What’s this about?

The USS Flier was a United States Submarine that struck a mine and sank in thirty seconds in 1944.  Fifteen of her crew who had been on deck or just one deck down managed to survive, and started swimming for land.  By morning, only eight were left.  They had to forage for food, build rafts to explore other islands, were taken by guerillas and smuggled to American spy bases deep in Japanese-held territory.

They drank arsenic-laced water, traveled in boats laden with newlyweds and all their worldly goods, (including baskets of live chickens and bags of rice), hunted wild boars in the rain forest, found survivors of the Battles of Bataan and Corrigedor, and became the only submariners during WWII to escape their sinking sub, elude capture, and make it back home.  The people they met and systems that helped them get out of danger were so top-secret that they were sworn to secrecy for decades.

Alvin E. Jacobson was 22, a member of the ROTC and left behind his education at University of Michigan to fight for his country.  By August 14, 1944, he was the youngest of the officers to survive.  By 2005, he was the last surviving member of the Flier’s crew, the only one who remembered the long-classified story.

He served his country during WWII, and after, operating a business that employed many, sitting on boards of museums and hospitals, and trying to make his community a better place.  One of those museums was the Great Lakes Memorial and Museum (GLNMM), where I work.  We take care of Flier’s sister, USS  Silversides, the most successful surviving submarine of WWII.

This year, we are opening a new exhibit about the USS Flier, her lost crew, and the eight survivors.  Though Al passed away in 2008, he sat down with me on video and audio tapes for many interviews for over two years, recalling this story.  I and many at the museum miss him greatly, but are looking forward to building this exhibit, which was his greatest dream: to tell the story of the Flier so his lost crewmates would be remembered.

So how does one fill nearly 3,000 square feet of space with an exhibit that is (hopefully) interesting and interactive while being accurate?  How does one publish a novel based on his tale at the same time?  Come with me and we’ll find out.  I have published only very small pieces before and I designed the Main Exhibit Hall in the same museum, so I’m not a complete novice….

But if this goes the way the last one did, it’s going to be one wild, amazing ride.

Who are you?

My name is Rebekah and I am an Exhibit Designer.  Currently, I’m working with the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum designing their 30,000 square foot USS Flier Exhibit.  I also designed the layout and graphics for their Main Exhibit Hall for their Grand Opening in 2009, so I guess that’s a big vote of confidence!

I fell into the museum  business almost by mistake, and have loved it ever since.  My favorite thing is to do all the dry, dusty research and discover the story within.  No one may care about governmental policies and long-since-fought battles, but we all love a good story about someone, who turns out to be not too different from us, dealing with and overcoming the things life may fling in his or her path.

To contact me:  ussflierproject@gmail.com

8 Responses

  1. Stephen Gray says:

    I saw the article about the Flier in the American Legion magazine and that it had been found. My wife Katherine and her sister Suzanne are neices of Lt. William L. Reynolds, SS 250.
    I would like to thank you for your efforts.

  2. Jim Koffend says:

    I am a nephew of Ervin A. Borlick, who was one of eleven children born to Joseph and Margret Borlick. I have the letter that was sent to my Grandfather and Grandmother. Dated 1 February 1946 from The Secretary of the Navy, signed by James Forrestal stating that because of the length of time involved, he was forced to the conclusion that he is deceased. Also I have Uncle Ervin’s Navy Training Course Certificate, dated 25th of June, 1938.

  3. TIffany E says:

    I found the site and recognized my Great Uncle Eugene Helz and Redfin. Thank you for documenting this. I don’t know much about his time in the military but now have a place to start!

  4. Shannon K says:

    I have an interesting bit of history from this wreck. I have an telegraph to Robert Andrew Vaughn’s parents from the US Navy telling of his death. I also have his civilian picture and picture of this young man from the USS Macaw in his naval uniform. Can anyone give me any more information?

  5. Donna Musselman says:

    I to had an uncle lost to the Flier and am so glad all this info is finally out.. Now we no the real story.. For a long time there was nothing But now there is so much information,, THANK YOU

  6. Dee Saddler says:

    My uncle, John D Crowley, was the Commander of the Flier and I have heard bits and pieces of this event over the years. This weekend I read “Surviving the Flier” and “Eight Survived” which added more pieces of the puzzle. And lastly, I found your site and wish I had known about the opening of the museum. My younger brother and I are both interested in seeing it now.

    Thank you for your efforts in shedding light on this story and especially for including pictures as I don’t a lot of pictures of my uncle in his younger days. Bless you!!!

  7. Tee says:

    Regarding your description on Moore in the surgery pic, that is not him. Moore did not have dark hair & beard, he was balding & fair…as noted in the photo. Moore was my great great uncle, he had a twin & his oldest sister was my great grandma.

  8. Gwin Whitney says:

    I was the Executive Officer on the USS Moctobi ATF-105 and in 1957 we were charged with the responsibility of towing a concrete water barge fron Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands to Midway.We were told the barge had been at Kwajalein since World War 11 and that the fresh water it contained was needed to make concrete for a runway extension. During the passage to Midway we encountered a Typhoon and lost the tow. It took a couple of days for the seas to abate enough for us to put a few men and myself aboard the barge. Boarding the derelict was interesting as we were in an inflatable boat and had to contend with 12 foot seas climbing aboard a concrete hull that was previously protected by 6 inch wooden planking. The wood had long ago decayed leaving 6 inch iron spikes threatening our inflatable, but also providing hand holds for boarding.

    Once aboard, we had to use two chain falls to secure the barge’s rudder amidship as it had broken loose from its securing during the Typhoon. We then reattached the 2 inch plow steel tow line to the Moctobi and proceed at 3 knots to Midway.

    It was late in the day when we finally arrived at Midway. Because of the problem with the rudder on the tow and the narrow Midway channel, we requested the assistance of an Army Corp of Engineers Tug that was stationed at Midway. Request was denied. As dusk was approaching, we circled the island for the duration of the night and made our entry the next morning. About one third of the way through the channel, the rudder on the trow slipped free of the chain falls and immediately went hard to starboard and struck the reef along side the channel.

    Two divers were sent aboard the tow and determined that its hull was fractured in many places, that the fresh water was no longer fresh, and that removal from the reef was impossible. The next weeks were spent being involved in the necessary Court of Inquiry.
    The tow remains in place(in pieces) to this day

Trackback URL for this entry