Posts Tagged ‘Midway’

Play Catch Up and The Herring Greets Eternity

Lost Subs, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 01 2010

So after Memorial Day Weekend, it’s time to play catch up with our three submarines.

The Robalo has safely made it into Fremantle Harbor sometime around May 30, and so now her crew would be on R&R while the relief crews and repair crews try to fix everything on the damaged list.

Redfin is only a day away from Lombok Strait on her way to her third patrol, and carrying the eight Signal Servicemen, bound for behind the lines reconnaissance work.  On the 30 of May, 1944, they spent the day next to Exmouth Gulf practicing getting these men and the massive amounts of gear off the Redfin, onto rubber rafts, and to shore.

Flier, of course, is still in the middle of nowhere, making her way west towards the battle fields.  She passed north of Wake Island, still occupied by Japanese forces, though due to the continuing advance of the Allies, the Japanese soldiers occupying the island were starting to starve.  American pilots would bomb the island occasionally, (in fact, a young pilot named George Herbert Walker Bush, bombed Wake Island during one of his first runs) but they were otherwise left alone.  All American military and civilians were gone from Wake now: some had been taken to POW camps elsewhere, and the 98 remaining civilians were executed in October 1943.  All American naval vessels steered clear of Wake, and she was slowly starving into submission.

As the Redfin and Flier are setting out on their patrols, and Robalo is taking her break, the Herring scored her last two kills and slipped into Eternal Patrol.

A Gato-class submarine built in Kittery Maine, Herring was one of the few boats who spent time in the Atlantic as well as the Pacific. For her first five patrols her homeport was Rosneath Scotland, where she first patrolled off Casablanca, Morocco in preparation for Operation Torch, the code name for the invasion of North Africa.  She later patrolled Icelandic waters and reported two kills, including a U-Boat (that was later not credited to her).

This photo, taken in Scotland around December 7, 1942, shows the Submarine Tender Beaver and two of her six sub charges. The six submarines stationed in Scotland at the time were the Herring, Barb, Blackfish, Shad, Gunnel and Gurnard. From navsource.org

Afterwards, she reported to the Pacific where she took down two ships on her sixth patrol and none on her seventh.

It was her eighth patrol, made with her Scottish mate USS Barb, which would be her most successful and fatal.  She left Pearl, re-fueled at Midway, and was assigned to patrol the Kurile Islands, which is string of islands trailing from Russia to northern Japan.  On May 31, according to the War Patrol Reports of USS Barb, (Pg. 155) they rendezvoused and decided to split the  patrol areas, Barb traveling the south and east way, and Herring taking the north and western islands, including Matsuwa Island.

She was never heard from again.

Post war records reveal that the night before seeing Barb, Herring sank two ships, the Hokuyo Maru, and the Ishigaki. In taking out the Ishigaki, Herring avenged her sister sub S-44, which the Ishigaki sank nearly eight months earlier.  After her meeting with the Barb, Herring found two ships at anchor, the Hiburi Maru and the Iwaki Maru, and promptly sank them.  This action cost her her life, since the sinking ships attracted the attention of the shore guns, which sank Herring, taking her eighty-three member crew with her.

USS Herring taken after her overhaul at Mare Island October 1943.

She has not been found.

Incidentally, Herring was assigned to Midway for overhaul between her sixth and seventh patrols, and she arrived there on January 8, 1944.  She was there when Flier grounded, when Macaw grounded and during the whole time the crew at Midway pried Flier free.  Even stranger, just as Flier lost a crewman to drowning, (James Cahl, on January 16) ,one of Herring’s crew, Louis Jones, also drowned at Midway on January 26, just three days after Flier was towed away.

She also had a connection with another lost ship, the Scorpion. According to Herring’s War Patrol Report, (page 96) one of Scorpion’s crew broke his arm and Scorpion requested a rendezvous and transfer of this man since they were heading out on patrol and Herring was nearby and returning.  The transfer was attempted, but the January seas made it impossible.  Since the arm appeared to be healing, the transfer was canceled, and the two submarines went on their way.  Scorpion was never seen again, and there are no Japanese records that hint at her possible fate.  What happened to her and where is a complete mystery, but the Herring was the last to see her.

An interesting article about the loss of the Herring. Note: a number of the links in the article are now disabled.

Flier’s Midway Damage

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 02 2010

I promised I’d post something showing just how badly Flier was damaged during her grounding at Midway Island, January 1944, and so here we go.

As far as I can tell, there are no photographs of the damage, it’s possible they were not taken, equally possible they were later destroyed or lost in the shuffle  (which anyone who works in archives or records keeping can tell you, misfiling a record is a good as destroying it.)

Red indicates major damage, yellow moderate damage, blue the engines and cooling systems clogged with coral sand. Original diagram taken from navsource.org, Submarine Archives, USS Gato submarine.

Above, this is a basic cutaway of a Gato-class submarine such as Flier.  Major damage was done to the Flat Keel, Vertical Keel and Bilge Keel, most of which doesn’t appear above.  What this means:  the entire bottom of the submarine had been bashed beyond use.  You can see the bilge keel on the above diagram, the red stripe just beneath the cutaway, so imagine Flier being dented and destroyed from bilge keel to bilge keel.  Significant segments of the outer hull plating on the sides (and probably towards the stern, since the stern took the lion’s share of the beating) were also destroyed.  So Flier essentially had her entire skin removed and replaced.

Admittedly, some of this damage HAD to be repaired at Pearl Harbor:  the engines and cooling systems had to be cleaned out of the coral sand that was clogging them, and the propellers replaced and the rudder and shafts restored so she could make the run.

But the delicate instruments, the liquidometer (sub speak for gas gauge) and fathometer (which tells you how deep the water is beneath you) and most troubling, the damage to the hull frames and ballast tanks was going to require a nearly entire rebuild.

Flier's sister sub, Silversides, under construction at Mare Island. Notice the circular construction of the submarine. These are the hull frames, which would keep the submarine from imploding on itself in deep depths. In many ways, they are like the ribs of a submarine. Since Flier's hull frames were damaged, they would have to be replaced.

Above you can clearly see the hull frames on the submarine Silversides, early in her construction.

Here, red indicates the major damage to the ballast tanks, and yellow the moderate damage to the hull frames. Not all the ballast tanks or hull frames were necessarily damaged, but my resources don't list the specific ballast tanks or frames that were. What is highlighted are frames and main ballast tanks that might have been damaged.

It was truly a massive amount of damage. A few submarines were retired rather than repaired if the damage was bad enough, but since Flier was a brand new submarine, and every submarine was needed at the war’s front, she was overhauled and quickly turned back out.

On a new front, while reading the transcripts of the investigation , I discovered that only four officers were left on the Flier when she was put back into commission after her repairs: Crowley and Liddell as CO and XO, Lt. John Edward Casey, Torpedo Officer, and Ensign Herbert (Teddy) Baehr, Asst. Engineering Officer.  All the rest, Jacobson, Paul Knappe, Bill Reynolds, Herb Monor, and likely one other, were assigned to Flier now, and would report around the 15th of April.  Why one more?  Because we know one more officer was assigned to Flier at Fremantle, so it’s more than possible that one was removed at Fremantle to make room for him, but his name is not known (at least to me).

But most of this is behind Flier finally.  She’s brand new again, better in fact, for anytime a submarine was taken to Mare for a scheduled overhaul (or emergency overhaul in this case) all her technology was updated to the latest available.   No doubt all her crew were anxious to take her to sea and earn her stripes.

And my apologies to anyone who got excited reading the former title of this post and thinking I was revealing Flier’s fatal damage that sent her to the bottom of Balabac.  I have not seen a wreck survey or photographs and would only post that with permission if I had.  My apologies.

The Unsung Heroes of the Submarine Service:The Submarine Tender

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 05 2010

One question I was frequently asked when I worked at the Silversides was “Why are submarines “boats” and other ships “ships”?

Make no mistake, subs are boats, not ships, and if you call a sub a ship in a submariner’s hearing, they are sure to correct you, maybe gently, maybe humorously, but they WILL correct you.

If any water vessel is deployed from a larger vessel, the smaller vessel is called a boat and the larger vessel is a ship.  The very earliest submarines were often unable to operate for long distances, so if they needed to be transported long distances, they were hauled aboard a large ship, hence the original term “boat” for a submarine stuck around long after submarines were capable of going places large surface ships couldn’t manage.

An example of the initial ship-boat relationship. This is the USS Caesar, transporting submarines to the Philippines from Virginia 1908-1909. The two subs on board are either Shark and Porpoise (SS-8 and SS-7) which would date the photo to April-June 1908 or Adder and Moccasin (SS-3 and SS-5) which would date the photo to July-October 1909.

This symbiotic relationship soon lead to a subset of the Submarine Force:  The Submarine Tender.  Foot for foot, the submarine is the most complex piece of equipment in the Navy, and needs experienced technicians to repair and maintain them.  Early sub were used for coastal defenses, and had little to no room for provisions, bunks, or living space, so crews would come back at the end of the day.  As submarines moved about, the ships on which they were moved became the homes for the submarine crews and the base from which repairs were made, provisions were acquired, and eventually, these type of “mother ships” evolved into a new ship class within the Navy:  The Submarine Tender.

These ships were traveling submarine bases.  Provided the boat didn’t need to be dry-docked, the submarine tender could repair, re-load, restock, refuel,  replace personnel, and send the submarine back out.  The Submarine Tender could drop anchor and turn any port into a submarine base in a matter of hours to days, and after Pearl Harbor, these ships became the front lines of the war in many ways.  As the Allies pushed further into the Pacific and took back territory, a submarine tender could be sent in to a newly liberated area and create a submarine base days closer to the front, shaving days off a patrol and turn-around time between sub patrols.

It was the Submarine Tender Holland that pulled up stakes and raced south to Fremantle, establishing a new base.  By the time Redfin dropped anchor there two years and a half years later, two sub tenders, the Orion and the Griffen were the heart of the US Submarine Base.  Other submarine tenders established or enhanced bases at  Pearl Harbor, Brisbane, Midway Island, Guam, Saipan, Majuro Atoll, Marianas Islands, Dutch Harbor Alaska,  and more.

WWII was probably the Golden Age of the submarine tender.  Between training, salvage, repair, and tending duties, 28 tenders served, and 4 were lost.  A submarine tender, Pigeon, was the first naval vessel to earn the Presidential Unit Citation for towing and saving the submarine Seadragon from her burning warf during the Japanese bombing of Cavite Bay.  Pigeon won a second one a few days later.  Another tender, Canopus, feigned being an abandoned hulk off the coast of the Philippines during the Japanese invasion, while repairing and reprovisioning submarines by night.  She was later scuttled to keep her out of enemy hands after the surrender of Bataan.  The Orlotan helped raise and repair ships in Pearl Harbor and then helped salvage Japanese submarines off Guadalcanal.

As technology advanced, submarines became more self-reliant, and when repairs beyond the submarine’s crew were needed, they could be accomplished in port or in dry-dock.  There are only two submarine tenders left in the Navy’s arsenal, USS Emory S. Land, and USS Frank Cable, both are over 30 years old, and have no replacements planned.

The USS Orion in a photo dated September 1944, likely at Mios Woendi. Here you see the "Mother Ship" configuration with her nest of submarines which she was tending.

in 1944, the Orion was the tender that re-fitted the Redfin and Flier as they sat next to each other before Flier’s last patrol, and Griffen could have repaired the Redfin and Robalo.  Without these ships, submarines would have been more limited and more vulnerable.

For more information about Submarine Tenders, check out A Tender Tale:

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.

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.

http://www.ussflierproject.com/book-excerpts/midway/

If you don’t want to leave a comment publicly, please feel free to e-mail me at ussflierproject@gmail.com

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,

http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/maritime/expeditions/uss_macaw.html

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.

Career in Crosshairs

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

Originally Posted February 2, 2010

Sixty-six years ago this week, Captain John Crowley of USS Flier was facing one of the worst and likely most humiliating events of his life. His career hung on a thread, and he probably thought that his career as a wartime captain was over.

It wasn’t the first time a submarine had grounded at Midway. But the results had not been good for a commanding officer. On 13 August, 1943, almost exactly five months earlier, the USS Scorpion, which had been training near Midway for her third patrol, grounded on the reef. It took five hours and one tugboat to remove her, and that short period of time damaged enough of the hull and ballast tanks that Scorpion was forced to return to Pearl Harbor for repairs. Scorpion’s Commanding Officer and Executive Officer were both relieved of command.

Flier had been grounded for six days. Her grounding had lead directly to the grounding of the six-month old Macaw (and since Macaw was still hard aground, Crowley faced the possibility he would be held partially responsible for her eventual loss if she could not be recovered). One of his crewmen had died. It didn’t look good.

The Official Board of Investigation (one step down from a Court Martial) was convened on the Submarine Tender Bushnell on February 1. The first day, the convening officers visited Flier, now high and dry in the drydocks at Pearl Harbor. The tally was immense, and Flier looked like she’d been worked over by a severe attack. Major damage had been sustained to the flat keel, vertical keel and bilge keels, as well as the rudder, port strut, port propeller shaft, both propellers and the main ballast tanks. Moderate damage was sustained to the hull frames, tank bulkheads, stern torpedo tubes, reduction gears, liquidometer, and fathometer. In addition, the saltwater cooling system to the engines was thoroughly clogged with coral dust.

Flier could float, but that was about it. Her props couldn’t turn, she couldn’t shoot stern torpedoes, she couldn’t measure the depth of the water around her, her engines could start, but would quickly overheat, and her internal frames which would keep her from collapsing in on herself in deep water were compromised.

Final cost of repairs: $312,000, (nearly 11% of her original build cost!) and Flier would have to be shipped to California–she was too damaged to fix at Pearl.

It was going to be a long few days.

Sixty-Six Years Ago…the Jinx Begins

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

Originally Posted on January 30, 2010

Sixty Six years ago today, the USS Flier, towed by the Submarine rescue ship USS Florikan, and guarded by two escort ships, was towed back to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Her hull was smashed and dented, though it did hold water.  Her shafts and propellers were so damaged they couldn’t turn and leaked.   Unable to dive, unable to run, she had been hauled back to Pearl under guard, destined for either the dry dock or scrap heap, her commanding officer’s career on the line after only three months in command, and the whispers began to pick up pace…

“She’s a jinxed boat…”

Eighteen days earlier, Flier left Pearl for her first war patrol in the Pacific.  Like many ships and subs, she was supposed to stop at Midway Island to top off her fuel.  The canal into Midway was tricky, and incoming vessels always took on an experienced pilot/navigator from Midway who helped guide the ship in.

Flier
arrived during one of the worst winter storms on record.  It was too dangerous to transfer the pilot from the waiting tugboat, so the tug turned and signaled Flier to follow.  Flier’s Captain, John D. Crowley, took Flier in slowly and carefully, determined to thread the canal.  What he didn’t know is there was a strong cross current, and unless you took it fast enough, you’d be thrown to the side.

Flier got caught, and the storm whipped waves threw her further up the coral reef that ringed Midway.  The tug got back to base, and sent out the USS Macaw, Midway’s brand-new submarine rescue ship to help them off.  But soon she too, was aground.  Trying to drop the anchor so Flier wouldn’t go any higher on the reef, two men were washed overboard, and another dove in after his buddy.

A week later, the storm blew over.  Word reached them that one of the men who had been swept overboard, Clyde Gerber, and the man who went in after him, George Banchero, were in the hospital.  The other man swept overboard, James Francis Peder Cahl, had been found washed up on shore, dead, and had already been buried at sea.  Sadly, he was one of the few married men on board.

It took the Florikan, the original tug that tried to guide them in, and a floating crane to free Flier from her perch, but no amount of lift would budge the Macaw.  To add insult to injury, on the way back, another winter storm hit the Flier and Florikan, and snapped the tow line, leaving Flier at the mercy of the waves for hours.

Three months old, she limped back to Pearl sixty-six years ago today.  She had already been fired at by a friendly ship who mistook her for a U-Boat, had been torn up on a coral reef, lost a crewmember, and still had yet to see war.  The whispers began…is she jinxed?

Some men said they could tell if a sub was lucky or not.  It might not have helped that the wounded Flier likely passed or moored near the USS Silversides who was resupplying in Pearl Harbor between her infamous patrols.  Her nickname was “The Lucky Boat”, and she still floats today, a museum ship.

But Flier only had eight months left.