwich Road. I found several references in 1940's and 50's papers referencing this Inn as an apparently popular place to hold events.

The Commissioning Cachets

A few photographs were taken at the Commissioning party.  Do you recognize any of these men?

The original Commissioning Crew of Flier. Recognize anyone?

I'm told that the marks on the uniforms identify this group of men as the Chiefs of Flier. Recognize anyone?

one of the photographs taken at the Flier Commissioning party. You can see the submarine cutout in the foreground, the same one that was used at all the commissioning parties.

Some of the men at the bar during the same party

The Buffet for the Flier Commissioning Party. Throw a bunch of hard working men in a room together and they'll eat everything that's even remotely edible. 😉

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