Posts Tagged ‘Marshall Austin’

USS Flier, USS Redfin and the Memorial Ceremony

Memorial Ceremony, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Aug 05 2010

Well, today, USS Flier is on her way to the war.  Not much else to say about that, at least, not today.

Meanwhile, USS Redfin is in the training stage for her fourth patrol.  They took a break on August 4 to award several commendations earned by Redfin’s Captain and her crew (even if some months late).  Cmdr. Austin was awarded a Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy.”  Ens. Eugene Helz was awarded the Silver Star for heroism for being the volunteer leader of a landing party on an enemy held coast.  Kenneth Herrington was also awarded a Silver Star for his part in that rescue.

That’s all for sixty-six years ago.  Today, we have news about the Memorial Service.  The Navy has announced the Keynote Speaker she is sending, as well as another official guest.

The Keynote Speaker is Rear Admiral Michael J. Yurina, Deputy Director of the Submarine Security and Technology Submarine Warfare Division.  According to his Navy bio, he’s done just about everything in the Submarine Force, serving on nucs (the diesels were REALLY rare by the time he graduated the Academy in 1978), a Submarine Tender, and many shore stations, culminating with several command posts.  In addition, he holds a Bachelor’s degree in Naval Architecture, plus a Master’s in Public Administration and A Master’s of Science in National Resource Strategy.

The Navy is also sending Command Master Chief Kirk Saunders, and if my search is correct, he is the Command Master Chief of Submarine Squadron Eleven based out of San Diego, California.

It’s only a week left!

Here’s a link to Flier’s webpage showing photos of both men.

Foreshadowing Flier’s Final Rendezvous–Concluded

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 22 2010

We set up yesterday’s account of the Redfin’s last stop on her second patrol, will come back to haunt her later in August.

But quickly, 66 years ago today, Flier is, Guess where?  Yup, still doing exercises and tweaks at the shipyard.   She has a week left to find and fix anything and everything her crew’s hearts desires.  (Add an ice cream machine…)

Robalo (green) has passed through the Sibutu Strait, with Redfin on her heels a few hours later, and has actually just finishing transiting the Balabac Strait.

Robalo (green) has just finished safely crossing Balabac Straits, one of several submarines which will do so between now and August 13, when Flier will sink. Redfin has reached her rescue rendezvous point, which will have disasterous effects. Map from Google Earth, positions gleaned from War Patrol reports for USS Robalo and USS Redfin from hnsa.org

The Redfin, (yellow) has arrived at their classified location, Dent Haven, Borneo.  She’s been ordered to pick up six British nationals (refugees or intellegence agents, depending on the source used).  They were supposed to send a specific signal (probably a pattern of blinking lights) to the Redfin, and Redfin would blink a specfic signal back to confirm they were the rescuing vessel.  Once all identities were confirmed, Redfin was going to send four crewmen to shore in a rubber raft, (the water near shore was far too shallow to allow Redfin to approach much closer than a half-mile) grab the refugees, paddle back and head for home.

It started perfectly.  The signal from shore blinked, Redfin responded, and four men, George Carinder, Robert Kahler, Kenneth Harrington, all lead by Ensign Eugene Helz, set out on thier raft.  The currents and winds pushed the raft north, and they landed a distance away from where they had planned on.  Helz noticed several lights, and decided to re-signal just to be safe, since it was known the Japanese were in the area.  The reply was garbled, so he re-signaled, and recieved the correct reply.

They decided to proceed with the rescue.  Helz got out of the raft with Carinder covering him, leaving Kahler and Harrington behind, and called for the Brits to come out to meet them.   No one responded, and thinking that perhaps, they landed a bit north for the refugees to hear him, Kahler and Carinder proceeded down the beach.

Suddenly, a Japanese soldier ran out from the trees behind them, and attacked.  Carinder parryed the blows the soldier was raining down, but didn’t dare shoot because the raft was directly behind him.

Harrington grabbed the machine gun in the raft, and ran to his crewmates and killed the soldier as soon as he could make sure his crewmates would not be hit. 

But more Japanese were now shooting from the trees, where the Americans could not aim properly.  The three sailors ran for the raft and shoved off, figuring that that British subjects, if they ever existed, were dead or in hiding.  They were going to have to row for the Redfin, a half-mile away, fighing the currents and the winds that had already pushed them north, all the while dodging the rifle shots, and praying the Japanese did not have any larger bore shore guns or cannons hidden in the trees.

Back aboard the Redfin, Captain Austin faced a difficult decision.  Submarines were the secret weapons of the Navy, and his number one priority was to make sure his submarine was not captured, and he had to keep the safety of his crew in mind as well.

The rescue had been compromised, that was obvious, but the question he had to ask was, was this attack an attack of opportunity, and these soldiers had just stumbled on an American submarine close to shore and decided to take advantage, or had this been a trap from the beginning, and a Japanese submarine, or destroyer or something was nearby ready to take them and his boat all prisoners?  The water wasn’t even deep enough to safely sink Redfin to keep her out of enemy hands if worse came to worse.

One of his options included abandoning his men to their fates, and leaving, protecting the rest of his men and his boat. 

As long as the water remained free of any other ships, Captain Austin decided to stay and rescue his men if he could.  It took hours, but eventually, all four made it back to the Redfin, and Austin quickly fled the area, abandoning any more rescue attempts, and reported what happened to Fremantle.

POSTCRIPT:  As it turned out, this was more an attack of opportunity.  On June 8, the Harder was sent to the same point, and sucessfully picked up the British men.

Meet the Redfin

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

As promised, we’re going to have to leave the Flier up on blocks for a couple of months, but the threads of the amazing story of the Flier are already coming together, and from an omniscient point of view, we can start exploring them.

In my book, things are told from Al Jacobson’s point of view, so some information is limited, and some really amazing things I discovered cannot be told at all, but here, we can explore some of those fascinating facts together.

Leaving the San Francisco Bay area, we fly halfway across the 1944 globe to Perth and Fremantle, Australia, the second largest Allied Submarine Base in the Pacific Theater.  It was probably also one of the most popular places to be stationed between patrols as well.  I’ll explain later.  Maybe tomorrow.

The USS Redfin as she appeared around 1944. From www.navsource.org

66 years ago today, the sailors aboard the USS REDFIN, dressed in their dress whites, attended an ancient ceremony called “Change of Command”.  REDFIN’s commanding officer for her first patrol, Cdr. Robert D. King, handed the REDFIN over to her new commanding officer, Marshall H. Austin, who would command REDFIN’s next four patrols.

The Change of Command Ceremony is ancient.  The heart of the ceremony is simple: the new commander announcing “I relieve you sir” and the former commanding officer responds, “I am relieved”.  But surrounding this simplicity is much pomp and circumstance.  The entire crew is present, wearing the formal uniforms appropriate for the time of year and climate.  They all stand at attention while the official orders coming from the assigning authorities announces the new commander’s name.

The American Change of Command Ceremony has no real regulations, and is loosely descended from the British Admiralty Change of Command as it existed around the time of the Revolution.  That ceremony has existed for centuries and probably could trace its roots back to ancient navies.  The reason the entire crew is present when the new orders are read comes from a time when mail could take months to get from one place to another, but proved to the crew that the new commanding officer was indeed assigned their vessel and was not attempting a mutiny or some such thing.  The formality supposedly conveys the deep respect the officers and crew have for one another, their departing commander and the incoming commander.

Marshall Austin was born in Oklahoma, the fifth of seven children.  In a time where a person had to pay tuition in high school, Austin worked for a dollar a day to pay for tuition and also for a prep school to help him get in the Naval Academy.  He graduated from there in 1935, and joined the submarine service in 1940.  He was in the Philippines on December 7, 1941.  His wife, interestingly enough, was in Honolulu heavily pregnant with their first child.

During his time in the Naval Academy, Austin was in a vocal quartet.  That fact alone might have saved the Flier’s lives, as you will later see.

He remained CO of the REDFIN until January 1945, during which time the REDFIN sank six enemy ships, when she was handed over to REDFIN’s plankowner XO Charles Miller.  For his war service, Austin was awarded a Bronze Star, two Silver Stars and a Navy Cross.

Austin would serve in the Navy for 16 more years, eventually attaining the rank of Captain, and becoming CO of the Naval Submarine School in New London.  One of his students was a young man named Jimmy Carter.  He found another line of work after filling his military contract.

After his retirement, he became a consultant on Hollywood submarine shows, traveled extensively, attended a number of REDFIN reunions, and generally enjoyed life.

He passed on in 2005 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

But in 1944, he was probably excited about his first command, and began the flurry of paperwork that always accompanies command.  Men being removed off REDFIN and replaced with others, the loading of stores, the daily training runs, getting ready for the new patrol, and settling into his new role.

Soon, an emergency would attract his total attention.  But first, the ROBALO has to come into port.