Posts Tagged ‘Art Howell’

On to the next island

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Aug 16 2010

The Fliers woke early the next morning after another miserable, shivering night, and trudged to the east end of the island.  No storms had come to their island in the night, though several had passed all around them, so Jacobson’s shells were still empty, and there was no water.

Liddell and Russo, football players in their school days, pulled vines down from the jungle on the island and the rest tried to assemble a small raft from the tangle of driftwood.  It couldn’t be too large, or the aerial patrols would see it, but too small, not everyone could hang on to it.

In the end, from the descriptions, it sounds like they created a long narrow “deck” of bamboo staves lashed together, with an outrigger frame.  Two men could straddle the deck and paddle (and they created makeshift paddles and found two long poles too), while the other six could hang on to the frame and swim and push the raft along.

The plane flew over in the morning,  and the men simply retreated to the shade of the trees both times, hoping that if the pilot saw anything, he just saw a bunch of driftwood on the beach.  But it never so  much as twitched from its normal path.

Liddell, once the raft was close to finished, likely borrowed Crowley’s watch and used it to look for slack tide.  Slack tide, for those that missed the Lombok Strait entry, is the point at the height of high tide and the lowest point of low tide where the currents caused by a tide slow, stop (as tide reaches the greatest point) then reverse and eventually gain speed.   If they started to swim just before slack, they would be swept away, but not far, and would be swept back when the tides reversed.  Liddell threw small twigs and sticks into the fast flowing channel between them and the next island, timing how fast each twig was swept away.

When he figured the tides were slowing, they hauled the raft into the surf, and Crowley and Howell took the first shift rowing.  The drop off was quick and the currents were still fast, and they were quickly swept south as they crossed the channel.

One third the way across, they heard the afternoon patrol plane overhead, and watched her approach, waiting until she was nearly on top of them to dive under the raft.  This plane flew placidly away too, and they quickly started back for their new beach.

A storm swept over them, and the men opened their mouths to the sky, trying to catch the rain.  Jacobson remembered that the big, heavy drops seemed to fall everywhere except his mouth.  It passed as quickly as it came, hitting their new island.  Jacobson thought longingly about the shells he spread out the night before and wished that someone else had been so considerate on the new island.

The tide changed, the current switched directions and soon they were being swept north of their island and had to pull hard to land on the rocky beach on the north west tip.  They had been swimming for hours and landed after sunset, burrowing into the sand, trying to get some sleep.

It was day three.

For those that were at the Memorial Weekend and whom I had the pleasure and honor of meeting, I just want to say, I enjoyed meeting all of you and getting to hear all your stories, even though many were so sad.  It really did feel like a family, and I hope that we do get together in a year or two, perhaps when the new exhibit opens!

I’ll be making changes to the site in the next few weeks.  Don’t worry, I’ll keep the blog up, but I’m hoping to add some things that will help us keep in touch with each other.

Flier Underway

And now for something completely different..., Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 30 2010

Sixty-six years ago today, Flier pulled away from Mare Island, passed under the Golden Gate bridge and left America behind. The people who waved her good-bye didn’t realize that for the vast majority of the people aboard, and the sub itself, that good-bye was permanent.

It would take nine days to get to Pearl Harbor, with Crowley testing his boat and crew the entire way, because like any submarine coming straight from the continental US, Flier was scheduled for two weeks of further training and provisioning before being sent off for their first real patrol once again.

*       *        *

As this story starts again, I’m finding that it’s sometimes difficult to write about.  As I’m getting to know the families of those who still patrol aboard the Flier, these men are becoming more real, and I can’t help but feel a touch depressed, since I know that this story, for one family already, and soon for 76 more, will have a tragic ending.

In talking with Al, I know that sometimes he felt he had to live a certain life to honor those who didn’t make it.  He gave to his family, his community, his employees.  I sometimes wonder if the other survivors felt the same way.  I only know what happened to four of the men:  Captain Crowley had a long and successful career in the Navy, Lt. Liddell founded a company that today employs hundreds, Baumgart became a police and fireman.  Where Miller, Howell, Tremaine and Russo ended up, I don’t know.

I hope, but re-living this journey 66 years later, I can honor these men’s memories and sacrifices.

*      *        *

In other news, in a few days, I’ll be heading out for a business trip to meet the family of one of the survivors to see photos, letters, and other items from Flier’s history.  I’m really excited to go, but due to safety and privacy reasons, I won’t say when where and who until it’s all over (and I won’t say who unless given permission!)  But as the story of the Flier unfolds, I hope to have some new images and things to share.

Finally, in regards to my post a week ago about USS Virginia returning to port and how the submarine squadrons are arranged, I received a note from Lt. Evans of Submarine Group Two who told me that  USS New Mexico will be assigned to Squadron 8 along with the Boise, the Newport News, and the Oklahoma City.