Posts Tagged ‘Great Lakes Naval Memorial & Museum’

What do you do in Muskegon anyway?

Memorial Ceremony, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 29 2010

I thought since the Flier Memorial services are on a Thursday and Friday, some of you might want to know what you can do around Muskegon other than hang at the museum (which is fine by us!)  A lot of visitors to the Museum have often asked me “What do you do around here anyway?”  Well, despite what the teenage locals will tell you, there’s quite a lot to do around Muskegon, especially in the summertime.  Following are some of my favorites.

There’s Michigan’s Adventure, the amusement park that’s half rollercoasters and half water park.  They’re constantly updating every year, and it’s amazing.  There’s the Summer Luge Track (If I remember correctly it’s the only one in the country, or it’s one of two), Muskegon State Park if your inclination is for hiking and swimming (You can hike beach, dunes, transition dunes and woodland all in the same area, or visit the Blockhouse, a replica of an 1812 lookout tower that guarded Muskegon during the War of 1812.  Hike far enough, and you can photograph the Silversides from her starboard side.). You can swim at Pere Marquette Beach, have a meal and  Ice Cream at RuthAnn’s.  (Ruth Ann’s Flirts with the boundary of the state park so you have gorgeous scenery to eat in. ) Visit the Muskegon Farmer’s Market on Thursday or Saturday for everything from fresh produce to candles, doughnuts, cheese, pet accessories, Amish or Mennonite items, handmade furniture, live plants, and other things.  My favorite Cheese Lady is there.   What’s there is different every time, and the place is very large.  If you lean towards Art, there is the Muskegon Art Museum which will be featuring the Regional Juried Art Exhibition.  During the Flier weekend, Muskegon will be hosting the Unity Christian Music Festival.  On $10/day and you have the opportunity to hear several bands that day for the price.  (If you’re near enough, Muskegon also hosts an Irish Music Festival, a Summer Celebration Festival, among MANY others.  Living there was often like getting a free concert every weekend as the music drifted across the lake.)

This is some of the places you'd have to drive to.

As mentioned earlier, there’s also the Hackley and Hume homes, built when Muskegon was a booming logging, sawmill and transport town.  During this time, Muskegon had more millionaires per capita than any other town in the WORLD.  (And that was back when being a millionaire was a BIG deal.)  This is why, when you look in the  several block radius around the Hackley Hume homes (two of the most beautiful and fanciful homes I’ve ever seen) there are so many gorgeous homes with multiple floors, porches, overhangs, turrets, and beautiful hand-carved details.  These men believed in philanthropy and helping the town so they also built many things for the people, such as the Hackley Public Library.  It looks like a castle, and has stained glass windows of many famous writers and authors.  It also has a precise replica of the Book of Kells, the famous seventh century hand-drawn book discovered in Ireland, with beautiful illuminations and knotwork.  Only a few exact replicas were ever made, and they cost thousands of dollars a piece.  The Muskegon Irish-American Society undertook a fundraiser to bring one of these replicas to the Muskegon Library.  It’s the only one on permanent display in a library in North America.  They turn one page a week.  It’s  a gorgeous building to visit.

This is the stuff near the hotels. Most of it is within walking distance.

There the Frauenthal, which is one of those theaters built in that era where they had real box seats in the sides of the walls and gilded carvings surrounding the stage.  Believe it or not, the Glenn Miller Orchestra will be performing on Saturday, August 14, at the Frauenthal.  (Glenn Miller, for those who don’t know, was a huge WWII era performer.  The men of the Flier, Redfin and Robalo probably listened to his records and certainly danced to it.)  There’s Hackley Park, a memorial for the Civil War era soldiers from Muskegon.

There’s the LST-393 Museum, dedicated to the Landing Ship Tank Ships, workhorses of the military in WWII.  Strange thing about those ships, despite the fact that hundreds of them served during WWII, only TWO still exist, one in Muskegon.  After WWII, they were sold to freighting companies all over the world.  They served, and most were eventually scrapped, scuttled, or abandoned, if they weren’t lost at sea.   The 393 was sold to a company in Muskegon who turned it into Highway 16, a ferry linking Muskegon and Milwaukee (much like the Lake Express Ferry today.)  After she was retired, she was moored in Muskegon and more or less forgotten, just like many of her sisters.  Unlike her sisters however, when her identity was discovered, she was not too far gone to restore, thanks to the fresh water of the Great Lakes in which she had traveled since 1946.  Her bow doors were re-opened (they’re the front door to the museum), and she has bee re-done from bow to stern.  If you’re interested in more Naval History in the European Theater, she’s a good stop.

I love Muskegon, in case you haven’t realized, and still miss it, years after my husband and I had to leave for our work.  I hope you do too during your time there for the Memorial.

And sixty-six years ago today, Flier is still in the drydock.  She will be until tomorrow.  She is scheduled to leave on 2 August, and has double exercises with the submarine Muskallunge between now and then, plus night training, and satisfactory completion of her sound test.  The men would be hard pressed to finish everything in time.

Book Proof!

The Book, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 28 2010

It’s here!  It’s here!  It’s here!

Actually, it was here on Monday.  But between the camera being dead, and my schedule and finishing a surprise that I hope the families of the Flier crew will love, I hadn’t gotten around to taking proper photos.

But I have now.  Here we go.

There's the front cover. What do you think? (Seriously, I'd welcome the feedback)

There it is in all its glory.  This is  a proof, meaning it’s for the author’s eyes only, and it’s a last gasp chance to make sure everything is perfect, all photos, graphics, wording, everything.

It’s a good thing too, because despite my every effort, I’ve had to replace five photos that came out too dark and a handful of typos and some stuff I forgot about last minute, including three thank yous and seven bibliographic references.  Thank goodness, they only charge for one more upload rather than per correction!  (If you purchase this book and happen to find a typo or something PLEASE don’t tell me for at least a week!  I’ll need the time to adjust to not-panic drive!)

This is a pretty cool book, even if I am prejudiced.  Here’s the start to Chapter One:

The opening to Chapter One. That is an actual photo of the crew of the Flier likely receiving their awards for the stellar job done on the first patrol. I wish there was a date for this, whether it happened shortly after Flier arrived, or shortly before she left, but a number of men on the Flier received commendations such as Bronze Stars and Silver Stars, and Crowley received a Navy Cross. If you're curious about the coffee reference in the opening pages, that's a true reference. Al remembered this strange thing about the Flier crew: they insisted on Hills Bros. coffee, and nothing else. Though he couldn't taste a difference, he said some of the crew were dead serious about that coffee.

And another random spread in Chapter 2 with a map included.  I was able to put over 20 maps, photos and diagrams, though they are not evenly spaced throughout the book.  Since obviously, none of the men were carrying a camera during their escape, there are few photos in the middle of the book.

From Chapter Two where Al and the other officers learned where the Flier was going for her second patrol. In order to keep submarines as safe as possible, only the Commanding Officer was told where they were going before the submarine left port. If, like Flier's case, they had to stop somewhere to refuel, no one else was told where they were headed until after the submarine had left the last vestiges of Allied civilization behind. Thanks to the later investigation and the Operation Orders of the Flier, we know where they were supposed to head, and how and when they were supposed to get home, had Fate not intervened.

Despite the title and the fact that this book is centered around the doomed second patrol of the Flier and the escape of the eight Fliers themselves, there are a number of backstories and flashbacks in this book to try and flesh out Flier’s life and that of her crew before the explosion.  The most frustrating thing was, of course, with eighty four men onboard Flier, I couldn’t feature or name them all during the course of the book, but I hope this shows a good cross section of who these guys were.

So its 294 pages long, 14 of which is Bibliography alone  (I might shrink the text in the Bib to give me more room if I need it).

As soon as the proof is re-sent with the final final FINAL (I hope) revisions, we’ll finish up the e-books starting with the Amazon Kindle version.  I’ll let you know when we get that up for those who are interested in that sort of format rather than a hard copy.

We were hoping to do a Barnes and Noble Nook version, but we can’t seem to find any information on how to convert these books into that format.  If you know, please contact me about how to do that.

Audiobook version will be coming.  It just might not be ready for the launch.  Sorry.  It’s coming, I promise.

Well, now back to work.  I have a deck log to photograph, a DVD to create, and another Exhibit to design.  I’m swamped.  (in a good way)

And where was Flier, Redfin and Robalo? Robalo is definitely lost now, though how many of her men remain alive and/or free or imprisoned is still a matter of debate.  Flier is in drydock having her starboard mechanical everything thoroughly gone over, and the Redfins are reporting back on duty.  The Coastwatchers are well and settled in Brooke’s Point, establishing one radio station on the beach and one on the side of Addison Peak a mile or so inland.  They have no idea Balabac Straits are definitively mined (it was assumed, not known that Balabac was mined at this time) and their radios are having problems again anyway, so they haven’t told HQ.  This fact will have deadly consequences for more than the submariners.

More Exhibit things

Lost Subs, Memorial Ceremony, The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 21 2010

Well, one day closer to the memorial weekend, and if you need a hotel and haven’t gotten around to it yet, you might want to move.  In addition to the Holiday Inn, the museum also has some rooms at Shoreline Inn across the street. Depending on the room, both hotels have views of Muskegon Lake, and are within walking distance of the Frauenthal Theater, the Hackley and Hume Homes, Hackley Park, and LST-393 Museum (for another taste of WWII Naval History, this time, the European Theater!) plus a number of small independent stores and restaurants.   (Walking distance here being defined as within a mile)  My favorite food store in the whole world is only about a mile and a half away from those hotels too. Be careful if you visit, it’s ADDICTING.

I understand that the episode of Dive Detectives is beautiful and haunting,or at least, so I’m told.  The staff at the museum decided to run the movie completely through their system so they could get a replacement copy in time if there was a problem or glitch, and wouldn’t you know it, none of them seemed to have anything else to do while the test was running!  Some of you don’t know this, but I’m an independent contractor for the museum, and actually live about five hours away by car, so I haven’t seen it yet either!   AAArrghh!  But they said it was a beautiful film, very well done, so hopefully, we’ll all like it.

Here you see the scale depths of the five submarine wrecks discovered since 2005, as well as an overhead silhouette of a WWII-era submarine done to the same scale. (The triangles representing the wrecks are not to scale, but the depths are) All of these wrecks with the exception of the Grunion were explored using human divers.

One of the biggest problems they had in filming was the depth of the Flier herself.  Of the five submarines discovered since 2005, Flier is the deepest except for the Grunion.  She is, in fact, at the very edges to human endurance using SCUBA gear underwater.  For every dive aboard the Flier, which was three hours long, the divers were only able to take ten minutes on the Flier herself, so while they apparently did an amazing job filming, they were still limited to short takes and quick passes, since they had to document as quickly as they could.  If permission is granted later for a more thorough survey of the submarine, it would likely be done by ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) since they don’t have to take the precautions human divers do.

That being said, it is still, apparently, amazing.  If we weren’t down to one car now, I’d be half tempted to drive the 10-hour round trip to see it!

I’m finishing up the memorial booklet now.  I ended up doing the covers, Flier’s Story pages and the Flier’s crew page.  I finished everything except for the crew page, which is in the final stages right now.  (It’s really difficult to fit 79 men on two pages!) I hope everyone likes it, but you now know who to blame if you don’t!

As soon as this is done, I have to update some pages and work on the permanent exhibit layout.  Whew!  This is so going to be worth it!

New Look!

The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 22 2010

Well, after a weekend of my husband and I learning the rudimentary ropes of website design and updating, we have a new look as you can see.  This is part of the branding of the Flier I spoke about yesterday.   I’ve also designed covers for potential programs, letterhead, and promotional materials to see if the motifs can work back and forth across the various medias needed, and part of how it will look is seen above.

It’s not perfect.  Partially because for some reason, while the header and sides were originally designed in .jpg format, which allowed me to play as much as I wanted, the footer was a .gif.

Don’t ask me what the difference is, I don’t know myself.  What I DO know, is that apparently, .gifs can only do greyish colors and no gradients or anything fun.  So the color palette had to be overhauled so that the sides would match the bottom.  Oh well.  It’s not worth worrying that much over.

So you can start to see what I’m thinking of doing here.  The image of the submarine is actually the Flier herself, taken on the 20 of April on training runs off the coast of California.  I love this image (and its twin, the stern shot) because many of the men are standing on the deck, reminding me that its not a machine of steel and brass that I’m working on memorializing, but the men who went with her and didn’t come back home.  It’s easy to talk about remembering the Flier, memorializing the Flier, building an exhibit about the Flier, but this image reminds me that when I say “Flier”, I mean her 84 crewmen, especially the 76 who never came back home and left their families behind.

The Bow-on shot with the Flier's men standing on the deck

Some of my family members are amused by my resistance to reading sad books or watching sad movies, yet my near-obsession with this project and the fact that I have a huge file full of photographs of these men, reminding me of WHO these guys were.  I guess in a way, as an artist (since that is what I have my college degree in, truth be told) I feel like I’m bringing their characters to life in the best way I can with the skill that I have.   It’s a sad tale, true, since so few survived, but they sacrificed themselves willingly.

The Stern of the Flier taken the same day, with more men on the deck. All too soon, this behavior would be forbidden, since in an emergency, the fewer men on the surface to get inside the quicker a sub could submerge. Some men would go months before they saw the sun again.

My husband was in the Marine Reserves when we met, and he drove me home every month during his training weekend to visit my family.  We got to know each other well on those trips.  In the dead of winter once, I asked him how his training weekend went, and he told me how they went far north in Michigan and camped in the drifts of snow, and marched through deep drifts covered in ice crusts that exhausted them having to punch through, and how hard it was to keep up at times.  He was stating this matter-of-factly, but I started to feel sorry for him and say so.  After the third time or so of me saying, “Oh I’m sorry,” he turned to me and said, “Why do you keep saying that?  You asked me how my weekend was, and that is how it was, but I don’t feel sorry for myself or the other Marines in my platoon and I don’t like you feeling sorry for me either.  I signed up to do this to protect my family and friends, and country and I do so willingly, even it is hard or cold or if we get called up to go somewhere for months at a time.  It’s an honor to serve, and if necessary, it’s an honor to die so my family and friends and even you can live in freedom.  So stop feeling sorry for me.”

It was a hard lesson to learn, but since then, I’ve heard it echoed in many other active duty and veteran’s voices:  It’s an honor to serve and protect my country, I don’t want your pity for my tough life.  Just do your best, and remember those who gave everything.

So here I sit, a civilian married to a former Marine  (Medical Discharge, long story), with members of my family coming from the Army, Air Force, Marines, and perhaps soon another Sailor, doing my best.  I hope it’s enough.

Exhibit Update

The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 20 2010

We’re at that spot right now where the exhibit continues, but my portion of it is stalled.  It’s in the hands of others, so here I sit, not really able to move forward, but still laying the groundwork for the exhibit when it finally gets off the ground.

I’m working on developing the Flier brand for this exhibit, which isn’t as commercial as that sounds.  All a brand is really, is a standard of presentation.  Most companies, universities, schools, professional organizations, use brands which include a color palette, certain fonts to use, official insignias, letterhead, and anything else desired.  The idea is that everything associated with that “brand” is all tied together and looks uniform and well designed.  This is especially important in  organizations like museums or universities where more than one department might independently develop brochures or websites for their areas separately from the “official” advertising department.

When you see the same thing over and over, you start to recognize it.  When people see a big gold block “M” on a dark blue background, you automatically recognize the University of Michigan.  A green squarish “S” with on a white background is Michigan State University.  No need for thinking, no need for trying to remember where you last saw that.  It’s been presented over and over again until you recognize these two organizations with a glance.  That is good branding.  And I’ll guarantee, that both these universities have standards that say precisely WHICH shades of blue, gold, green and white (yes, there are multiple different “shades” of white just as there are black) that those are, and which fonts to use in a brochure, how those symbols are to be presented and how they are not.

They don’t, unfortunately, tell you how to have a peaceable home during the Michigan/Michigan State game.

You know you're from Michigan if....half of your family won't talk to the other half during the U of M vs. MSU game.

So I’m working on developing the overall look and color palette for the Flier materials, which will be used in letterhead, promotional materials, the exhibit itself, ect.  I did a large one for the exhibit hall, so this has to be related, but distinct.  It’s not hard, but it is tricky.  It has to look “naval”, all the colors have to work with all the others so any of them can be used with any of the others, the fonts have to be interesting, clear, and able to work well at 6 points tall as well as six inches (or six feet).  I think I played with some 60 shades of gray for the last palette before choosing two.

Just a simple chore, but if I do it now, it’s set for later when I can start.  I am playing with a palette that’s primarily dark blue, blue-black and silver gray as the base, so we’ll see.  It’s a little dark, so I have to pick some lighter colors to offset that, or everyone will need Prozac before leaving the exhibit!

In partnership with the Bowfin, we’re also working on tracking down the surviving family members of the Flier and the Flier Survivors.  If you are one and happen to read this, please contact me at  or Charles Hinman at  We’re working on a rather large project I hope to announce soon.


The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 04 2010

Originally posted on Jan 30, 2010

Ever wonder what goes into building a museum exhibit, or writing a book?  Here’s your chance to find out, and all at mach 9!

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.