Posts Tagged ‘John Crowley’

Flier’s grounding and the First of the Jim All’s films

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 17 2011

Hey everyone,

Sorry this has taken so long.   I’m having to finish the design for the potential exhibit in the next two weeks, and a few other, family related issues have swallowed my time.  I am sorry, I’ve been hating how little time I’ve had to devote to this blog lately.

But I hope the following will at least partially make up for the prolonged absence.

First, I thought for those who have never taken a look at Midway Atoll,  that you might be interested in just how Flier wound up grounded at Midway when so many other submarines came in and out of Midway all through WWII with little trouble.  I ended up doing a lot of research to help myself out here, and I’m indebted to Michael Sturma of Murdoch University in Australia not only for his excellent book, USS Flier: Death and Survival on a WWII Submarine, but also because he kindly forwarded a digital copy of the JAG investigation and transcript into this incident.

Reading about this incident in the Deck Logs and Sturma’s book was one thing, reading it, in the men’s own words, was another thing completely.  It brought new insights I hadn’t thought of.  Between the Deck Logs, the JAG Transcript and Sturma’s book, I put together a little video about how, exactly, Flier ended up on the reef.

Following this incident, and the tow back to Pearl, Crowley would be found responsible for Flier’s damage, but then again, a skipper is responsible for his ship and all of his crew.  He could have been asleep when this happened, and still be found responsible.  The fact that the investigation panel decided that even though he was responsible, it was through no fault of his own, nor negligence, or anything that could be helped.  In short, he’s responsible, but only because he had to be found such.  They permitted him to retain command of Flier, which says a lot about their opinion of his command abilities, and I’m sure, was a great vote of confidence for Crowley himself.

Jim Alls was on that patrol the day Flier ran aground.  For those who don’t know, Mr. Alls came to the Flier Memorial service in Muskegon this past August.  To my knowledge, he’s the only known Flier crewman still alive.  He was there the day she was commissioned and is listed among the commissioning crew, and remained with her until just a few days before Flier left Fremantle on her final, fateful patrol.  The only reason he didn’t go with her was he had his jaw smashed in by a New Zealand soldier a few days before departure.  All submariners are still required to be in peak condition before leaving on patrol, so Alls was left behind in Freo, with a retainer on him so he would re-join Flier’s crew as soon as he was cleared and she was back in port.

And of course, she never came back.

He’s amazing.  I mean, here’s a guy who lies about his age to join the military at 15 years old (making him 16 years old when this happens) then spends the next several years on the most dangerous and complicated equipment in the world in the middle of a war zone.  He has a great memory too, especially about these guys.  I got to interview him and his wife back in November, and he told story after story, about the men, gilly, Panama, Pearl Harbor, poker games, working in the engine rooms, and on and on and on.  Just incredible.

Since he was there the day they were at Midway, I asked him about it.  The thing that stuck out most in his mind was the surgery performed on Waite Daggy, and the burial of James Cahl.  I’m still working on the Cahl film, but here, in the words of someone who was there, is how surgery ended up being performed on a grounded submarine being thrashed by a winter storm.

And because I just can’t help myself, here’s a funny little bit about what happens when you screw up a Christmas Turkey on a submarine…

In case you’re wondering, I tend to complete these and upload them to YouTube as I find time, but it may be a while before they show up here.  As a result, all three of these movies have been available for two days to two weeks.  If you’re interested in seeing them as soon as I upload them, you can subscribe to the ussflierproject account, and YouTube will keep you advised as to when I upload these.  I will eventually feature them here, as I can and it fits, but there you go.

Enjoy!

Finally off to war…

Uncategorized, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jan 12 2011

I just wanted to take a moment today to commemorate the 67th anniversary of Flier finally leaving Pearl Harbor on her way to the front.

We don’t know where she was assigned to go: it’s likely that she was part of the advance force for the upcoming battles in the Marianas.  Wherever she was headed, she was assigned to top off her tanks at Midway Atoll.  Since Midway was 1300 miles closer to the front than Pearl, that top-off could make a difference in amount of time or distance allowed to spend on patrol.

Pearl Harbor, now two years into the war, was busting at the seams.  They had only JUST (as in the last two weeks before this date in 1944) finished floating the last casualty of December 7 that was planned to be reclaimed.  The Arizona was going to remain as a memorial, and so was the Utah (albeit unintentionally.  The Utah was simply too old and useless to waste wartime resources to even float enough to salvage.  After all, before December 7, she had been a target ship, a ship the active warships shot dummy torpedoes and guns at to practice aiming and firing.  She was, however, capsized in a main traffic lane. THAT was going to be fixed.)

Nope, the workers at Pearl Harbor, had finally, after two years of engineering, designs and labor,  figured out how to roll the USS Oklahoma over, float her and drag her into drydock.  (Sadly, drydock would reveal that the damage was beyond worth of repair.  The great battleship was, for all intents and purposes “Totalled”.  She was moved to a quiet part of the harbor until 1946 when she was sold to a scrapper.)

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Fascinating example of the engineering ideas that rolled this battleship over. The date on the photo is correct: March 1943. It would still take until December 28, 1943 before she was able to float on an even keel reliably enough to tug her into drydock. Flier would have been there to see that final step.

Another view of the rolling over of this behemoth, taken a few days later. You can see Oklahoma sitting at about a 30-degree list and the cranes with their lines are now on Ford Island. In a rather ironic end to the story, the salvager that purchase Oklahoma was located in San Francisco, and had to tow the hulk of Oklahoma to California. A storm hit about 500 miles out of Pearl Harbor, and Oklahoma did not make it. Despite all the engineering and efforts, Okie chose to remain on the bottom. Which, I guess, is a fitting end for a warship.

The business of war never stopped, and neither was Flier.

Captain Crowley, by this time, was one of the most experienced submarine Commanders.  A Naval Academy grad of 1931, he already had commanded the USS S-28 through five blisteringly cold patrols in Alaska’s dangerous seas.  He’d commanded submarines out of Pearl Harbor, New London, San Diego, and Dutch Harbor, as well as through the Panama Canal.  Despite his experience, there was one major American Submarine port he’d never been to yet: Midway.

But dozens of submarines were in and out of Midway every week.  The channel going into the harbor was narrow, but deeply dredged, and straight, angled due north a 000 degrees.  All you had to do approach from the south, wait for the pilot to come on board, then drive straight north until through the coral wall that surrounded the base.

How hard could this be?

Flier Investigation Concluded

Uncategorized, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Oct 08 2010

Dello Russo was up next.  Now due to whatever reason, his name was always listed in James D. Russo, in all the records.  His last name was properly Dello Russo, but he wasn’t permitted to list that apparently.  Thankfully, a sharp researcher in Grand Haven figured out his real last name, allowing us to track down his family in time for the memorial.  As a youth, Dello Russo loved to swim to the various islands around the Boston area, which accounts for his ability to swim for the islands.  In fact, he beat everyone to the shore, and was the only person to make it without hanging onto a floating piece of bracken for support.

But I digress.

Dello Russo’s testimony was brief.  As Quartermaster, his job was the drive the submarine from the helm.  Unlike a surface ship, which usually had windows in the room where the steering was done, a submarine is driven blind.  The Quartermaster has to steer based on the angles of the gyroscope and a great deal of trust with the navigator and radar and sonar teams.  All Dello Russo was essentially asked (beyond “Name, Rank, Station”) was where he was located that night.  At the helm.  In the Conning Tower.  That was it.

Donald Tremaine was the last man up for questioning.  I’ve always found Tremaine to be interesting if only because he is nearly a complete cipher.  I’ve never been able to find out anything about him, outside of the fact that he was on the Flier and was assigned to the Maryland during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Anything and everything else is a complete matter of speculation, and when I tried to research him, I got a quick and painful research lesson in just how many “Don(ald) Tremaine”s live in the USA.  But I don’t even have a photo of him, he was the only survivor in no condition to be photographed that day on the Redfin.

Tremaine was a Fire Controlman, which made him an essential part of maintaining, repairing and operating all weapons systems aboard Flier. Tremaine stated that the night Flier went down, he was in the Conning Tower as a part of the Radar Tracking Party in case they made contact.  If I’ve done my research correctly, that means that he was likely standing at the TDC (Torpedo Data Computer-an analog computing system that helped submarines perform the trigonometry needed to aim torpedoes.) that night.  And that was all.

Last up was Lt. Liddell.  After Crowley, Liddell had the most on the line, since he could potentially be held responsible if he hadn’t navigated correctly and allowed Flier to stray into dangerous waters.

He was questioned closely, the investigators wanting to know when was the last fix taken by stars, landmarks, the last reading on the azimuth, how often did he take depth soundings, radar fixes, and on and on.  Judging from his responses, he was a highly skilled navigator, and his skill stood the interrogation.

The strangest part of the tale is simply that when Liddlel and Crowley planned their route that evening, there were two reasons why they did not follow the Crevalle’s route precisely, when that was the route HQ sent them to help them safely transverse Balabac.  The first was Crevalle was heading north, not west, which meant that Flier would have to take a wide arc out of their way to match her track precisely.  But more importantly, Crevalle tracked very close to a pair of reefs, which were clearly shown on the map.  That was too close for comfort for Crowley and Liddell, and they decided to put more distance between Flier and those reefs, which would have been easily mineable.  Today’s charts, however, clearly show that the ocean floor drops steeply down near the reefs and comes up gradually near Comiran Island.  Liddell and Crowley tried to keep her as safe as they could, but this time, her luck ran out.

The remaining portions of the investigation/trial are detailed, and interesting, but maybe only to me.  There was a lot of questioning of Admiral Christie’s staff from this point forward, about intelligence gathering, known Japanese mines, how was information gathered and relayed to submarine COs, the risks of Natsubata Channel verses the other channels in the strait, on and on and on.  They even covered the history of Robalo’s CO, and called in the temporary COs of Robalo and Flier (these men were the CO while the real COs were on R&R and who remained onboard during all of the training sessions prior to patrol departure to observe the training and the abilities of the crews) to inquire how the crew and CO worked together, and how prepared the crews of these lost boats might or might not have been.

The conclusions reached by the investigation was that Flier and Robalo both had been given the best information possible, but their loss was officially attributed to “the fortunes of war”.  Both Admiral Christie and Commander Crowley were absolved of all fault regarding the loss of these boats and their crews, but Admiral Christie’s career had reached its zenith.  Shortly after this investigation, for unknown reasons, he was assigned to a new post: overseeing the Naval Yard in Bremerton Washington.  This sort of assignment was often given to admirals who were on their way to retirement, and despite the fact that four submarines (Flier, Robalo, Harder and USS Seawolf, sunk on 3 October in one of the few friendly fire incidents of WWII–carrying 17 Army Special Forces aboard) had been recently lost out of Fremantle, Christie had a good record of safety and support of his submarine crews.

It is possible that Christie simply got shuffled around in the normal rotation of things, but, while there are no written records, and no one willing to go on record, there were rumors that Christie may have been on the receiving end of some other admirals’ displeasure for the clean slate given to Christie and Crowley.  It’s also interesting to note that Admiral Daubin, the presiding officer, was also shortly relieved of the command of Atlantic Submarines (at which he also had been doing a laudable job) and moved to oversee the Naval Yard at New York.

Who knows?

But now the Navy had to sit and wait.  There were rumors of at least four survivors of the Robalo. Four men, Ensign Samuel Tucker, Signalman Wallace Martin, Quartermaster Floyd Laughlin, and Electrician’s Mate Mason Poston, had dropped a note from their Puerto Princesa prison cell on August 2, which had been smuggled out to the Allies.  Their current whereabouts were unknown.  There were also seven survivors of Flier who potentially could have swam to other islands and be living as castaways or captured.  In addition, Flier was believed to be in 40-50 fathoms of water (240-300 feet of water).  All submariners are trained to escape out of a disabled submarine at that depth, so if some of the Fliers had survived the crash into the seafloor and could reach the escape hatches, is was possible that more might surface after the war.  There was no way to tell.

But the families were going to have to be told something…

This particular Submarine Escape Training Tower is located in New London Connecticut at the Subamarine School. Every man was required to escape from the bottom of it to the top, learning how to use the various escape equipment. So it was possible, not likely, but possible, that other Fliers might have found their way to the surface after the Flier came to rest on the bottom. It would have been a potentially lethal and nearly impossible ascent, but with eight men already proving the impossible could happen, the Navy was willing to leave that door open for now.

Investigation Continues

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Sep 25 2010

Admiral Christie having gotten through the first round of questioning, it was now Commander Crowley’s turn.

As soon as Christie had withdrawn, Crowley took the stand voluntarily to relate the information he had concerning the Robalo.

“Sergeant  Pasqual de la Cruz, Philippine Army, USAFFE, whim I encountered at the Guerilla outpost at Cap Buliluyan, informed me on August 21st that he had recently returned from a reconnaissance trip to Balabac Island, This trip was made to verify a tumor that some Americans had been captured there.  He received the following information which he told me.  The USS Robalo was sunk by an explosion in the forward battery on 3 July 1944.  The reported position of the vessel at the time of the explosion was forty miles west of  Balabac Island.  There were four survivors of Robalo who were found on the beach of Comiran Island.  From his story, of which the facts are not clear, I arrived at three possible solutions as to the fate of hte survivors:  (1) that the four were surprised on the beach and jumped up, two escaped and two were captured: (2) in the foregoing event, two were captured and two were shot; (3) in the foregoing even all four were captured and two were deliberately shot after capture.  The names of the two survivors made prisoner were purported to me as Lieutenant Tucker and quartermaster Martin.  One of the others apparently was the commanding officer of the Robalo, and no information exists or was given to me as to the identity of the fourth  The reason for the conflicting stories as to the fate of the survivors is that Sergeant de la Cruz received the information from difference sources.  One other thing that he also told me, that the Robalo departed Port Darwin on a date late in June, I which I do not remember correctly.  I believe it was the 29th.  Apparently, it came from a survivor.  The two prisoners are reported to have been sent to the Japanese prison camp at Puerto Princesa, Palawan.  This is all of the information that I have.”

Next up was all the information about the Flier’s final hours, and from this, as well as the previous statement that both Flier and Robalo were recommended to follow Crevalle’s route through Balabac/Natsubata, we can reconstruct what happened.

Crowley stated that he was on the bridge and Lt. Casey was the OFficer of the Deck, however, he, Crowley, had the Conn.  This is significant because the Conn, or control of the engines and rudder, is usually the job of the Junior Officer of the Deck, in this case, Al Jacobson.  Technically speaking, Crowley revealed in that moment that he was unnecesary on the bridge, since there was an Officer of the Deck (OOD) Casey, and Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD), Jacobson.  However, since the Captain is ultimately responsible for his boat, and this was going to be a tricky passage, it wasn’t considered that unusual that Crowley was on deck.  His having the Conn meant that he was responsible for the speed and directino of the boat, not Jacobson.  It’s quite possible that Crowley took the Conn because Jacobson was several feet away from the OOD and the Bridge hatch, through which he could talk to the Navigator, Liddell, whereas, Captain Crowley was sitting just over the bridge hatch and next to the OOD.

He was then asked how many lookouts he had posted.  He had four officers, two forward, two aft, on the bridge, four enlisted lookouts overhead in the periscope shears, the navigator and quartermaster were in the Conning Tower not Control Room (one floor below), on operator on the battle station radar, another radar tracking operator, someone on soundgear and Sonar (same station), and the radar detector was manned.

He named those one each level, though, when it came to the conning tower, not who was at what station.  Those who survived would report their own positions, and a few would report on someone else’s position, though they did not do so unless asked.

The four men on the periscope shears were Wes Miller, Earl Baumgart, Gerald Madeo, and Eugene Heller.  On the Bridge with Crowley were Casey (OOD), Jacobson, (JOOD), Lt Bill Reynolds, and Ens. Phil Mayer.  Inside the Conning Tower manning the various pieces of technology were Lt. Liddell (navigator), Lt. Paul Knapp, Art Howell, Don Tremaine, James Dello Russo, and Charles Pope.   Earl Hudson was Chief of the Watch in the Control Room beneath.

And so now we have the set up.  Looking at the line up of those who were on duty the moment Flier went down there are some interesting items.

They were officer heavy.  According to Jacobson, Ens. Beahr was on duty at the maptable in the Control Room, leaving only Ens. Miner unaccounted for.  With nearly half of the officers exposed outside and the rest in the center of the ship, Crowley was running the risk that a good gun battle could make an ensign or a lieutenant the CO of Flier in case of a shore gun attack, which was possible.  If something happened to pierce the skin of the Conning Tower and straife the deck, the men in the Control Room could, potentially, dive, sealing off the Conning Tower, drowning all within.  It had happened before, (on other boats) and the men were trained to do it if necessary.

Next up, the other Flier crewmemebers, who are currently waiting in the passage outside the improvised courtroom, give their accounts of that night.

Investigation

The Book, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Sep 15 2010

In light of the fact that the trial was quite long and easily bogged down, and I’m in the midst of a bunch of family stuff that cannot be put off, we will no longer be following the Flier on the 66th anniversary.  The Board of Investigation into the loss of Flier and Robalo began on Thursday, September 14, 1944, and continued to Saturday, September 16.  A day or so later, the men started their journeys back to the US where they were going to be debriefed, thoroughly interviewed by the press (though with strict guidlelines about what could and could not be said, leading to some interesting news articles), then each to 30 days leave with his family then back to service, whether aboard Submarines or not would be up to the men.

While all this was going on, and before the men were allowed to write many letters home, the news of Flier’s demise was slowly leaking out.  Like the service today, the Navy wanted to wait  until they had informed the family members (by letter or telegraph) before the official announcement, but the fact that there were survivors of the Flier lead to articles saying most or all of the crew had been saved, leading to some crushed hopes for many people stateside.

Since this story will now become so complex, I’ll be spacing things out a bit for a few weeks.  I hope you’ll find it interesting, but it takes the pressure off of me to stay on timeline and allows me to NOT write mini-novels every day for the next two weeks.  We’ll catch up and start doing some more stuff again soon.

Oh, by the way, The “Look Inside” thing is up one my book at Amazon.com, so you can check it out.  The Kindle version will be coming soon (provided I don’t shoot Adobe InDesign).

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog entry…The men reported to the “courtroom” such as it was, aboard Submarine Tender Eurayle.

The last time Captain Crowley had faced a panal of people questioning his ability to command the Flier, he acted as his own defense attorney.  This time, he opted for representation and requested Commander Charles “Herb” Andrews, commanding officer of USS Gurnard who had pulled into Fremantle at about the same time the Flier’s had returned.  He had also been “recruited” into this position less than 12 hours before, so this was going to be interesting for him.

Admiral Christie, likewise, opted for counsel and requested George Patterson to stand with him.

The first morning was a lot of preliminary items.  Crowley confirmed that he was the Commanding Officer at the time Flier was lost.  Admiral Christie confirmed that he was the person who assigned Flier and Robalo the routes they took.

Admiral Christie was the first one in the hot seat.  He was thoroughly questioned by Admiral Daubin about how and why submarines were routed to their various posts from Fremantle.   The reasons why various submarines were routed the ways they were routed were really complex. Even the phases of the moon were taken into account (because the phases could impact depths of water and strengths of tides during various points in the phases) when planning submarine routes.  No submarine could travel with another, no route could become a beaten path lest the enemy start to patrol more often.

Balabac, as it came out during the trial, was fairly well traveled, and had been crossed over 40 times in the 18 or so months since Christie commanded Fremantle.  (about 2-3 times a month)  During the investigation, Christie even referenced the fact that since the first suspicions that Balabac might be mined back in February, the Crevalle (three times), Tinosa, Puffer, Ray Bluefish, Bonefish, Roblalo (during her last completed patrol)and Lapon had all safely crossed Balabac and, as a matter of fact, the route Crevalle used when she crossed it in 8 May 1944 was given to BOTH Flier and Robalo to help them get through the strait (the route is listed point by point in the records).

With the loss of the Flier on the heels of the suspected loss of the Robalo, Balabac was ordered closed until further notice.

Christie also listed the reasons why each submarine was routed through the various places and the disadvantages to each when the decision so send this boat this way and that boat that way were made.  How depths and currents made some places unminable but more traffiked and patrolled.  How Balabac strait could be crossed through a number of channels:  Middle, Main, Lumbucan and Natsubata, but only Natsubata could not be mined in the deep water routes, which is why all submarine captains were recommended to cross there.  It was well known that the water in Natsubata was over 100 fathoms (600 feet) deep everywhere, though a strong cross current was also there, pushing submarines west.

Next up, was Captain Crowley, and we start learning more about what all happened that night…

REDFIN!

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Aug 31 2010

Hey everyone, if I can get 64 more people to visit this site before midnight tonight, that’ll be 4,000 visits this month, a record, and quite a nice one, wouldn’t you agree?

Back to the story.

Midnight passed, and the moon rose higher, causing the people in the kumpit to fear the maru might see them if they were really looking.  Howell kept working the CW Keying on the small radio, and Russo kept flickering the flashlight out into the night, though less enthusiastically than two hours before.

Suddenly Howell, checking his cry of success, told Russo to stop signaling, Redfin saw them!

They heard her before they saw her, she was steaming on the surface from out at sea.  Austin, on deck, ordered Redfin to reverse just before they came up on them to stop the giant steel sub from knocking over these small wooden boats.  They lowered the deck to just above the surface of the water, and Al was so eager to get onboard that he forgot his formal Navy manners and didn’t ask permission to board, just grabbed the first Redfin’s hand that reached for him and scrambled on board.  Of was 0043 (or 12: 43 am) August 31, 1944.  The Flier’s ordeal was over, after 18 days.

Everyone was quickly brought on board, including Mrs. Edwards, embarrassed to be seen without her carefully kept shoes.  Every pair except her best had long since rotted away in the humid environment.  She kept her best pair in their box so she would not have to be rescued, if rescue ever came, barefoot…only to discover, as Redfin approached, that a couple of years barefoot in the Philippine jungle caused her feet to swell so much her shoes would not fit!

Alastair was amazed to be on board a real submarine, though Heather, by most accounts, watched silently from her mother’s arms.

Redfin’s CO had news for everyone too:  faced with Americans needing evacuation, Redfin received orders two hours before to grab the evacuees and head straight for Darwin, Australia, the nearest Allied port, and not to attack anyone or reveal themselves in any way between now and then.

So when the Coastwatchers asked for a few donations (the Redfin agreed during Crowley and Austin’s radio interview the night before to giving a gallon of lubricating oil for the kumpit) the Redfins turned over everything that wasn’t needed for survival for seven days.  The list of things given is really amazing:

(2) .30-caliber Browning Automatic Rifles

(2) .30-caliber machine guns

(2) .45 caliber Thompson Machine Guns

(4) Springfield .30 caliber rifles

(10) .45 caliber Colt Pistols

(3) .30 Caliber M-1 Carbine Rifles

20,000 rounds of  .30 caliber ammo

3,000 rounds of .45 caliber ammo

2,800 rounds of .30 caliber ammo for the carbines

Writing Paper

Pencils

Typewriter Ribbons

(3) Bags medical supplies including sulpha drugs, quinine and atrabrine to fight malaria

Flour

Yeast

Coffee

Canned Fruits and Vegetables

200 cartons cigarettes (it was 1944, lots of people smoked)

Playing Cards

Diesel Oil

Sulpheric Acid

Radio Tubes

Toilet Paper

Soap

And that’s just the list from the official inventory.  According to the Redfins, the men gave some of their change of clothes and one even handed over his pair of 9-1/2 shoes for Mr. Edwards when he heard Mr. Edwards had none.

If the Japanese feared Brooke’s Point before, they would doubly now, since Coastwatchers and guerrillas were well armed, had real ammo, and were well fed, entertained, clothed and shod.  This list, I think, shows something else: how little these people had been operating with for years.  It really makes their story just as amazing as the survivors.

That Japanese ship just sat there though.  Captain Austin,  who was shocked to see Palacido, who he had dropped off two months earlier a hundred miles south, suggested that his men might need some deck gun practice.  If he did, would Palacido  be sure to be responsible and clean the beach of any and all supplies and capture any men who washed up?

Palacido eagerly agreed, and the men left on the kumpits, now heavily laden with the equivalent of four years of Christmas.

The refugees were hustled downstairs and the civilians were quickly assigned cabins where they were required to stay unless they were escorted by a member of the crew to the head or the Mess.  It may sound cruel, but it was a necessary step to ensure everyone’s safety in case of trouble.  Civilians would not be rushing around, getting in the way of crew members who would be trying to help.

George, Charlie and Red, despite being military, were also confined to cabins, since they were not qualified by the Sub School to be on a submarine.

Only the Fliers were permitted some freedom, though it was limited since they had no duty stations, the three Flier officers were not going to be part of the decision making of this crew, and at most, they were free to throw themselves in any unoccupied bunk to try and rest.

Redfin soon shuddered under the  thunder of her three deck guns.  The first flash blinded the gunners themselves, who had to rely on the directions given by the lookouts overhead.

The Maru, now in danger, quickly picked up her anchor and headed south,hugging the the coast all the way.  She must have had a very shallow draft, since she glided over coral reefs Austin didn’t dare send Redfin into, or even shoot a torpedo at (they had a tendency to blow up coral reefs ather than ships over coral reefs)

It was over, the Redfin turned her nose south west, heading away from Flier’s last route through Makassar, and away from Flier’s last position.  Of the eight men who would forever remember their shipmates, only one would ever see those islands again.

And Captain Crowley, once again through no fault of his own, faced investigation into the loss of his boat.  The same boat.

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.

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

Robalo’s last known position, and Redfin’s unexpected return

Uncategorized, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 02 2010

Two things occurred today that impact our story, and neither of them involve Flier. She’s still puttering her way south, in the neighborhood of Exmouth Gulf, though she’ll skip re-fueling and just head strait for Fremantle.

Also today, the condition of Torpedoman Pluta on the Redfin is serious enough that HQ ordered the Redfin to terminate her patrol early, and make for Darwin using the Sibutu Passage head SE and exit the war area east of Timor Island.  Apparently, there was no one else near enough to take him aboard, so they had to head for the nearest Allied medical facility, which happened to be 1,600 miles away, as the crow flies.  Poor Pluta.  It was going to be a hard five day run.

The Solid Green line indicates Robalo's prjected path based on the three known points at which she was seen or detected using radar, plus her last reported position. Everything from here on out will be dotted, meaning, conjectured. Some of her track will be guessed at based partially on Flier's orders and Crevalle's path through the strait. The dotted yellow line is the rough path that Redfin has just been ordered to take to get Pluta to Darwin. Good thing they'll remember it, it'll come in handy before they know it.

Most importantly, today is the last transmission from the Robalo, revealing her location.  Her orders were to take Lombok, Makkasar, to the Celebes Sea to Balabac Straits (the same route Captain Crowley would be given in a month).  She radioed her position, as you see above, just off the eastern coast of Borneo, having just spotted a 3-ship convoy made up of a battleship and two destroyers with air cover.

What happens to her from this point forward will be mostly conjecture.  Until someone finds her wreck, we may not know what happened.  For all we know, the convoy that she just reported (and I cannot find any reference saying that she intended to attack said convoy) found her and took her out right there near Borneo, though the evidence strongly suggests she at least made it to Balabac.  If she stayed on schedule, she would have reached it within 24 hours from this point.

Flier’s Final Bite

Uncategorized, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 25 2010

Flier has been busy patrolling the entrance to Manila Harbor for the past two weeks.  Since the plans to invade the Philippines were well underway (though, as far as most of the military was concerned it was just scuttlebutt, which, as usual, turned out to be right) the Navy needed their submarines in strategic positions to watch the traffic, since they had to know where any minefields might be, and to attack convoys, in order to strike fear into the hearts of the enemy.

By this time in WWII, the submarines, which comprised less than 2% of the Navy in terms of number of personnel involved, had had a devastating effect on the Japanese.  As of the end of June, 1944, the submarines had destroyed 712 freighters, warships and submarines, totaling 3,109,998 tons.  (By the end of the war, they would have taken 1,1150.5 ships totaling 4,850,624 tons.)  In 1943, the Wahoo snuck  into the Sea of Japan, which was supposedly impregnable, and destroyed ships in there, scaring the Japanese military and government.

Now Flier lurked outside the entrance to Manila harbor, merrily tracking convoys that went in and out.  It was a dangerous mission, partially because convoys going to Manila had no problems using up their entire inventory of depth charges on sub hunting because they could get more just a few miles away. After a week an a half of this, they moved off to the south, heading to the Sulu Sea.

Flier at this point had reached her patrol area, and was going back and forth, covering as many traffic lanes as she could. If she could attack, she did, but she was also supposed to track convoys for other submarines, find out what was going on and reporting on the strength of the Japanese installations if she could. Good luck following that red line. It took me a while to draw it.

It was here, late on the 22nd of June, that Flier ran across a nice large convoy, and their final victim.  It was  a large convoy of nearly nine freighters and six escorts.  They were traveling slowly enough that Crowley decided an end-around attack starting at night was going to be their best bet.

They sped ahead, and settled in their quarry’s path.  For whatever reason, they were not zig-zagging as radically as usual, and were traveling four miles from the shore.  The forward escorts whipped past Flier, who sitting low in the waves.  It was just past a new moon, and the slender crescent had already set, so Flier was all but invisible.

She took aim and fired six bow torpedoes at the first two ships in the closer cloumn, nailing both twice.  They dropped out of formation and made for the beach, even as their sterns started sinking beneath the waves.  The ships behind them scattered, trying to avoid both their sinking comrades, and getting out of the way of the hidden submarine.  As cruel as it sounds, they were not about to hang around and try to help the stricken ships and their crews, not as long as the submarine was still in the area.  Thankfully, they were near an island a short swim away, but that would be true even in the certain death of open ocean.

The escorts meanwhile, roared to the vicinity dropping depth charges in their wakes, which Al Jacobson found rather funny, since Flier was surfaced, not submerged, and the only way the depth charges would have worked would have been if one landed on the deck (and even not then).  Some even passed close to the stern, not seeing their quarry.

It was too dark to see the ships they’d crippled, since there were no fires, and the lights had gone out, but sonar called up saying the ship had disappeared from radar.  The lookouts scoured the area, but couldn’t see the further ship either.  There were two possibilities: she had gone down, or she had sucessfully beached herself, and Radar couldn’t distinguish her from the bulk of the island.  Only dawn would be able to tell the difference.

Flier had eight torpedoes left: four  in her bow and four in her stern, so Crowley decided to try again on the same convoy, and raced around them for another end-around.  An hour later, in the early hours of the 23rd, , they were in position again, only a few miles from the first attack.  A couple of the escorts remained to guard the cripple, but the rest were on high alert.  Flier repeated her trick, floating in the waves passively as the escorts passed, then, getting bearings from the bridge, and using Radar to establish range, Crowley fired the last four bow torpedoes at the two lead ships, or so he thought.

Al, watching from the aft bridge, counted down the time to detonation, then…nothing.  Four duds.  Earlier in the war, that had been disturbingly common, but those problems were fairly well fixed by now.

The convoy's approximate path is in the white.

Suddenly, there were two flashes and the stern of the second ship lit up, and the bow of the THIRD ship was hit.  Turned out, Crowley was giving coordinates of the first two ships, but Radar was giving the ranges of the CLOSEST ships.  The lead ship of the convoy was saved by a stroke of luck and miscommunication.

Flier turned around, ready to fire her last four torpedoes in her stern at the third ship which, while damaged, was not bad enough to sink, when the escorts started racing around.  This time, whether by sheer chance or design, they were going to run Flier over, and there was no time to get deep enough to pass under the escort, and certainly not enough to evade the depth charges they were sure to drop.

Captain asked Liddell for the coordinates widest gap between the escorts, and moments later, Flier’s four engines went to full speed, and she whipped between two of the escorts, all but waving as she passed by.  Larger, slower, and clumped together, the escorts were unable to safely fire deck guns, or drop depth charges, even if they did see Flier, or turn to pursue.  Crowley decided the escorts were too alerted now to try again for the large pack, but decided they would maybe re-visit the victim of their first attack.  As they retreated south, Jacobson watched the shp that took two torpedoes sink beneath the waves.  One more for Flier.

The escorts that were guarding the dead-in-the-water victim were on high alert.  Whatever she was carrying must be valuable to keep guarding a dead ship that would normally be abandoned.  Crowley approached from the north, but the escorts were running Sonar and Radar sweeps constantly, and heard them coming.  Flier retreated, and circled around to the south.  Same thing.  They approached submerged, and were found.  Crowley was about to try slipping between two of the escorts, like he had earlier, when their victim suddenly capsized, and sank quickly.

Two more for Flier.

The escorts, unable to help, ran for the remainder of their convoy.  Crowley called up the Jack, which had taken Flier’s place guarding the entrance to Manila Harbor, to tell him about that convoy.  Jack managed to destroy two more.  Of the nine freighters that Flier had seen, only four or five were able to make it to Manila.

Flier was unable to figure out what happened to their ship that was hit, and then vanished off the Radar screens.  She was only able to claim the two, and had to run south to keep up on their schedule.

Four ships in one patrol.  By now, it was almost unheard of. Flier was quickly shaking off her jinxed label.