Posts Tagged ‘grounding’

A new Flier-related (sort of) website

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 11 2011

I had a wonderful surprise today.  Every few weeks I Google the names of several ships that featured largely in Flier’s history: Robalo, Redfin, Jack, Harder, Silversides, Orion, and of course, Macaw.   Usually, I find nothing, occasionally a new photo.

But today, I found a whole new website about USS Macaw, written by the son of Macaw’s Executive Officer, the most senior officer who survived the sinking.  It was incredible to read through and see the photos of this scarcely known ship.  The one on the home page was the best for me, a photo of Macaw as she sat, grounded, at Midway.  Wow.  THIS is why I keep sifting through the Internet to find stuff on Flier and all her connections.

So, I hope you visit the USS Macaw Website.

P.S.  It seems that particular area of Midway’s channel was VERY dangerous. Not only Flier, Macaw and that water barge (see March 23rds entry) grounded there, but so did USS Tarpon, another submarine on December 10, 1942.

From the War Patrol Report of USS Tarpon: December 10. 1942

1018(Y):  Grounded just before entering channel to NOB, Midway, bering 166 1/2 (degrees) T from W. H-beam pile, distant 850 yards.  Particulars of grounding covered in seperate correspondence.

1034(Y): Backed clear, proceeded up channel

1100(Y): Moored NOB Midway.  Diver inspected underwater condition of hull.


You’d think, with this warning 13 months earlier, someone should have blown that channel a little wider in 1943!  The strangest thing of this tale has to be the Executive Officer and Navigator of Tarpon that morning was Paul Burton.

Who, 13 months later, would be at Midway.  Commanding the new Submarine Rescue Ship USS Macaw.

I wonder if he felt a shiver go down his spine that morning in December.  13 months later, an unlucky number that (Flier would also sink on August 13, yeesh) He would drown in nearly the same spot.

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

USS Macaw Conclusion–Pt. 2

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 14 2010

By 2:30 am, the situation on the Macaw was desperate.  The air in the pilothouse was foul from the steady depletion of oxygen.  According to witnesses on Midway, some men were desperate enough to climb up to Macaw’s Crow’s Nest.  Search and Rescue parties were being organized on Eastern Island, but had to wait for daylight.

Water was washing into the pilothouse and breaking over the roof.  The men of the Macaw were trapped and it was only a matter of time before their options ran out.

Macaw's near sister ship, Florikan (the one that towed Flier back to Pearl). Macaw would have appeared similar to this before she grounded.

The men grabbed whatever floatation device or piece of wreck they thought would float, and threw themselves into the sea, likely praying to God that they would see morning.

By dawn’s light, the search for survivors began.  Men were found washed up of reefs, clinging to buoys, even deep in the lagoon miles away.  Seventeen survivors in all.

Sadly, five men, including Macaw’s CO were not found, and are presumed lost at sea.

And now, Macaw posed an even bigger hazard.  Sunk in the middle of the channel, she was tall enough that her masts protruded above the water, and her superstructure lurked just below, to snag or puncture the hull of any vessel entering or leaving.  She was going to have to be moved, or destroyed.  It took eight months, 1,068 diving hours, and nearly a ton and a half of explosives, but eventually, most of Macaw was reduced to a twisted, flattish mass of metal deep enough beneath the surface to allow ships to safely pass over her grave.  Her loss was officially announced on March 20, 1944.

Midway Island remained an active Naval base for a number of years, finally closing in 1993.  Today, it is maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which keeps a staff on the islands, and, since 1996, has permitted people to visit Midway, though tourism is restricted to 100 people on the islands any given day.

It is a bird sanctuary, a protected fish lagoon, and is one of the last pristine environments.  The Wreck of the Macaw is one of the diving sites available for non-invasive touring.  Despite the shallow depth of the Macaw (25 ft. at the bow, 55 ft at the stern) conditions at the mouth of the channel make diving her impossible for all but the very skilled most days.  (The weather needs to be calm and it needs to be high tide before she can be safely visited) Her bow is the only recognizable portion.

The Bow of the USS Macaw

The wreck was thoroughly (and non-invasively) explored and documented in 2003, and is protected and maintained by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  Incidentally, a water barge broke loose from its mooring and wrecked on the approximate location of Flier in 1957.  It too, can only be visited occasionally during the season.

For more information,

USS Macaw–Consclusion pt. 1

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 13 2010

While Flier was still wending her way back to the States to be repaired and overhauled, another storm hit Midway Islands.

Macaw had remained hard aground for nearly three and a half weeks, thwarting every attempt to budge her. Twenty-five feet of her stern projected into the carefully cleared channel, not obstructing it, but posing a grave threat in all be the calmest of weather.  Ships and submarines had to carefully nudge past her when they came for fuel or repairs.  During bad weather, many vessels chose to stay outside Midway until the weather cleared (sometimes days later) or pass Midway altogether.

Satellite Photo of Midway Island with a marker showing the approximate location of the Macaw (and earlier, Flier) wreck. Note how close it is to the channel, with the Eastern Buoys missing, it would be easy to think you were in the channel, when you were about to run aground.

Most of Macaw’s crew had long since evacuated, and some of their places were taken by salvage crews from Midway itself, and the salvage vessel USS Clamp (Which had already been en route to Midway for other salvage operations).  It was looking like Macaw might never come free, so the best option was to remove and salvage as much of her equipment as possible and disassemble the hull to clear the channel.

Then the storm hit, and accomplished what had been deemed impossible: move the Macaw.

First she listed, then she began to slide backward into deep water.  The crew onboard were told not to abandon ship, since it was feared that the men would be crushed on the reef, or killed by the violent weather before they could clear the Macaw herself, but soon, Macaw was sliding into the deep water of the channel, and the crew climbed higher and higher into her superstructure and pilot house.

Captain Paul Burton had twenty-two lives  and his own in his hands, and the best he could do was try to keep his crew high enough to keep clear of the pounding waves.  But as midnight approached, and Macaw slid deeper into the canal, the waves broke over her deck, her superstructure, and were licking their way up to the pilothouse where the men sheltered.

All those on Midway could do was keep spotlights on the Macaw and watch.

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.