Posts Tagged ‘Michael Sturma’

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.


Career in Crosshairs Concluded

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 07 2010

Flier’s whereabouts sixty-six years ago today are unknown…where she was depends on which records you believe.

It’s one of the interesting things about history: despite it being “over and done” what we “know” happened sometimes changes depending on what records and/or memories we depend on.

According to the book: “USS Flier: Death and Survival on a WWII Submarine” by Michael Sturma (from where I got most of my information about Crowley’s Board of Investigation, by the way)  Crowley’s Board of Investigation concluded on the 7th (today) and gave its verdict on the 8th, (tomorrow) and the Flier left Pearl Harbor for the States shortly thereafter. Those dates were found in the Naval Proceedings records held at the Judge Advocate General.

According to Flier’s own War Patrol Report Prologue however, she left Pearl on the 7th, which means that the Board of Investigation had to have concluded and given its verdict before Flier left.

Regardless of when it concluded and Flier was permitted to leave Pearl for  Vallejo, California, the finding of the Board was this:  Crowley was responsible for his boat grounding, but it was not due to culpable negligence.  He would be allowed to continue to command the Flier.

But for now, she had to be taken back to the States for major repairs at the largest submarine yard on the West Coast: Mare Island in Vallejo (just northeast of San Francisco).  Thankfully, the waters between Pearl and California were fairly secure, and heavily trafficked and patrolled, so it was unlikely to hide any Japanese ships or subs (later discovered to be untrue, but that was unknown at the time).   Flier was sent without an escort.

She limped out of harbor so badly dented and damaged people onshore must have wondered what kind of amazing story she had to tell if only her crew would be permitted.

It wasn’t one they were likely to repeat even if they had been allowed.

The book

The Book | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 04 2010

In the very first post, I mentioned that the exhibit was coming with a book.  In the case of which came first, the exhibit or the book, the answer is definitely the book.

I first heard about Al Jacobson in April of 2005.  I had just started working at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum, when the secretary of the board and the executive director came to me and asked me if I would be willing to transcribe/make minutes of the last three months of board meetings.  After two hours of frantic typing (I love veterans, I really do, but they can get off on tangents so fast, and then they have to top one another!) they reached the end of the agenda and had to select two replacements for two members whose tenures were up and poor health was preventing their return.

One of the veterans said he knew two men who might be interested, and one of them was Al Jacobson, and proceeded to give a thirty second summary of what happened to him.

I remember thinking, “WOW!  I have got to talk to this guy for our oral history project!”  I mentioned that to our executive director, Bob,  who was going to talk to Al in a few days, and he said he’d bring it up.  Two days later, he calls me in his office and says while Al was quite busy at the moment, he gave Bob the account of the Flier that he’d written to give to me.  It was amazing to go through that simple account, and I wanted to read more.  I was shocked to discover that while there were dozens of submarine books on the market, including several each about the Harder, Wahoo, Tang and Growler, there was no book about the Flier at all.

I instantly thought, “I wonder if I could write it…” and just as quickly dismissed the idea.  I had been writing “books” since I was in 9th grade, but usually by the time I finished, I couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculous things I written.  If I actually thought it was good, I put it away for six months or so, then re-read it, always to shrieks of laughter.

But the idea wouldn’t leave me.  I started to do every bit of research I could on the Flier.  Flier’s account was summerized in several large compendiums, and I was able to discover various facts behind these short narratives.  The more I learned, the more questions I came up with and wanted to know.

So I decided to give it a try.  The worst thing that could happen was I failed to finish.  At least working from a real story, I couldn’t write myself into a ridiculous, melodramatic corner.  I started to talk to Al about the Flier, and interviewed him on the phone and on tape.   I started giving an “elevator speech” version of the story while I lead tours of Flier’s sister USS Silversides, and got a ton of people asking where could they buy the book, so I knew there was the interest.

The first draft was finally finished in 2007.  It had taken two years of research and there were some large holes in the narrative, where I had been unable to find enough records to satisfy my accuracy standards.  Sometimes, I had accidentally make Al sound like a girl (my husband would point this out, usually after laughing) but it was done, and I intended to start editing it while looking for a publisher.

But things kept getting in the way.  We had to move out of state, away from the museum.  The museum, which had been intending on doing an exhibit about the Flier, put that on the back burner to concentrate on the capital campaign for the new (now current) building.  My husband and I had our first child, I was working evenings at my alma mater as their Archivist in order to make enough money to pay down debts we had built up while my hubby had been out of work (the museum had not been full time employment for me).  The worst blow of all, (at least to me) was a book on the Flier WAS published, and a part of me wanted to give up.  Who was going to listen to an untried author in the face of a WWII scholar?

Occasionally, I would go through and edit the book, and sometimes made headway on it.  It was different from the Sturma book on Flier, since mine was a novel written from Al’s point of view rather than a pure non-fiction.  Sometimes, I realized I was enjoying the story again for its own merits, and thought, ‘Why not?’ After all, if the Wahoo and Tang can have multiple books written about them, there was no law that there cannot be two written about the Flier.

Then Al died.  The last survivor was gone, and I hadn’t finished soon enough to let him see it in print.  I felt incredibly guilty and depressed, and then, more determined than ever to finish.

Things started to fall into place.  The records I needed in the National Archives either were posted online or arrived weeks after I stopped looking for them.  The museum got a new executive director who was interested in the Flier story and the exhibit and project were tentatively put back on schedule, and I no longer had writer’s block.  Then the exhibit got green lighted, publicity was hinted at, and now the Flier has been found.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll start posting excerpts from the book and let you know how things are going.  We’re going to self-publish at least to begin with because no one will take a manuscript from here to published as fast as we need it done, but that’s all right by me.  Still, getting the book to print and the exhibit up in time could be really… interesting.