Posts Tagged ‘Crowley’

It’s time to Return

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 07 2010

Thanks to all of you who e-mailed me and condoled me on the loss of my Kairey Girl.  She was one special dog.  But then again, I think everyone says that about their dog, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

I do want to make one correction to that post.  My husband talked to the firemen who hit Kairey (they were nice enough to come back so we at least knew what happened to her) and told him why they couldn’t stop when it happened.  They were the ones who told him about the little girl.  When I asked him if the girl survived, he apparently said “I don’t know,” but between his sobs and mine, I heard “No”.

The girl may have survived.  I dearly dearly hope so. I have not seen any obits for anyone that young, nor any articles in the local paper.

If Kairey had to go, at least another life might have been spared.

Taken last fall by my brother, this was my Kairey dog. She loved to run, fetch, play, give kisses and nap. She could fit into two square inches of space and nap, especially if it was against a warm body or in the sun.

I thought I would post a photo of Kairey dog.  Though purebred, she had too much white on her chest to really qualify as a show animal (which was fine by us, we wanted a hunting dog and family pet and had no interest in breeding,) but the white patch on her chest was in the shape of a nearly-perfect five-pointed star.  I’m not kidding.

The star on Kairey's chest was one of the first things we noticed about her. That, and the fact that she kept trying to chew our shoes apart. Though technically considered a "disfiguring" mark, we thought it was great. She narrowly avoided being named "Star", but apparently "S" names don't work well in the hunting field. Some of her full-blooded brothers and sisters are in breeding programs all over the country, so maybe someday, several years from now, we'll adopt a great-great nephew or niece. I'd even take one of those sisters or brothers if they need a home after being retired from breeding.

Thanks for your patience and understanding during this difficult time for me and my husband.

Now back to our (semi) regularly scheduled program…

Flier arrived in Fremantle on July 5, 1944 to a welcoming committee.  Having claimed to sink four boats on patrol and damaging another two, she was one of the stars of Fremantle at that time.  Captain Crowley would win a Navy Cross for this patrol, and Flier and her crew would earn a battle star for that patrol.

The Flier was in decent condition.  Unlike the Robalo, who had six pages of defects to check and fix, Flier had only three items that needed attention:  The high pressure air compressor motors needed to be looked at since both had been flooded during a routine dive, and had been disassembled and dried before being reassembled.  The electrical panels controlling the low-pressure blowers seemed to be troublesome too, and needed to be looked at.  The worst trouble, however, was the Flier lost control of her stern planes three times during critical moments during an attack.  It turned out that the motor operating those planes had three settings: slow, medium and fast, in terms of how quickly it would change the tilt angle of the planes.  When on slow or medium, there was an electrical problem, that caused the planes to fail completely, so Flier kept them on “full” for the rest of the patrol.  They wanted all of that looked at and fixed in addition to the usual  tinkering, polishing, deep cleaning, airing out, and other usual things.

The men were now free to spend the next two weeks any way they wanted.  They had four hotels to pick from and the Navy would pick up the tab, in addition to the family homes of any friends they might have in Fremantle (at least Earl Baumgart had such a friend).  There was swimming, fishing, dancing, sports, almost anything one could think of to do.  Some men, according to Michael Sturma’s “USS Flier: Death and Survival on a WWII Submarine” borrowed Flier’s small arms and ammo to go kangaroo and rabbit hunting in the Outback.

Redfin, meanwhile, pulled into Darwin, sixty-six years ago today.  Pluta was taken off the sub and transported to the hospital in Darwin, and since Redfin had already been out for over a month, she was told to proceed to Fremantle and terminate her patrol there.

Robalo, on the other hand is a mystery.  She may have been sunk by now, or severely damaged.  On the other hand, she might be just fine, stalking the west coast of Palawan or on her way to Indo-China.  I have to go through my research and organize my thoughts before I can delve really deeply into this.

Today, I also want to take time to remember the USS S-28, for two reasons.  One, because it sank sixty-six years ago on the Fourth, and two, she was Captain Crowley’s command before he was awarded Flier.

S-28 was a very old boat, who completed seven patrols in Alaska, the first four of which were under Crowley’s command.  After the seventh patrol, the S-28 was transferred to Pearl Harbor to be a training boat.  On July 3, 1944, S-28 left Pearl with a crew of fifty to train with the US Coast Guard Cutter (though the Coast Guard vessels had been taken over by the Navy by this point, ) Reliance. On the Fourth of July, they went into the last exercise, but Reliance had problems contacting S-28. It was as if S-28’s radio was having problems or was broken. An hour after they dove, Reliance heard one brief radio call, then nothing.  Alarmed, Reliance called Pearl Harbor, who sent out several more ships.  Two days later, on the 6th of June, they discovered an oil slick in the vicinity that S-28 was last spotted.  It was quickly discovered that S-28 was far too deep to recover using the best technology of the time, and so she was left in peace, along with her crew.  She has remained undiscovered.

The S-28 taken after her refit in 1943.

Since S-28 sank during a practice patrol, the Navy did not wait to announce her loss.  Captain Crowley likely heard about her loss the day they came in from patrol, if not shortly afterwards.

What effect this might have had on him is not known.  I’m sure he grieved the loss of his old boat, and her crew, though more than likely, all the men he had known had been transferred off over the course of the last year and a half.  It was becoming disturbingly commonplace to hear of lost boats every time a submarine came to port, but it must have been a touch of a shock to hear of the loss of a boat he had previously commanded.  It wasn’t going to get better…

Memorial Page for USS S-28’s lost crew

Homeward Bound

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 27 2010

Flier is on her way home, via Sibutu Passage, Molukka Passage, and Lombok Strait.  With only four torpedoes left, I’m sure they were anxious to get back to home port.

The night that Flier received permission to go home, They threw a victory party with an extensive menu to celebrate their successful patrol.

Thanks to the families of Al Jacobson and James Liddell, we have those menus AND the only known (that I know of at least) drawing of the Flier insignia.  This bears the initials “RM” or so it appears.  That does not match any names in the roster of those that went down.  It makes me wonder who did it.

I think it’s funny that despite the fact that “Flier” is named for a common type of sunfish found all over America, the men designed a sailor-hat wearing fly to be their insignia.

The menu is AMAZING.  Just look at the amount and variety of food.  And this, mind you, is after 40 days at sea.  That menu is made from the LEFTOVER food in their stocks.  Little wonder that the kitchen staff on a submarine were coveted and highly regarded by their crewmates.

Just take a gander at all this food! Chicken a la King, Shrimp Cocktail, Beef Broth, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Buttered Corn, Beef Steak, Roasted Pork, Chocolate Cake, Cold Chocolate (I wonder if that was as opposed to Hot Chocolate?) I'm getting hungry just typing this! I do wonder about the music selection and what that means...

The two men named on the menu for their musical selection are being transferred off Flier when they get to port, they just don’t know it yet.

The Flier is heading for Fremantle, the most popular destination for submarines.  Pearl Harbor was nice, but, from what I’ve read, most of the women there were already married, engaged or in a steady relationship.  Most of the eligible Australian men, however, had volunteered for the military and been shipped off to the European and African theaters years before, leaving the girls behind.  Most of the veterans I’ve interviewed said Fremantle and her sister city of Perth were open and welcoming to the American military men, and especially submariners, since they had top secret missions and faced danger on their patrols.  There are many fond memories of these Australian cities I’ve heard, and several stories that stopped abruptly when the veterans realized, in their reminiscing, that their wives and/or children were listening intently. ( “I went to this party at the Swan Hotel and saw this gorgeous brunette across the room and…and…she stayed across the room.  That’s all.”)

The book is progressing.  I’m being picky and paranoid about the editing process now, trying to catch every grammatical and content error I can.  I don’t know if it’ll be perfect, but I’m sure trying.

As soon as that’s done, I have to get to work on the information for the temporary exhibit and the memorial book.  And here I thought I was going to have a relaxing summer.  Oh well.  It’s not often one gets to do something like this, help define and tell history on such a personal and close level.  I’m also going to try to update this website soon with information about the temp exhibit and the Memorial service.  Keep watching!

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.

Under the Golden Gate

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

So where was Flier 66 years ago today?

She was passing under the Golden Gate Bridge and churning the final few miles to the Naval Base at Mare Island.  Mare Island was the West Coast’s submarine base, they were building and launching several a month, in addition to the scheduled overhauls most long-serving submarines were scheduled for every two years or so.  They had building ways for the new construction, dry docks for the overhauls and repairs of any kind.  Every kind of laborer, shipwright, welder, metalsmith, and technician was employed at Mare Island, and they churned out submarines, ships and any kind of naval vessel you could think of at an amazing rate.

The USS Silversides and USS Trigger under contruction at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, where Flier was headed. (Though in actuality, these photographs were taken over two years before Flier's grounding.)

Mare had been a Naval Base since shortly after California’s entrance into the US.  It built and repaired boats for the Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII (it was built up immensely to handle the demand for services by the Navy), Korea and Vietnam.

Flier would spend the next two months up on blocks, being thoroughly checked, overhauled, and made fit again.

It would not be cheap, nor easy, and Crowley, like any other submarine captain, would be right there every day overseeing all of it.  Submarine captains were allowed and encouraged to make numerous decisions about their submarine and her fittings every time they were in port.  Where the guns the sub was assigned would be mounted.  How the ladders going up and down the floors would be mounted (I once lead a Trigger veteran through the Silversides and he remarked how rare it was to see a ladder mounted on the long side of the hatch, instead of on the short side, as the Trigger’s was) or anything else they wanted.

While Flier was in port, she would have the latest technology installed in her if any of her systems were out of date (they were, computers then being like computers now, on the cutting edge for the blink of an eye), and anything else desired.

A Pen and Ink Drawing by Sckirken showing a submarine in Dry Dock #1 at Mare Island. Flier would have looked soemthing like this while undergoing repairs.

Most of the crew, since they had not been out for a patrol yet, would remain attached to the Flier, though many of them would be sent home to visit for several weeks while she was up  on blocks.  In retrospect, that was probably a good thing.

Al, meanwhile, was still in Submarine School, still wondering who his first sub would be.  An established warrior with a record like the Bowfin, or the Barb, or the Finback, or one of the dozens of submarines under construction at New London, Mare Island, or Manitowoc?

While we leave Flier up on blocks in California, we’ll start meeting two other submarines that ended up being vital to the story of the Flier: the Robalo and the Redfin.

First Book Excerpt: Chapter 2: Remembering Midway

The Book | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 14 2010

For those who have been curious to read portions of my book, here we go.  I’d appreciate CONSTRUCTIVE help only.  If you think there’s a problem, please be specific.  I don’t want to stop doing this because a lot of people just want to say “This Sucks!” and leave it at that.  Not helpful.  If you think it’s good, tell me, if you think there are places where I could use some clarification, or it’s too wordy, or anything else tell me that too.

For my submariner friends out there, let me know if this sounds like something that could have happened in a sub.  The tons of research I have to do in order to attempt to depict submarine culture is no match for your experience.  Let me know if I got it right, wrong, or how to fix it.

This is a large excerpt from Chapter 2: Gateway to War.  The Flier is now north of Australia, on her way to Lombok Strait, the dividing line from Allied to disputed waters.  Al, off duty, is passing through the Mess Hall on his way back to his cabin, when he gets caught up in the conversation between two of Flier’s “plankowners”  (these are men of a submarine’s original crew, the one that she was commissioned with).  They end up  telling the new hand, Elton Brubaker, 17 years old and on his first tour, about the time Flier grounded at Midway, over several hands of poker.

To read the excerpt, click here, or check out the Book Excerpt page for the link at the bottom.

If you don’t want to leave a comment publicly, please feel free to e-mail me at

Career in Crosshairs Concluded

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 07 2010

Flier’s whereabouts sixty-six years ago today are unknown…where she was depends on which records you believe.

It’s one of the interesting things about history: despite it being “over and done” what we “know” happened sometimes changes depending on what records and/or memories we depend on.

According to the book: “USS Flier: Death and Survival on a WWII Submarine” by Michael Sturma (from where I got most of my information about Crowley’s Board of Investigation, by the way)  Crowley’s Board of Investigation concluded on the 7th (today) and gave its verdict on the 8th, (tomorrow) and the Flier left Pearl Harbor for the States shortly thereafter. Those dates were found in the Naval Proceedings records held at the Judge Advocate General.

According to Flier’s own War Patrol Report Prologue however, she left Pearl on the 7th, which means that the Board of Investigation had to have concluded and given its verdict before Flier left.

Regardless of when it concluded and Flier was permitted to leave Pearl for  Vallejo, California, the finding of the Board was this:  Crowley was responsible for his boat grounding, but it was not due to culpable negligence.  He would be allowed to continue to command the Flier.

But for now, she had to be taken back to the States for major repairs at the largest submarine yard on the West Coast: Mare Island in Vallejo (just northeast of San Francisco).  Thankfully, the waters between Pearl and California were fairly secure, and heavily trafficked and patrolled, so it was unlikely to hide any Japanese ships or subs (later discovered to be untrue, but that was unknown at the time).   Flier was sent without an escort.

She limped out of harbor so badly dented and damaged people onshore must have wondered what kind of amazing story she had to tell if only her crew would be permitted.

It wasn’t one they were likely to repeat even if they had been allowed.

Career in Crosshairs

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 04 2010

Originally Posted February 2, 2010

Sixty-six years ago this week, Captain John Crowley of USS Flier was facing one of the worst and likely most humiliating events of his life. His career hung on a thread, and he probably thought that his career as a wartime captain was over.

It wasn’t the first time a submarine had grounded at Midway. But the results had not been good for a commanding officer. On 13 August, 1943, almost exactly five months earlier, the USS Scorpion, which had been training near Midway for her third patrol, grounded on the reef. It took five hours and one tugboat to remove her, and that short period of time damaged enough of the hull and ballast tanks that Scorpion was forced to return to Pearl Harbor for repairs. Scorpion’s Commanding Officer and Executive Officer were both relieved of command.

Flier had been grounded for six days. Her grounding had lead directly to the grounding of the six-month old Macaw (and since Macaw was still hard aground, Crowley faced the possibility he would be held partially responsible for her eventual loss if she could not be recovered). One of his crewmen had died. It didn’t look good.

The Official Board of Investigation (one step down from a Court Martial) was convened on the Submarine Tender Bushnell on February 1. The first day, the convening officers visited Flier, now high and dry in the drydocks at Pearl Harbor. The tally was immense, and Flier looked like she’d been worked over by a severe attack. Major damage had been sustained to the flat keel, vertical keel and bilge keels, as well as the rudder, port strut, port propeller shaft, both propellers and the main ballast tanks. Moderate damage was sustained to the hull frames, tank bulkheads, stern torpedo tubes, reduction gears, liquidometer, and fathometer. In addition, the saltwater cooling system to the engines was thoroughly clogged with coral dust.

Flier could float, but that was about it. Her props couldn’t turn, she couldn’t shoot stern torpedoes, she couldn’t measure the depth of the water around her, her engines could start, but would quickly overheat, and her internal frames which would keep her from collapsing in on herself in deep water were compromised.

Final cost of repairs: $312,000, (nearly 11% of her original build cost!) and Flier would have to be shipped to California–she was too damaged to fix at Pearl.

It was going to be a long few days.

Sixty-Six Years Ago…the Jinx Begins

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 04 2010

Originally Posted on January 30, 2010

Sixty Six years ago today, the USS Flier, towed by the Submarine rescue ship USS Florikan, and guarded by two escort ships, was towed back to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Her hull was smashed and dented, though it did hold water.  Her shafts and propellers were so damaged they couldn’t turn and leaked.   Unable to dive, unable to run, she had been hauled back to Pearl under guard, destined for either the dry dock or scrap heap, her commanding officer’s career on the line after only three months in command, and the whispers began to pick up pace…

“She’s a jinxed boat…”

Eighteen days earlier, Flier left Pearl for her first war patrol in the Pacific.  Like many ships and subs, she was supposed to stop at Midway Island to top off her fuel.  The canal into Midway was tricky, and incoming vessels always took on an experienced pilot/navigator from Midway who helped guide the ship in.

arrived during one of the worst winter storms on record.  It was too dangerous to transfer the pilot from the waiting tugboat, so the tug turned and signaled Flier to follow.  Flier’s Captain, John D. Crowley, took Flier in slowly and carefully, determined to thread the canal.  What he didn’t know is there was a strong cross current, and unless you took it fast enough, you’d be thrown to the side.

Flier got caught, and the storm whipped waves threw her further up the coral reef that ringed Midway.  The tug got back to base, and sent out the USS Macaw, Midway’s brand-new submarine rescue ship to help them off.  But soon she too, was aground.  Trying to drop the anchor so Flier wouldn’t go any higher on the reef, two men were washed overboard, and another dove in after his buddy.

A week later, the storm blew over.  Word reached them that one of the men who had been swept overboard, Clyde Gerber, and the man who went in after him, George Banchero, were in the hospital.  The other man swept overboard, James Francis Peder Cahl, had been found washed up on shore, dead, and had already been buried at sea.  Sadly, he was one of the few married men on board.

It took the Florikan, the original tug that tried to guide them in, and a floating crane to free Flier from her perch, but no amount of lift would budge the Macaw.  To add insult to injury, on the way back, another winter storm hit the Flier and Florikan, and snapped the tow line, leaving Flier at the mercy of the waves for hours.

Three months old, she limped back to Pearl sixty-six years ago today.  She had already been fired at by a friendly ship who mistook her for a U-Boat, had been torn up on a coral reef, lost a crewmember, and still had yet to see war.  The whispers began…is she jinxed?

Some men said they could tell if a sub was lucky or not.  It might not have helped that the wounded Flier likely passed or moored near the USS Silversides who was resupplying in Pearl Harbor between her infamous patrols.  Her nickname was “The Lucky Boat”, and she still floats today, a museum ship.

But Flier only had eight months left.