Posts Tagged ‘USS Crevalle’

Investigation

The Book, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Sep 15 2010

In light of the fact that the trial was quite long and easily bogged down, and I’m in the midst of a bunch of family stuff that cannot be put off, we will no longer be following the Flier on the 66th anniversary.  The Board of Investigation into the loss of Flier and Robalo began on Thursday, September 14, 1944, and continued to Saturday, September 16.  A day or so later, the men started their journeys back to the US where they were going to be debriefed, thoroughly interviewed by the press (though with strict guidlelines about what could and could not be said, leading to some interesting news articles), then each to 30 days leave with his family then back to service, whether aboard Submarines or not would be up to the men.

While all this was going on, and before the men were allowed to write many letters home, the news of Flier’s demise was slowly leaking out.  Like the service today, the Navy wanted to wait  until they had informed the family members (by letter or telegraph) before the official announcement, but the fact that there were survivors of the Flier lead to articles saying most or all of the crew had been saved, leading to some crushed hopes for many people stateside.

Since this story will now become so complex, I’ll be spacing things out a bit for a few weeks.  I hope you’ll find it interesting, but it takes the pressure off of me to stay on timeline and allows me to NOT write mini-novels every day for the next two weeks.  We’ll catch up and start doing some more stuff again soon.

Oh, by the way, The “Look Inside” thing is up one my book at Amazon.com, so you can check it out.  The Kindle version will be coming soon (provided I don’t shoot Adobe InDesign).

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog entry…The men reported to the “courtroom” such as it was, aboard Submarine Tender Eurayle.

The last time Captain Crowley had faced a panal of people questioning his ability to command the Flier, he acted as his own defense attorney.  This time, he opted for representation and requested Commander Charles “Herb” Andrews, commanding officer of USS Gurnard who had pulled into Fremantle at about the same time the Flier’s had returned.  He had also been “recruited” into this position less than 12 hours before, so this was going to be interesting for him.

Admiral Christie, likewise, opted for counsel and requested George Patterson to stand with him.

The first morning was a lot of preliminary items.  Crowley confirmed that he was the Commanding Officer at the time Flier was lost.  Admiral Christie confirmed that he was the person who assigned Flier and Robalo the routes they took.

Admiral Christie was the first one in the hot seat.  He was thoroughly questioned by Admiral Daubin about how and why submarines were routed to their various posts from Fremantle.   The reasons why various submarines were routed the ways they were routed were really complex. Even the phases of the moon were taken into account (because the phases could impact depths of water and strengths of tides during various points in the phases) when planning submarine routes.  No submarine could travel with another, no route could become a beaten path lest the enemy start to patrol more often.

Balabac, as it came out during the trial, was fairly well traveled, and had been crossed over 40 times in the 18 or so months since Christie commanded Fremantle.  (about 2-3 times a month)  During the investigation, Christie even referenced the fact that since the first suspicions that Balabac might be mined back in February, the Crevalle (three times), Tinosa, Puffer, Ray Bluefish, Bonefish, Roblalo (during her last completed patrol)and Lapon had all safely crossed Balabac and, as a matter of fact, the route Crevalle used when she crossed it in 8 May 1944 was given to BOTH Flier and Robalo to help them get through the strait (the route is listed point by point in the records).

With the loss of the Flier on the heels of the suspected loss of the Robalo, Balabac was ordered closed until further notice.

Christie also listed the reasons why each submarine was routed through the various places and the disadvantages to each when the decision so send this boat this way and that boat that way were made.  How depths and currents made some places unminable but more traffiked and patrolled.  How Balabac strait could be crossed through a number of channels:  Middle, Main, Lumbucan and Natsubata, but only Natsubata could not be mined in the deep water routes, which is why all submarine captains were recommended to cross there.  It was well known that the water in Natsubata was over 100 fathoms (600 feet) deep everywhere, though a strong cross current was also there, pushing submarines west.

Next up, was Captain Crowley, and we start learning more about what all happened that night…

The Crevalle’s Last Transit through Balabac

And now for something completely different..., Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 21 2010

Sorry about the long wait.  One of my little ones has been quite sick and fussy, and as much as I enjoy this project, my kids come first, as is natural.

I’ll take this moment to say that I may be a bit sporadic over the next few days.  The final revisions of the book is due in ten days, and I’m making some changes based on some things I’ve found recently.  I’ll do my best, but if it seems like I’m shorter and less detailed than normal, that’s why.

I wrote last that I would talk about about the Crevalle’s last transit of Balabac Straits, which happened on May 8, 1944.  This is an important transit because when the Flier was ordered to go through Balabac at top speed, the Navy also sent detailed route that the Crevalle supposedly used.  There were no orders attached to this route, and according to the investigation, Admiral Christie and his staff included this information only as a helpful guide to get through, since, whenever Crevalle took soundings during the transit, it was over 100 fathoms deep, which was considered too deep for Japanese sea mines. (They were wrong, but that’s another story.)

So what happened?

Well, since Flier was lost, there had to be an investigation, and a lot of interesting things came out, which I was able to read about.  (You can too, if you like.  Just go to pg. 60 for the Investigation’s transcript).  For one thing, the Navy recorded in the transcripts the exact directions they gave as derived from Crevalle’s passing.  I could bore you with the whole thing, but why bother when I can plot it out on a map.

In this map, the track of the Crevalle on May 8 is in bright blue. The track of the Flier is in the customary red. Where that track ends in the lower left-hand corner is approximately where Flier was heading for on her last night. Had she suceeded, she would have been there a 2:30 am on the morning of 14 August

Now, during the investigation, Captain Crowley gave several reasons as to why they chose not to use that path.  To begin with, Crevalle approached from further north than Flier, and they had to get through the Strait more quickly than diverting that far north would have allowed.  Secondly, Crevalle passed much more closely to Roughton Reef than Crowley was comfortable with. Unlike modern charts, the charts there men were working with had few, if any soundings.  Roughton Reefs was a known hazard, but Comiran wasn’t as much.   Since Crowley wanted more space between his boat and the reef, and also wanted as much sea space around him as possible to give him the greatest amount of maneuvering room in case of small fishing or patrol vessels, he and his navigator Jim Liddell plotted a course closer to Comiran.  For safety, they would take continuous soundings so they could stay in the deep water.   Once past Comiran Island, they would meet up with the Crevalle’s track for the rest of the passage.  After all, the most dangerous part of the passage was still to come: passing down the coast of Balabac and beyond the southern tip.

Flier never made the conjunction with the Crevalle’s track.  She went down too early.  Just before she hit the mine, she took a sounding of 42 fathoms deep, too shallow for comfort.

It is just as likely that Flier hit a floating mine as well as a tethered mine, and that even if Flier had diverted enough to follow Crevalle’s track to the nth degree, she still might have hit a rogue mine.  As Al was to find out, those were quite common in this area.

Still, as I did research to find out what Crevalle was doing when she crossed the Balabac Straits, I found out a couple of interesting things:

1.) The directions the Navy gave Flier made it sound like Crevalle was crossing Balabac heading west like Flier, but she wasn’t: she was heading east on a special mission.

2.) So I had to work my way back through the directions cross-referencing the few indications in the Crevalle’s war patrol reports of her route through Balabac I discovered that the directions were not translated exactly: for example, at one point, Crevalle traveled due north, or 0 degrees True.  The correct translation of that if going in the opposite direction would be head 180 degrees True, or due south. The directions the Navy gave the Flier, however, record they should head 184 degrees true, or slightly west of south, not due south.

3.) Crevalle also went through the night of a full moon. Flier went though during a waning crescent.  The significance might not be much, but tides are stronger during the full and new phases of the moon, and depending on the tides when Crevalle passed near Roughton Reef, that tide might have been purchased Crevalle a few more feet of clearance than Flier would have.

Does all this nit picking really make a difference though?  Well, not really, since we’re discussing history, and sadly, no matter what we do, nothing will bring the Flier and her crew back.  If it was mine,  especially if is was a rogue mine, then there was no fault on anyone’s head, just bad luck.

But I found those instances quite fascinating and helped me figure out why the decisions to go through Balabac where they did were made.

Incidentally, Crevalle was never supposed to go though that strait.  On 6 May, her CO was called and informed that due to a very pressing rescue mission, her patrol was being terminated early, and she was being re-routed to Negros Island to pick up some refugees and some papers.  There were only supposed to be 25 refugees, but they ended up taking 40, and the package of Japanese papers.

Those papers held the Z Plan, the plan to eliminate the Allied Navy once and for all.  They had washed up onshore of a neighboring island after the plane that was carrying those plans crashed into the sea.  The story of how these plans were collected, given to the Crevalle, then RETURNED, is really quite fascinating.  It ended up being one of the greatest intelligence coups of WWII.  Enjoy!

Location Location…

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
May 27 2010

They’re all on the move today.

Flier is back on the map again (remember she didn’t exist yesterday?) and in the middle of nowhere making for the southern tip of the island of Formosa (now known as Taiwan) where she’ll curve south and patrol along the western shores of Luzon Island in the Philippines (the Philippines looks a bit like a sitting wolf howling at Taiwan.  Luzon would be the wolf’s head, and Palawan would be the foreleg with the Balabac Straits just below the paw.)  Nothing else happened today.  The most interesting thing that happened, according to  both the war patrol report and the deck log, was the daily battery charge.

Robalo is returning from her most recent patrol, her crew looking forward to a well deserved break, and their ship needing a lot of repairs still.  She’s going to pass Exmouth Gulf since she doesn’t need the extra fuel to get all the way back to Fremantle.   She’d been out for 51 days and, despite dealing with major handicaps in terms of broken systems needing constant repairs, she’d managed to do her duty, stalk several convoys, fire twenty of her twenty-four torpedoes and claimed the destruction of one tanker.  (Sadly, this was not awarded to her by JANAC (Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee ) after the war, so officially, Robalo has no kills to her record.)  Once in Fremantle though, she had  a six-page laundry list of major repairs that needed to be done.  Just the major repairs, never mind a few little tweaks here and there.

Redfin, accompanied by the Harder, has left Fremantle and they are bound for Exmouth Gulf, training with each other in different tactics all the way.  They were escorted by the HMAS Adelaide.

What’s really interesting is all the surrounding boats coming and going out for Fremantle which give a glimpse at just how busy a port she was.

As usual, Redfin is the yellow and Robalo is the green. I decided all other submarines will be white for the purposes of these maps, though Harder will appear again in the story, if only obliquely.

From the War Patrol Reports alone of the Redfin and Robalo, we know the positions of Harder, Crevalle, Flasher and Angler, all of which were either coming to or leaving from Fremantle.  Strangely enough, though Redfin and Robalo are on track to pass each other and probably did on the 28th or 29th, they either didn’t see each other or didn’t record seeing each other.  (Redfin would make note of seeing Bonefish and Lapon over the next two days though, which adds another two submarines so the tally of boats in this general area at this time)

When you consider that Fremantle was one of two American Submarine Bases in Australia, and that Freo also served as base for British and Dutch submarines as well as a variety of battle and supply ships for those three countries, the sheer speed and insanity of that port must have been almost unbelievable.