Posts Tagged ‘Sutherlands’


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


Typewriter Ribbons

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




Canned Fruits and Vegetables

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

Playing Cards

Diesel Oil

Sulpheric Acid

Radio Tubes

Toilet Paper


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.

Enemy Surprise

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Aug 30 2010

It was the morning of departure.  After Captain Austin and Captain Crowley finalized the last steps to evacuation the message went out to the local people:  if you’re coming, you have 12 hours to get rid of your possessions and report to the base.

The Coastwatchers, of course, were staying.  All of them being on Filipino descent, they at least LOOKED the part, even if they could not speak the language in a tight corner.

Despite being American and having two daughters attending college in the US, Mr. Edwards and his wife and youngest daughter decided to stay too.  Mrs. Edwards, being local to the area, could rely on her family and people to hide her husband if necessary, and the Edwards felt that they could still do a lot of good for the people of the Brooke’s Point area.

The Sutherlands reported to the clearing early in the morning.  Alastair Sutherland was agog that his prayers had come true so precisely, and they were about to go on a submarine.  George, Red and Charlie were ready, as was Henry Garretson, as well as a new member of the party.

He was tall and thin, and likely spoke with an Scandinavian accent.  his name was Vens Taivo Kierson, born in Finland, emigrated with his family to the northwest US when he was about 15, and now experienced world traveler.  He actually left school to become a topper for a lumber company that felled trees for Boeing to build their plane frames.  When aircraft manufacturers started to build frames from steel rather than lumber, he learned to salvage dive and moved to Alaska.  He received a huge bonus from one of his clients when he recovered something from a recent shipwreck which enabled him to tour the Pacific.  Soon, he began working salvage in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and the Philippines.  He fought the Japanese during the (what is now known as) First Battle of Shanghai in 1932, helped the Philippine Army until the invasion of Manila and was Garretson’s partner in the salvage of the SS Panay. Why had the Fliers not seen him before now?

He had been conducting a scouting and trading mission around the island.  A couple of months earlier, a Japanese ship grounded.  The crew got off, but couldn’t take any of the cargo with them.  Kierson salvaged pretty much everything that could be carried off  the ship before the official salvage team could get there.  This haul of rifles, medicine, money, liquor, food stuffs, paper, charts and more was a godsend, and Keirson set off on a tour of the island, gathering intelligence, trading the goods for other needed items and checking in with the local guerrilla factions.

He had one other talent: transforming Japanese mines into ammunition.

Japanese mines of the time period were designed to deactivate if they came loose from their chains and floated to the surface.  This was obviously because a floating mine was dangerous to everyone, friend or foe.  Occasionally, one of these loose mines would come to rest on the beaches of Palawan.  Using a technique he’d invented and developed on Negros, Kierson would dismatle the thing to get at the black powder charge which he would put in the empty ammo shells and top with small, carefully selected and shaped pebbles for bullets, thus keeping the guerrillas on Palawan in ammunition after the official stuff had long since be used up.  It was more than tricky work, and those mines, as it turned out, rarely deactivated when they popped up on the surface, so deactivating the mines was a tricky and dangerous business.

He taught the guerrillas everything he knew, and now, with an opportunity to escape, the guerrillas were insisting that Kierson leave for his own protection.

Eight Fliers, the four Sutherlands, Charlie, Red, George, Garretson and Kierson…seventeen extra people  on an already crowded boat, and more than half unqualified and/or civilians, on patrol for who knows how long.  If Redfin had been assigned a similar length of patrol as Flier, they still had about three or four weeks left.

After breakfast, the group set off for the beach, the Flier’s feet now healed enough that most of them walked a good distance down the mountain.

But an ugly surprise waited for them:  that morning, a Japanese shipping vessel dropped anchor offshore, less than a mile from the planned rendezvous point.  Even more eerie, no one could see any sailors on the decks or pilothouse, it was as if she was abandoned.

Had they been found out?  Was the Maru waiting for Redfin to show herself before blowing them all away?  Was she bait for the rest of the convoy, lying in wait somewhere out of sight?

No one knew, but the three officers of Flier had to make a decision.  If the maru didn’t move by nightfall, would they try to make for the rendezvous point anyway, hoping the maru would miss them in the darkness?  Should they skip the attempt tonight and hope the maru would move during the night or next day and they can try again the following night on the backup date?

In the end, the officers decided to ask the civilians if they would be willing to risk the trip tonight, keeping the small boats further away from the maru and the rendezvous point than previously planned, and using the radio Howell fixed to call Redfin, since there was no way they could safely hang the lanterns in the lighthouse for the “all safe” signal to get Redfin to show herself.    The civilians quickly agreed to try that night.

After sunset, and farewells for a bunch of people who likely would never see each other again, the small crafts took off.   They headed south before looping west in a great arc, keeping a safe distance from the maru.  Howell kept calling with the radio, trying to raise the Redfin, then trying CW Keying (a variation on telegraph) in case there was something wrong.

After an hour of trying to raise the Redfin, Howell suddenly heard a staticy message.  Redfin couldn’t see them, and the CW Keying was coming through more clearly.  Howell abandoned the voice radio to concentrate on the CW Keying, while Russo grabbed a flashlight (some accounts say a shuttered lantern) and began to signal to the Redfin with it.

An hour passed, then another.  It was now midnight.  There was no sign of the Redfin, and no sign of life from the strange maru anchored too closely for comfort.