Posts Tagged ‘Kimball Graham’

Tracking the Flier and her new victim

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

Today, sixty-six years ago, the Robalos have reported back to duty aboard the Robalo.  This is when the Navy would remove some of the experienced hands to be reassigned to new boats, submarine repair ships, or back to the US for a new submarine construction.  Two men at least were removed:  John Wayne Philpot, MoMM1c who transferred to USS Hammerhead, and Jerome Cole Wareheim, who transferred to the Guitarro.  I don’t know how many men transferred aboard Robalo, but one name I do have:  Kimball Elwood Graham, formerly of USS Redfin. They will start their training runs in preparation for their third patrol.

Redfin, having dropped off her Special Mission at Ramos Island, is patrolling the southern Sulu Sea and already has seen some action.  On the 11th, she damaged a tanker, and took 6 depth charges from her escort, but didn’t sink her.  On the 13th, they sighted two convoys, both large and well armed.  The morning convoy was made up of two heavy cruisers, four destroyers and a torpedo boat.  The afternoon convoy was immense.  It was made up of 6 Aircraft Carriers, 4 Battleships, 5 Heavy Cruisers, 1 Light Cruiser and 2 Destroyers.   The usual course for convoys was to zig-zag along their way to make it more difficult for submarines to target them, but both these convoys were very far away and steering a very radical, erratic course, so the Redfin could not catch up nor calculate their course with enough accuracy to race ahead of them for an end-around attack.  Some of the crew were somewhat relieved since, with that many heavy warships, they were sure to receive a thorough pounding.  The Redfin radioed the convoy’s position in, and later discovered that these ships were on their way to the Marianas, and took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea five days later.

It's a bit tangled to try and follow, especially now that the submarines have reached some of their patrol areas, meaning they moved back and forth within a prescribed zone looking for traffic to report or attack.

Today, Flier is emerging from her second scrape with a convoy and heading down around the southern coast of Luzon Island.  On the afternoon of June 13, 1944, Flier spotted a convoy headed straight for them.  They were coming on strong with little zig or zag to their course, and as it ended up, one column of the convoy passed in front of their bow, and the other passed her stern.  It was a near-perfect setup to fire a quick spread of ten torpedoes and head for the deep.

Except while the convoy was coming, Flier’s stern planes failed, likely causing her to lost control of her depth for several minutes.  Here they are in the path of a major convoy and they can’t even keep her level.  Under depth charge attack, if they couldn’t keep her under control she could easily slip below her crushs depth and implode.

After several minutes, they fixed the stern planes just in enough time to target the two lead ships crossing their bow.  They fired a spread of four torpedoes from the stern, then swung the periscope around to discover the lead ship was passing in less than 300 feet away from the bow, so close that Flier herself would be caught in the concussion if she attempted to launch torpedoes, so started to re-aim for the next ships.  Two explosions from the first wave went off, and heard two hits off their first wave.  It was going to be a successful trip.

Suddenly, an order was mis-heard and Flier was “ducked” and the periscope went beneath the water.  The Sonar heard the escorts converging on the Flier, and the men abandoned the attack and dove deep.  It was  a heavily armed convoy, headed for Manila and spared no punishment.  For five hours, Flier was pounded with over one hundred depth charges, a record at that point.  Since Flier had been patrolling down the coast of Luzon, they were effectively pinned between the escorts and freighters on the sea-side and the coast on the other.

They became creative.  The Escorts would pound a few depth charges, then pull away to run their active sonar and find them.  Once they figured out where Flier was hiding, they ran at the spot and dropped several more depth charges.

But surface ships have a dead zone for their sonar, that extended all the way around their ship a could of hundred feet.  The moment the escorts’ engines started up and converged on Flier, the wash from their engines and the dead zone created an opportunity for Flier to dash beneath or between her hunters and run to safety, then stop, and wait for the escorts to find them again.  Itw as a dangerous game of cat and mouse that Flier played to the limits of her ability.  Al Jacobson records that at one point they were so close to their hunters passing overhead that they could clearly hear the swish of the propellors as they shook Flier as they passed just feet overhead.

It was miserable inside the Flier.  They were conserving all of their energy for the engines and shsut off the air conditioning.  In the warm, tropical waters, Flier quickly heated, and water condensed on every metal surface of the Flier and the men broke out in heavy sweats in a futile effort to cool themselves off.

After five hours, the escorts herded their charges south to Manila and Flier was unable to keep up, so they surfaced to re-start the battery charges.

Al reports that they had been trapped underwater for so long that when he opened the bridge hatch and stepped out into the fresh air, the air actually smelled bad!

One more ship added to Flier’s count.  Three ships in a patrol was becoming a rare feat in 1944.  Crowley and his crew were rapidly redeeming Flier’s reputation.

* As a side note, following the war, this sunken ship was not given to Flier’s score.  Flier’s account and the Japanese records did not match sufficiently enough to give her the credit.  There were many reasons for why this happened, and maybe I’ll go through them at another time.

Trading Crews

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

Between patrols, submarine crews were usually re-organized a bit.

After Sub School, the potential submariners were shipped to their new boat or new station, wherever it was located:  Goton CT, Manitowoc WI, Mare Island, CA, Honolulu HI, Brisbane Australia, Fremantle Australia, Midway Island.  Then, when a submarine was scheduled to leave, as much as 1/3 of a crew would be reassigned.  Experienced hands would be pulled off to man new submarines under construction, to man shore stations for a while (a type of mental rest, working for a few months on submarines (usually repair, cleaning between patrols, ect.) without the stress of the enemy hunting you) or man another sub scheduled to go on patrol.  The open places were usually occupied by men straight out of Sub School or experienced hands that were expected to learn or experience another submarine and its command structure and culture.

After Sub School, and once they were assigned to a submarine, a non-qualified submariner (often called a “non-qual”) had a year to finish qualification on board a practicing submarine.  Unlike surface ships where a radioman was expected to know a radio and a baker to bake, and a gunner to man the weapons systems, a submarine radioman, in addition to knowing the radio, had to know EVERY other system on the submarine.  Same with the baker or the gunner crews.  The cook had better know how to fire a torpedo and repair the engines, and the enginemen (MotorMacs) and Torpedomen had to know how to make coffee and use the kitchen if necessary.

The reasoning was simple:  a submarine crew is small and often works in remote areas where the nearest friendly ship may be days away.  If something happened that wiped out a portion of the crew, permanently or temporarily, the rest of the crew had to be able to take over and man every system in an emergency,  including repairs if necessary.

On the Redfin, after Commander Austin came aboard, the traditional crew shuffle took place.  It was only a few people for two reasons:  1.) the submarine itself was only on its second patrol and the crew was still learning to work together and 2.) with a new commanding officer, the crew needed to have as little disturbance as possible.

One of the men who was detached from the Redfin at this point though, was Kimball Elwood Graham.  Where he was immediately reassigned is unknown, but he will come back into play later.

On another note, 68 years ago yesterday, the USS PERCH went on eternal patrol.  Commissioned in 1936, she was one of the older submarines in the fleet during the war.  She was in Cavite Bay when the Japanese bombed the submarine base, and scouted and patrolled the area while the submarine base began its long flight south.  Damaged in a severe depth charge attack on March 1, Perch‘s crew tried for three days to repair her while dodging and diving to avoid other enemy destroyers.  On March 4, with two cruisers and three destroyers closing in to attack, and the Perch unable to dive, her captain, David Albert Hurt, knowing that despite her age, Perch was a valuable trophy if captured, ordered “Abandon Ship, Scuttle the Boat”.  And sank his boat.  The entire crew was captured and remained POWs for the remainder of the war, six dying in captivity.

Strangely, Perch was not done yet.  On November 23 (Thanksgiving Day) 2003, the Perch was discovered by a team of divers who were looking for the wreck of the HMS Exeter which was sunk on March 1, 1942 (the same day Perch was severely damaged).  They found a large object on the bottom of the ocean, and went down to check, and found the Perch, sitting upright.  Unlike the Flier, whose wreck was authenticated by the Navy, Perch’s remains have not been authenticated, but the strange thing is the evidence is fairly conclusive.

See, prior to WWII, all submarines had a brass plaque affixed to their fairwater with the name of the submarine attached.  After Pearl, these were removed and, on new constructions, placed inside the subs.  Perch was never in port long enough to have hers removed, so the divers found it still attached to the side of the boat: “USS Perch: United States Submarine”.  By pure chance, Perch became the fourth submarine discovered since WWII, and the only one to be found by accident.

For more information, please see On Eternal Patrol’s page on USS Perch

All photos of the wreck are copyrighted, and can be viewed here.