Posts Tagged ‘Benjamin Adams’

Changes to Flier’s Crew

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 22 2010

My apologies for not posting yesterday.  We had computer problems, so I wasn’t able to post anything.

Back to the Flier, while she is sill in drydock being fixed, there were changes happening in the crew.

For the past four weeks, a large number of the Flier’s crew were sent, likely in shifts, to their hometowns for some R&R, and most were going to stay with the USS Flier when she re-launched.  Since they had served together for so short a time, the Navy didn’t want to break up the crew just yet.

But in the Officer’s ranks, changes were brewing.  The grounding at Midway exposed problems between Captain Crowley and his Executive Officer, Benjamin Adams.

Often, a submarine’s Executive Officer, in addition to being second-in-command, would, after a period of time and recommendation of his CO, be promoted to command his own submarine.  It was very important for these prospective officers that their submarines perform well with a minimum of disciplinary problems (because the XO was often in charge of crew discipline as well).  Sometimes, like when the Scorpion grounded at Midway, the Exec would share in any discipline that HQ handed out to the captain.  In the case of the  Scorpion, both her captain and her Exec were removed from command and returned to the States.

Having narrowly escaped being removed from the command, perhaps Adams was feeling less than confident in his assigned boat or CO.  Perhaps he started to believe in the new rumors of Flier’s jinx.  Perhaps their personalities would have eventually clashed, and this event just caused it to appear quickly. According to Clay Blair Jr.’s “Silent Victory” and Michael Sturma’s “USS Flier: Death and Survival on a WWII Submarine”, Adams was viewed by some to be a funny ladies man who wasn’t really willing to work.  They finally had an “irreconcilable dispute” in which Adams threatened to leave the Submarine Force for the Surface Fleet if necessary to leave the Flier and Crowley.

Whatever the reasons or the cause, in the end, Adams found a CO who was willing to take him on, and the Navy, more interested in having harmony on submarine crews than forcing people to work together who were unsuited, allowed Adams to transfer to the Albacore, a submarine undergoing routine overhaul in Mare Island at the same time.  Albacore’s recent XO, William Ralph DeLoach,  had been detached from Albacore and was likely to be given a new construction in the States.  (as an aside, though DeLoach served in the Navy until 1969, I cannot discover what submarine he was transferred to, though by 1953 he was apparently the commander of Submarine Squadron 10.)

The USS Albacore after her refit at Mare Island, May 1944

Adams and Albacore’s CO, Jim Blanchard, got on well together and Adams served on the Albacore for at least two patrols (the 9th and 10th).  During this time, the Albacore sank the Japanese Aircraft Carrier Taiho, a huge blow to the Japanese fleet.  Both Adams and Blanchard would have detached from Albacore before her fateful 11th patrol.  Adams would later command USS Rasher for her sixth patrol.

The Japanese Carrier Taiho, the first Japanese carrier to feature an armored deck and hurricane bow. The Albacore fired six torpedos at her, only one hitting her in the bow. While this did not sink her, it did cause the forward aricraft elevator to fill with a mix of seawater and diesel. Albacore left the area, thinking they had barely scratched the Taiho. Seven hours later, diesel fumes had filled the entire ship despite every effort to dissapate it, and she exploded. No one, not even the Japanese knew what happened until a POW revealed her fate to the Americans. By that time, the Albacore had already been lost.

With the Executive Officer’s position now open on the Flier, the search was on for a new Exec, and one was found inside the family.  James Liddell, Flier’s Engineering Officer during the Midway patrol, was now promoted to the Executive Officer’s position.  Liddell and Crowley ended up being well suited as Command Officers, and they would end up paired together not once, but twice, something that was nearly unheard of.

With the promotion, there was one officer’s position open on the Flier, and that would be filled on April 15.

Career in Crosshairs continued…

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 06 2010

We’ve left Captain Crowley in limbo long enough.

The issue the Board of Investigation had to address was simple:  did Crowley put his boat and men in danger unnecessarily? If the storm was so severe the trained pilot couldn’t be transferred from tug to sub, should Crowley had just waited the storm out?  Or perhaps he should have just skipped Midway altogether and missed the top off?  (While it was normal for ships and subs to  top off fuel and supplies there, there was no specific order to do so, which was another issue that was brought up at this inquiry: whether the stop at Midway was an order or an option.)

Crowley had never been to Midway before; neither had his navigator.  Crowley decided, in the absence of the experienced pilot, to follow the advice of his tug: “Follow Me”.    He assumed that if the local authorities thought it was safe to enter, then it was safe to enter.   Both Crowley and his Executive Officer thought they were well within the channel when Flier grounded, (it later turned out that in the storm, one buoy had been completely lost at sea and the other one had been thrown  out of position, so it was understandable that they thought they were in a safe depth)

After the Flier grounded, the Board of Investigation wanted to know if Crowley had ordered all crew to wear life vests or life belts.  Certainly  the anchor crew and deck crew should have been wearing those at least.

But here, the Board ran into problems.  Some of the crew that were interviewed remembered the topside crewmen wearing lifebelts, some remembered crewmen definitely NOT wearing lifebelts, still others remembered lifebelts being made available, but in the early part of the grounding, most crewmen didn’t think they were necessary.  One man later claimed he felt pressured to testify that everyone was wearing lifebelts.

The Board also wanted to know if Peder Cahl, who had been swept overboard and drowned in the lagoon, had been wearing a lifebelt when he had been sent topside.  Once again, they found a variety of answers: one said Cahl was, but couldn’t remember if it was inflated when he went over.  Another said Cahl definitely had been, still a third remembered that while lifebelts had been made available to all who wanted them, he couldn’t remember if Cahl had been one of them who had taken one or not.

After Cahl, Banchero and Gerber had been swept overboard, Crowley took no chances, and ordered all hands, topside and inside to wear lifebelts.  When Flier had broken away from Florikan on the way back to Pearl, the anchor detail was wearing life belts AND  life lines tethering them to the submarine (turned out to be a good idea, since Charles Pope, who was trying to re-attach the towline ended up being swept overboard).

Crowley accepted the responsibility for all his decisions and their consequences, but wanted to make sure the board knew that he had made the best decisions he could with the information he had in had at that time.  That was all a Commanding Officer could ever do, and sometimes, that simply wasn’t enough.  (My interpretation, not his words).

His career was on the line, and the Board adjourned to decide Crowley’s fate: a desk job, or returning to the States to have Flier overhauled and taken back on patrol.

Meantime, Flier was in drydock, having her engines cleaned and her props fixed.  It was just enough  so she could limp back to the States under her own power.