Posts Tagged ‘USS Flier Wreck’

The Long Swim

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Aug 14 2010

Flier is gone, and fifteen souls were left in the oily water marking her grave.

Some were uninjured, blown almost free of the boat before they knew what happened to them.  Lt. John Edward Casey was blinded by hot oil in his face.  Lt. Reynolds had been hit in the side by something, he never knew what.  Some said they saw men get tangled in the guardrails, others said they thought other people had been right behind them.

Only one man made it up from the Control Room, and he was so badly wounded that he died a few minutes later.  His name was Edgar Hudson, and he had been COB of the Flier.

Edgar Walker Hudson

Edgar Hudson was originally from Nashville Tennessee, and was married with a child. The night Flier sank he was standing at the foot of the ladder to the Conning Tower.

It was an overcast night, and there was no way to get a fix on any direction.  The moon wouldn’t rise for five more hours, the sun long since set and the north star hidden behind a bank of storm clouds.  The land that Al Jacobson had seen moments before when he was on Flier’s deck moments before was now gone.  It was only water and clouds from horizon to horizon.

What to do?  They didn’t know what happened.  It could have been a submarine, or shore batteries or an internal explosion that had taken Flier down. If they stayed and it was an enemy vessel, they’d be coming any minute to check the area for wreckage or survivors.  If there was land on three sides of them, but only one large island.  If they passed the smaller islands or accidentally swam east into the open ocean, they’d doom themselves.

What happened next depends on which survivors account you believe.  Some say they decided to tread water for the five hours until the moon rose so they could get a fix on a direction.  Others claim that, since the storm that was building to the west was probably still in the west, they knew where north was, and then facing north, the waves slapped them on the left side, so they had a direction.

Where to go?  East was open sea, south was a tiny island only  a couple of miles away, but too easy to miss in the dark and the next land was over thirty miles away.  West was Balabac Island, a known Japanese stronghold that the survivors were not likley to elude capture.  To the north was a string of tiny islands which no one knew much about.  They were about twelve to fifteen miles away depending on the island, the furthest of the three choices.

They chose to go north, to face whatever might face them there.  They also made a rule: Every man for himself.  No one was to ask for help.

That didn’t stop some of the men from helping others.  Jacobson tried to help the blinded Lt. Casey several times, as did Art Howell.  Howell also tried to help Ensign Meyer.  But in the end, six more men, Casey, Reynolds, Meyer, Knapp, Madeo, and Pope drifted away and were not seen again.

The moon rose, then the sun, and they could see a small island ahead.  Hours later, a plane flew overhead, forcing them to dive underwater to avoid being seen by the enemy patrol.

Finally, at three thirty in the afternoon, they staggered onto the beach.  Their skin was severely burned, and their feet and ankles were slashed open on the coral reefs that surrounded the island.  Exhausted, they had enough energy to build a rough lean-to and sleep.  There were seven now, Miller disappeared just before dawn.

They were on their own.

John Edward Casey

Lt. John Edward Casey from Baltimore, Maryland

Paul Knapp

Lt. Paul Knapp, of San Francisco, California

Gerald Francesco Madeo

Fireman Gerald Madeo of Waterbury Connecticut

Charles DeWitt Pope

Chief Gunner's Mate Charles Pope, of Greensboro, North Carolina

William Laughlin Reynolds

Lt. William Reynolds, of Industry, Pennsylvania

Philip Stanley Mayer

Ensign Philip Mayer of Beverly Hills, California

More Exhibit things

Lost Subs, Memorial Ceremony, The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 21 2010

Well, one day closer to the memorial weekend, and if you need a hotel and haven’t gotten around to it yet, you might want to move.  In addition to the Holiday Inn, the museum also has some rooms at Shoreline Inn across the street. Depending on the room, both hotels have views of Muskegon Lake, and are within walking distance of the Frauenthal Theater, the Hackley and Hume Homes, Hackley Park, and LST-393 Museum (for another taste of WWII Naval History, this time, the European Theater!) plus a number of small independent stores and restaurants.   (Walking distance here being defined as within a mile)  My favorite food store in the whole world is only about a mile and a half away from those hotels too. Be careful if you visit, it’s ADDICTING.

I understand that the episode of Dive Detectives is beautiful and haunting,or at least, so I’m told.  The staff at the museum decided to run the movie completely through their system so they could get a replacement copy in time if there was a problem or glitch, and wouldn’t you know it, none of them seemed to have anything else to do while the test was running!  Some of you don’t know this, but I’m an independent contractor for the museum, and actually live about five hours away by car, so I haven’t seen it yet either!   AAArrghh!  But they said it was a beautiful film, very well done, so hopefully, we’ll all like it.

Here you see the scale depths of the five submarine wrecks discovered since 2005, as well as an overhead silhouette of a WWII-era submarine done to the same scale. (The triangles representing the wrecks are not to scale, but the depths are) All of these wrecks with the exception of the Grunion were explored using human divers.

One of the biggest problems they had in filming was the depth of the Flier herself.  Of the five submarines discovered since 2005, Flier is the deepest except for the Grunion.  She is, in fact, at the very edges to human endurance using SCUBA gear underwater.  For every dive aboard the Flier, which was three hours long, the divers were only able to take ten minutes on the Flier herself, so while they apparently did an amazing job filming, they were still limited to short takes and quick passes, since they had to document as quickly as they could.  If permission is granted later for a more thorough survey of the submarine, it would likely be done by ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) since they don’t have to take the precautions human divers do.

That being said, it is still, apparently, amazing.  If we weren’t down to one car now, I’d be half tempted to drive the 10-hour round trip to see it!

I’m finishing up the memorial booklet now.  I ended up doing the covers, Flier’s Story pages and the Flier’s crew page.  I finished everything except for the crew page, which is in the final stages right now.  (It’s really difficult to fit 79 men on two pages!) I hope everyone likes it, but you now know who to blame if you don’t!

As soon as this is done, I have to update some pages and work on the permanent exhibit layout.  Whew!  This is so going to be worth it!

Dive Detectives and the Flier Wreck

Memorial Ceremony | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 08 2010

I have an announcement about the Dive Detective show that everyone has been looking for in the US.

As most who have been following this show know, the documentary about the Flier’s discovery and wreck has been shown in Canada and the UK, but the distribution rights in the US are still being negotiated.

YAP Films, however, has graciously given one copy of the film to the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum for our guests to see.  The paperwork we had to sign dictates that this film will be used for show only, we may not copy, sell, distribute, or otherwise use it except to show it in our theater.

So for those who have been desperate to see the documentary, literally, the only place to see it in the United States for the foreseeable future, is the museum, and we will not be able to accommodate those who cannot come to our grounds to see it.  Sorry.

Hopefully, the distribution rights for this film will be settled soon and the Flier documentary will be shown in the US along with the other five episodes the Dive Detectives did.  (Though I’m nearly desperate to see the Flier episode, I’m also very interested their show in the Edmund Fitzgerald and the 1812 warships in Lake Erie, and the one about the Atom Bomb assembly island.)

But on August 13, 2010, if you are in Muskegon Michigan, you can watch the “Submarine Graveyard” episode of Dive Detectes.

Whether Mike and Warren Fletcher, the divers who found and filmed the Flier, will be there too, is still up in the air.  I’ll keep you posted.

Just a quick update…

Memorial Ceremony, The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 19 2010

Snatching a few moments just now to update all of you Flier watchers out there…

After a meeting yesterday, we have some details about the Flier ceremony and the temporary exhibit which we’ll put up in time for the ceremony, and the future permanent exhibit.

If you are planning on coming to the festivities that weekend and you need a place to stay, the museum has reserved 70 rooms at the Holiday Inn downtown for Flier families.  Just mention that you are part of the group.  Don’t wait to reserve your spot, since Muskegon is a tourist town, AND that weekend is the Unity Christian Music Festival, and the hotels are telling us they are expecting to be full that weekend shortly.  If you find that place is full, give me or the museum folks a ring and we can see if we can help you locate another museum or bed and breakfast nearby.

While the memorial ceremony at 11 am on Friday August 13 is open to the public, if you are attending the entire weekend, you will need to register.  All those Flier family members should have received their packets by now.  If you haven’t, let us know and we’ll get them to you.

Between time and financial constraints, the permanent Flier exhibit will not be ready in time, we’re so sorry.  Since it won’t be ready in time, we have opted to not start it during the summer, which is our busiest season.  We do, however, have a traveling exhibit area prepped and ready and will be putting together an exhibit there.  In a way, it’s better, since we’ll be posting more of the original work than we otherwise normally would.  Since these items will come down and go into storage later,  delicate objects that shouldn’t be out in the light for long CAN be put on display here for the temporary exhibit.

Weather permitting, the ceremony will take place on the deck of the Silversides, Flier’s sister, where we will read each man’s name and then ring the bell in their honor, while throwing a flower into the water.  When it’s done, Silversides is surrounded by a cloud of flowers, it’s really quite striking.  The Navy is sending someone to make the address, but who this person is has not been announced yet.  (According to an inside source, this person won’t be announced until about a month before the ceremony.)

For those who have been wanting to see the film about the finding of Flier’s wreck, a copy of it IS scheduled to come and debut during that day.   From what I’ve been told, the rights to the film in the USA are still in question because they are still working on signing with a distributer for the whole six-part series.  There WILL NOT be copies for sale (due to the above-mentioned reason), but it will be shown.  Since we’re expecting about 200 people for the ceremony and our theater only seats 72, we’ll be running it all day.

The future exhibit will be located on the second floor of museum and is currently planned to have a place to show the Dive Detectives documentary, as well as some interactive exhibits.  The location and size of the exhibit changed recently, which means I’m re-drawing what it will look like, so take the images on the “Exhibits” page with a grain of salt.

And finally, my book will also debut that weekend!  If you’ve been interested to read more of the Flier’s story, you’ll have the opportunity.

I’ll try to post later this afternoon about what Flier’s up to today, and some interesting information I discovered about the last time USS Crevalle crossed Balabac Straits.  Why does it matter?  Because the Navy gave the path Crevalle took through Balabac to the Flier to help them navigate safely through, but there were some interesting quirks about that path…

The Map

Lost Subs, The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 14 2010

I am looking at the most extraordinary nautical chart today.

Over the weekend, I visited with the Jacobson family, and one of the items they allowed me to borrow was a chart of the Balabac Straits.  This, on its own,  would be interesting enough, but thanks to both Al Jacobson’s son, and Jim Liddell’s son, this chart is extraordinary.

From what I have been able to find out, after the Flier survivors reached the States, they went home to their families then on to their new assignments.  With the exception of Cmdr. Crowley and Lt. Liddell who were stationed together on USS Irex and remained close friends after the military, the survivors lost contact with one another.

But in 1994, with the help of Dr. Elaine Foster who located all eight Flier Survivors, they decided to meet together at Cmdr. Crowley’s home in Baltimore.  Only Crowley, Liddell, Jacobson, Miller and Russo were able to make it.

It was in a video recording of that meeting that I first saw this chart.  Lt. Liddell’s son came with his father, and recorded as the men pinned this chart up on the wall in Cmdr. Crowley’s living room and talked about where they had gone down and where they had swum.

In 1944, Cmdr. Crowley had to guess where the Flier went down, and he guessed “Comiran Island bearing 190 degrees T at 6700 yards”.  That bearing put the location of the sinking at 7 degrees, 58 minutes, 45 seconds North Latitude and 117 degrees, 13 minutes, 10 seconds East Longitude.  I marked that position below.

Now, the men also debated whether they swam in a straight line to the islands ans even which islands they landed on.  During WWII, Crowley decided that they must have landed on Mantangule, which you can see above, but Al, after studying the maps, was more inclined to believe that they landed on Byan, the tiny speck of green to the left of Mantangule.

They debated this for a while, and decided that the sinking position was correct, though they did land on Byan, not Mantangule, and probably either swam around the Roughton Reefs in the current, or swam between them.

It was a fascinating bit of video to watch.

In 1998, Al decided he wanted to go back to that area in the Philippines and see the places he didn’t mean to pass through in 1944. While there, he took this same chart along with him, and traced the route that he took in visiting his old haunts.  I can follow his 1998 boat coming down the eastern side of Palawan, passing within photo distance of Cape Baliluyan (where he met up with a guerilla outpost) snaking through the reefs until he made it to Comiran Island where they spotted the light that the lookouts on Flier saw moments before she went down, to the spot where she went down, back to Byan Island and Bugsuk Island, then back up the eastern coast of Palawan.  I also have the photos from this trip, which is helping me get a sense of what happened.  I’ll see if I can get permission to post them.

The most interesting thing to me is when Al got to the accepted coordinates of Flier’s sinking, he decided the surroundings didn’t match his memory from that night.  See, Al wasn’t watching the stern of Flier just before the mine hit, he was admiring the surrounding scenery.  It was, to his dying day, one of the most beautiful this he had ever seen.

So he asked the captain of his charter boat to keep moving until the scenery matched.  When it did, he marked it on the chart, but also recorded the GPS coordinates of it.  It was south(ish) of the accepted WWII estimate by more than a mile.

Al hoped someday that he could come back with professional gear and divers to look, but his health did not permit it.  When the Dive Detectives came calling after Al passed on, this chart was one of the things that they were given in the hope that the wreck could be found.

Al was always known for his thoroughness in his research and planning.  I wonder if he knew just how closely he had nailed the location.  From what I’ve been told,  when the Dive Detectives ship dropped the weighted sandbags down on the 1998 coordinates, they landed on the Flier herself.

Provided the Navy does not object to the display of this chart (they’re a little touchy about revealing the locations of their wrecks for security reasons) this map will hopefully make it into the exhibit.

So the Flier’s been found, now what?

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
May 03 2010

One question I’ve been asked as I’ve been talking about this project to various people is: now that the Flier has been found, what will happen to her?  Will there be more expeditions, will she be salvaged so the families can have their loved ones back?  Is there a danger of someone claiming the wreck and taking her apart for parts?  How about tourism diving?

The laws of the sea are many and complex and what can or cannot be done sometimes depends on whether a wreck lies in territorial waters or international waters, whether the ship can be identified as belonging to a certain nation, or was a warship or a freighter.

In many ways, Flier’s fate is clear and clean cut.  As a warship, she is considered by many countries to be the sovereign property and  territory of the country under whose flag she sailed, in perpetuity.  Since she was an American warship, that means the ocean floor she sits on and all of her remains are the property of the United States of America, and cannot be visited, salvaged or have anything done to her in any way, without express permission by the United States Navy.

The US Navy, like many others around the world, considers the ocean to be a perfectly honorable place for a sailor to be buried, so Flier is also considered a tomb.  Any further dives (and I’d imagine there might be a few more to thoroughly document the site) has to respect that above all.  To try to remove items off the Flier, or do exploratory dives, some say even penetrating the opening on the Flier with ROVs to see the interior, would be the equivalent of visiting Arlington with a shovel and digging up random graves for curiosity’s sake.

The Navy does allow salvage of some of their ships, but not if any remains are known to be aboard, so Flier will never be salvaged.

As for tourism diving, Flier is already, from what I understand, at a depth deep enough that only some of the most highly trained divers in the world can reach her.  Furthermore, the exact coordinates of the wreck is likely to never come into public knowledge.  The Navy has not released the exact coordinates to the Lagarto, Grunion and Wahoo, and they are unlikely to release these coordinates either, further protecting her from casual examination.

So what will happen to the Flier?  She’ll remain where she sits today, a monument to her men.

BREAKING: More Dive Detectives

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

Some people know I’m working with Charles Hinman of the USS Bowfin Museum, and he let me know there is another Dive Detectives preview on his site, and THIS time, there are clearly recognizable clips of the Flier wreck.

I’d post it here, but I’m having trouble, so enjoy yourself here, just scroll down to the second film!

And for those who are curious, the Submarine Graveyard episode is scheduled to air in the UK and Canada, but not yet in the US.  Darn it.

BREAKING: Trailer released for Dive Detectives

The Book, The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 12 2010

I’ve noticed a lot of people have found this site looking for photos or images of the Flier wreck.  Those are all in the possession of the filmers, YAP Films and Mike and Warren Fletcher of Dive Detectives.  The search for the Flier will be featured in a future episode of “Dive Detectives” called “Submarine Graveyard” and they recently posted their trailer for this episode, and the first glimpses of the USS Flier at rest in Balabac Straits!

There’s no news yet on when this will air, but it will definitely be exciting when it does especially since it seems they are tracking not only the Flier, but her sister the Robalo, whose grave location is still unknown and the fate of the crew is still a mystery.

On another note, I was able to meet with someone today who was able to give me wonderful insights into my main character, Al, and will require quite a bit of work, but I think will really improve the book.  I’ll have to re-write a couple of scenes, that’s for sure!

And as for the exhibit, we’re still looking for funding, but hopefully, as more stuff about the Flier comes out, we may find sponsors or get interest from foundations.  I’ll keep everyone posted.