She was an odd little boat.

Posted by Rebekah
Apr 29 2011

Only three more days, and then we’ll see the Dive Detective’s American debut!

It’s funny, I worked with and on USS Silversides and her history for a few years before I met Al Jacobson and got involved with the Flier.  When you look at the Silversides and Flier’s histories, they look so different.  Silversides had a long, successful history, but outside of her underwater appendectomy on her Murphy’s Law Patrol, she was a stellar example of the average submarine.  (I’m not putting down Silversides, she’s a wonderful little boat, so full of quirks and I’m glad she’s still around to stand for her sisters, but trying to keep her twelve fourteen (I had to look it up) patrols straight is a monumental task!  The correction in this sentence should be evidence of that!)

Flier, on the other hand, seemed to want to make her mark on history.  Her first patrol ended on the reef of Midway, she sank four ships on her first full patrol , an unusual number by 1944, when targets were growing scarce and those that were left were more heavily guarded by escort ships.  Things were looking up when she went down on August 13, becoming one of only eight submarines which sank leaving some of the crew behind.  And her crew became the only ones to return home eluding a stay at a POW camp.  Amazing odds really: Only 4 submarines (Tarpon, Scorpion, Trigger and Flier) grounded at Midway for any length of time, only eight sunken submarines left some crew behind, (Perch, Gernadier, Sculpin, Tang, S-44, Tullibee, Robalo, and Flier) and only five sunken submarines have been found since WWII: (Lagarto, Grunion, Perch, Wahoo and Flier).

In a strange way, she really was a remarkable boat.

But she was more than that.  Jim Alls ended up serving on a number of boats, but said there was a special closeness that the Flier crew had that he never found again.  They certainly had a lot of fun together.  Walter Klock wrote to his mother just prior to Flier leaving on her first full patrol and told her how the Flier crew decided to have a beer party and baseball game and barbecue.  They took a small series of photos, likely using Klock’s camera. (His mother sent it to him for his birthday a couple of years earlier).

That's the way I like to remember these guys: relaxed and enjoying life. Sadly, they only had about three months left.

It’s become one of my favorite photos of this crew.  It’s hard to remember these guys were mostly teenagers and in their twenties in WWII.

Well, to my Flier people out there, I see Walter Klock, Bernard Fite and Paul Barron in this photo.  Do you recognize anyone?

3 Responses

  1. Sharon says:

    Love the picture! :+} Thank you for sharing.

  2. Fred Tannenbaum says:

    As one who has studied the U.S. submarine war in the Pacific for more than three decades– and specifically the USS Silversides’ role in it — I’m disappointed with the misguided view that the Silversides is a “stellar example of an average submarine.”

    This is not to belittle in any way the contributions of the USS Flier or of efforts to bring her story to light. But saying that the USS Silversides contribution was “average” is like saying SEAL Team 6 is “just a bunch of sailors.”

    In the Silversides, we are talking about one of the first submarines of her class to enter combat and take the fight to the Japanese while the rest of the US Navy was rusting on the bottom of Pearl Harbor, fighting the Germans in the Atlantic or on the building ways. Her officers and crew established tactics and set an example for the rest of the submarine fleet to follow. While many submarines were able to return to the U.S. for overhaul after five patrols, Silversides soldiered on for 10 patrols and 2 1/2 years before her crew earned a stateside break and she earned a well deserved overhaul.

    To assert that the Silversides’ reputation is somehow rooted only in the successful underwater appendectomy is short-sighted. The patrol on which that heroic, risky procedure was performed was one of the most successful of any sub during the war. But it wasn’t the last for the Silversides. On two more occasions, she sank three ships with a single salvo of torpedoes, sailed into the middle of convoys and blasted them apart, doggedly pursued them over hundreds of miles of ocean and looked for enemy targets right under the enemy’s nose at Guam (it’s even on film).

    Also, I must question the flawed logic that says a submarine (the Silversides) that survived 14 war missions with a Presidential Unit Citation (highest award any Navy unit can earn) plus 12 battle stars and brings home a bag with at least 29 ships sunk and dozens damaged is somehow “average” while another submarine that did not survive two patrols with maybe one confirmed sinking is “remarkable.” This is not to minimize any effort by Flier’s officers and crew. But the Silversides record is remarkable by any measure.

    I admire the effort to give the Flier her due. All submarines that served deserve and command our respect. But let’s not minimize others in the process. Ill-informed statements against one of the Submarine Force’s and US Navy’s legendary fighting ships tarnishes the Silversides’ shining reputation and minimizes a record that earned envy during the war years. There was never a shortage of sailors wanting to sail on board her. And why not? Out of more than 300 men who called her home, only one never returned home safely.

    Minimizing the Silversides as “average” does a disservice to her and why she is even more important today than ever before.

  3. Eric Welch says:

    Fascinating blog. Thanks!

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