Posts Tagged ‘USS Flier’

Finally off to war…

Uncategorized, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jan 12 2011

I just wanted to take a moment today to commemorate the 67th anniversary of Flier finally leaving Pearl Harbor on her way to the front.

We don’t know where she was assigned to go: it’s likely that she was part of the advance force for the upcoming battles in the Marianas.  Wherever she was headed, she was assigned to top off her tanks at Midway Atoll.  Since Midway was 1300 miles closer to the front than Pearl, that top-off could make a difference in amount of time or distance allowed to spend on patrol.

Pearl Harbor, now two years into the war, was busting at the seams.  They had only JUST (as in the last two weeks before this date in 1944) finished floating the last casualty of December 7 that was planned to be reclaimed.  The Arizona was going to remain as a memorial, and so was the Utah (albeit unintentionally.  The Utah was simply too old and useless to waste wartime resources to even float enough to salvage.  After all, before December 7, she had been a target ship, a ship the active warships shot dummy torpedoes and guns at to practice aiming and firing.  She was, however, capsized in a main traffic lane. THAT was going to be fixed.)

Nope, the workers at Pearl Harbor, had finally, after two years of engineering, designs and labor,  figured out how to roll the USS Oklahoma over, float her and drag her into drydock.  (Sadly, drydock would reveal that the damage was beyond worth of repair.  The great battleship was, for all intents and purposes “Totalled”.  She was moved to a quiet part of the harbor until 1946 when she was sold to a scrapper.)

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Fascinating example of the engineering ideas that rolled this battleship over. The date on the photo is correct: March 1943. It would still take until December 28, 1943 before she was able to float on an even keel reliably enough to tug her into drydock. Flier would have been there to see that final step.

Another view of the rolling over of this behemoth, taken a few days later. You can see Oklahoma sitting at about a 30-degree list and the cranes with their lines are now on Ford Island. In a rather ironic end to the story, the salvager that purchase Oklahoma was located in San Francisco, and had to tow the hulk of Oklahoma to California. A storm hit about 500 miles out of Pearl Harbor, and Oklahoma did not make it. Despite all the engineering and efforts, Okie chose to remain on the bottom. Which, I guess, is a fitting end for a warship.

The business of war never stopped, and neither was Flier.

Captain Crowley, by this time, was one of the most experienced submarine Commanders.  A Naval Academy grad of 1931, he already had commanded the USS S-28 through five blisteringly cold patrols in Alaska’s dangerous seas.  He’d commanded submarines out of Pearl Harbor, New London, San Diego, and Dutch Harbor, as well as through the Panama Canal.  Despite his experience, there was one major American Submarine port he’d never been to yet: Midway.

But dozens of submarines were in and out of Midway every week.  The channel going into the harbor was narrow, but deeply dredged, and straight, angled due north a 000 degrees.  All you had to do approach from the south, wait for the pilot to come on board, then drive straight north until through the coral wall that surrounded the base.

How hard could this be?

Postcard from the Dead

The Exhibit, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Dec 04 2010

Flier is still sitting in Coco Solo waiting for the pilot to take her through the canal, and the men are thoroughly enjoying Panama.  How much are they enjoying it?  Dunno, but we know they behaved well enough that there was no official record of it.  In fact, today’s deck log is dull.  I’m not going to bother post the actual log.  It’s that boring.  I included the transcript below.

——————————-

Saturday, 4 December 1943

Pg. 48

Zone Description +5

0000-0800

Moored starboard side to another submarine on west side of Pier A NO.B (or NO. 13) COCA SOLA C.Z. 0545  Moored startboard side Pier A

J.W. Liddell, Lt. USNR

0800-2400

Moored as before.

——————————-

While on liberty, the men of the Flier were free to send letters for the first time for days, but this included more intrigues.  All letters sent by military men had to be read and censored before they were permitted to be mailed home.

Flier’s radioman, Walter “Bud” Klock, had been in the Navy since 1938.  In the first few years , he wrote home frequently, informing his mother of the cities he was stationed in, the name of the submarines he was posted on, the places he visited.  But following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the beginning of letter censorship, Klock started telling his mom that he was in that place where it was never winter (Hawaii) or he was assigned again to the first place he was right after boot camp (San Diego) or that his first real boat had been lost at sea. (USS ARGONAUT).  At times, when he heard of a military man heading home on leave, he would write a letter in plain language and give it to the guy leaving for him to mail from a civilian mailbox once home (where it wouldn’t be pre-read).  Klock never said anything that would have been considered treasonous, but it was easier to talk plainly to his mom when he got the chance.

It became a game of cat and mouse with the censors who were, of course, looking for any information that might tell and enemy when and were a ship had been or might pass through.  Sailors had to resort to codes, or shared memories of the recipient to relay where they were and what they were doing.  Since the return address was always the boat, and the postmark was always Honolulu or San Diego for a Pacific sailor, that didn’t help either.  Things got quite creative.

It might be the fact that a postcard from another Flier man, Oliver Kisamore, clearly showed the Panama Canal that caused its hold up.

This card is intriguing and a little creepy.

The front is simple enough.  It’s a colorized engraving of the USS Pennsylvania as she crossed the Gatun Locks.

This might be Pennsylvania’s 1937 crossing, but there’s no date marked on the card.  The back of the card is a piece of stationary, flipped over and taped to the back of the card. Oliver Kisamore, a Motor Mac from Andover Ohio, wrote a quick note to his father:  “Dear Folks:  Just a few lines to let you know I am O.K. Hope you fellows are too.  Is it ever warm here.  I’m pulling out soon.  I’ll write you when I reach my next destination.”  Love  [rest of name cut off]

Seems rather innocuous, and Kisamore mailed it from the Cristobal Post Office in the Canal Zone, and likely never thought about it again.  The Cristobal Post Office postmarked it “December 4, 9 30 AM, 1943, CRISTOBAL CANAL ZONE” and passed it on to the censors to pass inspection before they released it to the civilian postal service.

This is actually the Christobal post office that Kisamore mailed this postcard from.

But for whatever reason,( maybe it fell on the floor, or the censor thought the picture and description revealed too much information, who knows?) the postcard was not passed into civilian postal service, and it wasn’t delivered in 1943.  Or 1944.

There are two more clues on this card:  In the upper left edge there is a faint blueish stamp: “Released by O.N.I”  .  O.N.I. in this case, is most likely “Office of Naval Intelligence”, the department responsible for the search and censure of all communications between military and civilians.  Below it, is the date of the release:  Sep 4-1945.

Two days after Japanese representatives signed the surrender of Japan on the deck of USS Missouri.

And Kisamore had been dead for over a year.

I can’t even imagine how his family felt, seeing this last missive from their son in his handwriting so long after they had been informed of his death aboard the Flier thousands of miles away somewhere in the Pacific.

But today, sixty-seven years ago, Oliver Kisamore mailed what would become his last letter home.

My thanks to the families of Oliver Kisamore and Walter “Bud” Klock for sharing their family’s letters to help flesh out the story of the Flier for a new generation.  We’re still looking for photos and other letters from  Flier men, if you are interested in donating them for the purposes of research, preservation and education here on this site, for the Flier exhibit at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum.  If your family would rather hang on to the original letters, I happily accept digital scans or photographs of the originals, or am more than willing to receive originals, photograph them and return them.

Panama Canal

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

So the Flier is at Panama Canal today.  I wondered what the Panama Canal looks like when I did the research for the book.  Everyone has heard of it, I’d seen documentaries about how it was built, but never really looked at it.  So I had fun, and I hope you enjoy the discoveries.

First the deck log for today (Whoot!  two days in a row!  I’m on a roll!)

Deck Log for today. Sorry it's so dark. Transcription to follow.

So here’s what that says: ————————-

Friday, 3 December 1943

Pg. 47

Zone Description +5

0000-1200

Moored starboard side to port side of another submarine at Berth A, Pier 3 Coco Sola, Canal Zone

J.E. Casey, Lieut. USN

1200-2400

Moored as before

J.W. Liddell, Lt. USNR

————————-

Most people know the Panama Canal is cut across the narrowest part of Panama, and hence, the narrowest point of North and South America.  What I didn’t know however, was that the canal does not cut straight through the land of Panama, it cuts from the Atlantic coast to a lake called Gatun, then from Gatun to the Pacific Ocean.  But Gatun is partially created through damming a number of the rivers that fed out of the lake into the oceans, so it is too, partially man-made.  It’s fascinating really.

Here’s a Map:

It took me a while to make this. It's a composite of a few different maps, each of which (of course) had something I needed to show, and lots of extra stuff I didn't. So here's the end result. Flier is in Coco Solo circled on top. When she goes through the Panama Canal, it will only take one day. It just won't be today. Tomorrow doesn't look good either.

Going through the Panama Canal is dangerous enough that any ship needs a trained pilot to go through.  There are a limit to how many of these pilots there are, so, regardless of the fact that Flier is at the Panama Canal, it will be another two days before she goes through. (Today the wait time is generally between 20-30 hours.

In the meantime, the men had some time to get out and about and on the town.

I just listened to Jim All’s account of Panama (It’s not long, but interesting–and yes, I am editing it.  I’m catalouging it on the other computer as I am typing on this one.) and hope to have that edited soon.  Having to learn Adobe Premier is quite the learning curve, but I’m working on it.  He remembered docking at Colon, not Coco Solo that the records state, but then again, the two cities were across a bay from one another.  Coco Solo was essentially the secured military district, and Colon was the actual town.  They were there for four days, and when not on duty, I can guess where most of the men ended up.  Jim did say he “had a great time”.  How great, he wouldn’t say beyond that!

Coco Solo is on the bottom left, the edges of Colon on the upper right. Taken in 1941, this is the military base Flier is tied to on this date in 1943.

Taken a few years earlier (when O-boats were all the rage) this is a close up of the submarine base in Coco Solo. No idea if this photo shows "Pier A, Berth 3" that Flier is tied to. Be really cool if it did though.

Well, I tried to post two days in a row.  Had I typed faster or Midnight not been so stealthy passing four minutes ago…oh well.

The Deck Logs and a Memorial Service for a Flier Man

Memorial Ceremony, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Nov 09 2010

The National Memorial Service for the crew of USS Flier might have been back in August, but there are services still happening around the country every day to honor men lost during WWII, and one of the men from USS Flier, electrician’s Mate, Thomas “Sonny” Bohn, will be honored at 11 am on Thursday, November 11 (that’s Veteran’s Day for those paying attention) at the Memorial Shrine in Easton PA.

There were a LARGE number of Flier families originating in that area, so if you can make it, go, and then introduce yourself to Donna Musselman and Terry Bohn, niece and nephew of Thomas Bohn.  All her life, Donna grew up with the photo of her lost uncle displayed at her grandmother’s house, but little could she find out about his loss, until recently.

She, along with her cousin Terry, decided to give her uncle the burial and memorial service he couldn’t have in 1944.  As a veteran who died in military service, he was entitled to a military marker (there’s something I enjoy sending my tax money in to support!) but she still had to raise enough money to purchase the base and pay for the stone erection fees on an existing grave (his parent’s).

She contacted her local news channels and in a few days, not only had her community given enough to pay for the marker’s placement, but also an indetifying tag linking him to his brother (another military veteran buried in the same graveyard) and also found a scholarship in her uncle’s name at his alma mater.

It’s nice to know that even when the world seems to be going crazy (then and now) people still like to draw together as a community to honor those who gave their all so the rest of us could live in peace and freedom.

Thomas "Sonny" Bohn, and the memorial marker being dedicated at the memorial service on Thursday. Rest your Oar, Sailor. And Thank You.

So if you can make it, 11 am, Memorial Shrine, Easton PA.

And below, you’ll see the deck logs for today.  <YAWN>  Actually, I’m sorry to say, most of November is a yawn.  But there are little nuggets that peek through, and when they get REALLY boring, we’ll just talk about other things, like what does a submarine look like inside and out?  How could these men escape a damaged and sunken sub? How can divers and ROVs be used for shipwreck exploration?

The deck log reveals why the Navy is both brillant and annoying. On 7 Novmeber 1944, the only things that happened on Flier was the crew had roll call to make sure they were all there (they were), then they charged the batteries twice during the day and at the end of the day, told the OOD (Officer of the Deck) all about it. I'm sure he was enthralled. And that's what happened, but thanks to Naval paperwork requirements we KNOW that's all that happened (worth official note, that is.)

On 8 November even less happened. They took attendance and stayed moored at the dock all day.

Today, 9 November, they at least took on Battery water. THis is significant, because it indicates that Flier is getting ready to leave to transit to Pearl and real patrol. Battery water had to be purified. Any chemicals at all could cause a problem. At sea (where water trucks are not plentiful) Flier carried filters to make seawater into fresh water, but there was a catch: any salt that got past the filter, if it came into contact with the battery during the daily washings, could react explosively and destroy a submarine. There are a number of submarines whose fates are completely unknown, even from the Japanese records, and a battery explosion is one very likely scenario for their fate. A battery explosion DID happen on USS BONEFISH in 1988, killing 3 men and forcing the submarine into early decommissioning and scrapping.

A fascinating first person account of the USS Bonefish fire.

The Alls interview and the deck logs today

Uncategorized, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Nov 06 2010

For those that missed the update, due to the very urgent and dangerous turn of health a close member of Jim Alls’s family took a few days before our scheduled interview, the October 23 interview was rescheduled.  If all turns out well, and I hope it does this time, the interview will take place on November 13, next Saturday, and I’ll be able to ask all those questions that you have been eager to hear, as have I?

Did they celebrate birthdays?  What were the nicknames?  Where did they go when they were in port?  Did anybody think the Flier was jinxed, or said so out loud? (I know from family members of several Flier crewmen that they sensed their last visit home really would be their LAST visit forever, but whether that was ever spoken aboard the Flier is another question…)  What was it like to be in a submarine?  How did they decorate their space or try to make it more comfortable?  What was it like during Midway?  Did they celebrate holidays if they were aboard for them?  July 4?  Christmas?

Can’t wait.

Now I know I’m behind on this blog.  I really do try, but lateley, I’ve been absorbed by another project: the deck log.  You see, starting in December, with no warning or explination, the deck log switches from the typewritten logs you’ve been looking at to handwritten logs, and continues that way for over four months.  It’s a significant part of Flier’s story, starting from before she enters Panama Canal, through the grounding at Midway, through the repairs at Mare Island, detailing who went home when and what happened to the crew (including one Summary Court Martial for a Flier crewman who got too drunk to perform his duties…and apparently knocked down the MPs who tried to arrest him!  Not the first time we’ll see this type of incident, and this guy won’t be the only one who pulls this stunt!)

But before I could post any of those, and before I could read them to see what I might want to glean for the interview,  I had to transcribe them.  Mind, I’m working with a high-quality photograoh of a xerox of the originals (and the xerox was taken in the 1960’s or 70’s), so that gets even more interesting.  Even using photoshop and tinkering with dozens of settings to pull the handwriting out, some entries are only spare sketches of what they really say.

This is the deck log from 2 November, 1943. The interesting point to this one is at 10 AM, Ervin Borlick, of Chicago Illinois, was discharged at the end of his four years of contracted service. He's featured on the USS Flier Lost Crew page, so you know this isn't the end...

This entry, for 3 November 1944, shows two additiosn to the crew, a J.C. Strain was assigned to the Flier's crew at 10:15 at night, and then, five minutes later, after apparently 18 hours footloose and fancy free in exotic Groton CT, Borick is back, and reenlisted for four more years.

The Next day, 4 Novmber, 1943, another man was assigned to Flier, Mike Ricciardelli of Pennsylvania. They're starting to finalize the crew lists in preperation to go.

5 November, 1943, and an electrician's mate named Basil "B" ROWE reported aboard. Makes me wonder what the "B" stood for since it's in quotations, it might be a nickname. I know there were at least three "Bud" or "Buddy"s on board. Makes me wonder if this was another one.

And on today's date, 67 years ago, they did...nothing. Stayed moored in one place and did nothing. Well, that's probably not true. They were likely running checks, drills, cleaning, securing watchign making sure that when they were finally given the okay to head for war, that Flier was at her best.

For anyone interested in getting a closer look at any of these deck log pages, you can click on them to pull up a much larger image of the deck log.  Also, since these logs are considered the property of the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States, they are in the public domain, so you can feel free to print them and do whatever you like with them. Just please be respectful of the men who’s story is told in these pages.

The Exhibit, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Nov 01 2010

Been an interesting time.

A couple of days ago, the family of Bob Klock, radioman of the Flier, mailed me their uncle’s letters from WWII (and even before!) detailing his time in the submarine force.  It appears that he and Crowley served on the USS S-28 together and bother transferred to the Flier.  Even more fascinating, some of these letters from the S-28 are dated before December 7, 1941.  I’m reading one right now, dated October 20, 1941:

“I don’t know if I’ll get any leave ot not–I’m trying my best.  Maybe around Christmas they’ll give me some.  If so, I’ll be home then–but don’t plan on it very much.  It is pretty hard to get leave off a submarine because we have so few men.”

How many things will change all too soon for this man.  The above letter was sent from San Diego on official S-28 stationary.  At that time, she was part of Experimental Group 2. The ones from the S-28 group span 1940-1942.  As you get older, the censor marks appear, indicating that “Bud’s” letter was opened, read, and passed as not revealing information that could be too sensitive.

This letter is dated December8, 1942, from the S-18  (so he must have changed submarines between October and December.)  Please remember the Bud is his mother’s older son, and she is, from what I can glean from the few letters I’ve fully read, a widow with her Navy son as the family supporter, so if it sounds almost like a letter to a spouse, that is why.

“The world has finally been thrown into a fiery chaos.  I know, darling, that I haven’t been a real good son, but, Mom, I’ll write as often as possible now.  I know you are going to worry but please try to keep it down to a minimum.

“If, by some  misfortune, the West Coast even gets bombed, I wonder if I coudl send Louise [note from me: his girlfriend at this time] home to stay with you.  In that way my mind would somewhat be relieved.  We are certainly getting along fine these days.

“Hope you aren’t working too hard, but then I guess work will keep one’s mind off of other things.  Say hello to Mr. Smith and the gang and tell them we’ll really give them hell.  If Bob [note:  his younger brother] has to come in tell him to try to get a commission in the army or navy (reserve).  I hope he won’t have to, though.

“I don’t know if this letter will reach you because of the censorship but I hope so.

“Now you be a good girl and don’t you dare worry to [sic] much because everything is okay.  Don’t believe too much you hear on the radio.  Hope you, Bobm and grandma are in the best of health.”

Your Loving Son, Bud.”

This letter was eventually passed by the censor and mailed on December 27.  I can only imagine his mother, Violet, was immensely relieved to finally hear from her oldest son.

So sad, reading these letters, knowing that Bud only has a little over two and a half years left.  His photo on ussflier.com is one of my favorites.  I wonder if that is Louise…

It’s strange, looking at these letters.  Klock served on the Argonaut, the S-28,, and the Flier, all of which were eventually lost.  He also apparently served on the S-18, which not only survived, but had no casualties.

Back to the deck log of the Flier,

She stayed out to sea with “No Administrative remarks” until October 31, around 4 pm.  So I included the Deck Log for October 31 and November 1 in today’s entry.

Deck Log for October 31, 1943. Flier returned from wherever she went and tied up to the dock at Electric Boat.

The Deck Log for November 1, 1943. HERE'S an interesting tidbit! Flier named temporary flagship of Sub Division 162 by Commander Burlingame was the CO of the Sub Division. If you happened to come to the Memorial Service, this little note is even more interesting, because Burlingame, (who looked a lot like the Gordon's Fisherman when at sea) was the commissioning CO of USS Silversides, the submarine that stood for Flier at the ceremony.

So thank you to the Klock family for opening this window into the world of Flier and indeed, the Submarine service of WWII on a personal level.  If you are interested in donating material for the eventual exhibit or for future researchers, please contact me a ussflierproject@gmail.com  We don’t have to keep things permanently.  Once these items have been digitized and cataloged, they’ll be returned to the Klock family, and I can do the same for any other Flier (or Silversides) family.

Women on Submarines and Today’s Deck Log

And now for something completely different..., Memorial Ceremony, The Exhibit, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Oct 26 2010

One of the things that most submariners I’ve met have stressed is the fact that they are all one brotherhood.  Granted, the diesel vets enjoy yanking the chains of the nuc vets every so often  “You think it’s rough?  Back in my day…”

But it’s now official: the brotherhood is about to include some sisters whose names don’t begin with “USS”.  The four boats who will carry the teams of women have been chosen, and the women themselves are currently in training.  Their identities are being withheld for now, most likely to allow them to concentrate on their training which would be a lot harder with journalists constantly taking photos and yelling questions every time they dared walk outside.

During the Flier Memorial, I enjoyed talking to two high ranking submariners both of whom are enthusiastic about the prospect of women serving on submarines.  Integrating officers will be easier to accomplish than enlisted, and indeed, right now the Navy has not announced when or if they will integrate the enlisted ranks of the submarine corp (I’m all for all-women crews, an idea floated back in 2007, allows women to serve and eliminates the need for retro-fitting the submarines themselves to accommodate integrated crew–and save us taxpayers about $100 million per sub retrofit)

For more on the subject, see my previous posts about the history of women serving in the military, and women on submarines worldwide as well as this article, released just a few days ago.  (I do try to be fair to both sides, and I myself am on the fence:  I hate, as a woman, being told I cannot do something because I am a woman, but on the other hand, if it ain’t broke…)

USS Flier today is still somewhere off the coast of New England and has no administrative remarks today  (had to use a mimeographed page…)

Finally, I have an announcement and a request.

The announcement is I’m hearing from people who  missed the memorial ceremony and are disappointed that they couldn’t get there.  Well, I put the footage at the end of the Memorial Page on this site, so you don’t have to go looking for it in the backlogs of the blog any longer.

The request: As we’re getting ready to design the exhibit, we’re looking for items that will help bring these men to life for a new generation that’s four generations removed from WWII.  If your Flier family member sent home letters or photos from their time in the Pacific theater, would you consider allowing us to use them for the exhibit or research?  I cannot promise that everything donated will be used, but the more we have to use, the better we will be able to bring these men to life.

The beauty about what we do means that we don’t even need original letters or photos–the information and images of these items will be good enough for what we’re doing.  If you want to send originals for me to scan and I will send the originals back once they’ve been digitized(one family is already choosing this option) or scanning the items yourselves and sending me jpgs or tifs (another family is doing this).  If, of course, your family would be comfortable with donating the letters, we will keep them for future researchers.  These items will help bring these men out of the shadows and making them more than photos on a wall, but men who had girlfriends, wives, dreams, cars, jokes, senses of adventure and fear, and men who did what they felt were right.

If this is something you think you or your family would be interested in, please contact me at ussflierproject@gmail.com  Thank you.

BREAKING: DIVE DETECTIVES TO BE SHOWN IN USA!!!! (Plus: News from the Museum)

And now for something completely different..., The Exhibit, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Oct 19 2010

We interrupt my blog post I’ve been desperately trying to put together for the last few days to announce that YES!!!!  YES! YES! YES!!!!  Dive Detectives will FINALLY be coming to the USA.  Dunno when, dunno on what station, but YAP Films announced on their site (not the Dive Detectives site if you’ve been checking there) that the series has been purchased by an American broadcaster and will be shown later this year!!!!

WOOOO   HOOOO!!!!!

And now back to that blog post I’ve been working on…

So I’ve been off the reservation for several days now.  Vacation was fun, but of course, when you bring the children, there’s a limit to the fun to be had.  I’m starting to understand the various veins and twitches I saw in my parent’s faces while growing up.  Goodbye sitting in the sun for hours blissfully reading or dozing, hello panicked dashing after children convinced that plugging a fork into an electric socket would be fun.

Oh well, it was a fun time.   Back to some updates…

The interview with James Alls is, if all goes according to plan, this weekend in New Castle, Indiana, the hometown of Flier Chief Kenneth Gwinn. Gwinn’s parents owned a diner that I hope is still in business.  If you have a question you’d like to ask Mr. Alls, be sure to comment or e-mail me at ussflierproject@gmail.com  I can’t promise we’ll get to it, but I’ll sure try.  I’ve already got questions about how the Flier was decorated, if they had any pets, did some sailors think Flier was unlucky (survivor Earl Baumgart later claimed he thought she was from day one), if they had any Crossing of the Line Ceremonies,  and on.  If you’re curious about anything, be sure to ask.  I will be filming, audio recording the session and if he gives permission, will be posting excerpts here and on YouTube.

The museum is (tentatively) hoping to open the exhibit this summer. Everything, of course, depends on money, time and schedule, but winter is our best time to build something like this: we’re less busy.

Now, since the Flier story is almost over, I thought we could do something interesting on here for the next while.  I’ll be delving into the stories of some of the Lost Submarines, but in addition, courtesy of Lt. Liddell, his son Kirk, and the National Archives, I have the complete Deck Logs and War Patrol Logs of the USS Flier (of course, the ones about the second patrol were lost in the sinking.)  They’re an interesting read, and I thought we’d start here on the 18th and 19th of October: the day Flier was commissioned into service, and started taking on food.  (There’s an eye opener!)

This is the record of Flier's first day as a Naval boat. The names of all the commissioning crew are written here: Officers first, by rank, the Enlisted alphabetically by last name.It's amazing how many of these men would still be around in ten months for the second patrol, and which ones wouldn't be. There is a second page for this day, but all it says is: "2200: (hours, or 10 pm): Finished Fueling. Received 50,138 gallons on board." You can click on the image to get a MUCH larger one if you're curious about reading it.

This is the record for the following day, when they started to take on stores while still testing systems at the dock. That's a lot of food, and that list will only get longer, not to mention all the stuff they'll unofficially get their hands on if the Fliers were like some of the other boats I've been told about! Then, as newest boat in the fleet, she was toured by some of the top commanders, including Admiral Daubin. (See Entry for 1300 hours). Interesting, since eleven months from this date, he would be investigating the same CO that's giving the tour of Flier, over the loss of this same boat and crew.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the photos taken of the Commissioning parties.  If you see someone you recognize in them, comment or e-mail, that’s what we’re trying to do, identify people, and tell this story.

Flier Investigation Concluded

Uncategorized, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Oct 08 2010

Dello Russo was up next.  Now due to whatever reason, his name was always listed in James D. Russo, in all the records.  His last name was properly Dello Russo, but he wasn’t permitted to list that apparently.  Thankfully, a sharp researcher in Grand Haven figured out his real last name, allowing us to track down his family in time for the memorial.  As a youth, Dello Russo loved to swim to the various islands around the Boston area, which accounts for his ability to swim for the islands.  In fact, he beat everyone to the shore, and was the only person to make it without hanging onto a floating piece of bracken for support.

But I digress.

Dello Russo’s testimony was brief.  As Quartermaster, his job was the drive the submarine from the helm.  Unlike a surface ship, which usually had windows in the room where the steering was done, a submarine is driven blind.  The Quartermaster has to steer based on the angles of the gyroscope and a great deal of trust with the navigator and radar and sonar teams.  All Dello Russo was essentially asked (beyond “Name, Rank, Station”) was where he was located that night.  At the helm.  In the Conning Tower.  That was it.

Donald Tremaine was the last man up for questioning.  I’ve always found Tremaine to be interesting if only because he is nearly a complete cipher.  I’ve never been able to find out anything about him, outside of the fact that he was on the Flier and was assigned to the Maryland during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Anything and everything else is a complete matter of speculation, and when I tried to research him, I got a quick and painful research lesson in just how many “Don(ald) Tremaine”s live in the USA.  But I don’t even have a photo of him, he was the only survivor in no condition to be photographed that day on the Redfin.

Tremaine was a Fire Controlman, which made him an essential part of maintaining, repairing and operating all weapons systems aboard Flier. Tremaine stated that the night Flier went down, he was in the Conning Tower as a part of the Radar Tracking Party in case they made contact.  If I’ve done my research correctly, that means that he was likely standing at the TDC (Torpedo Data Computer-an analog computing system that helped submarines perform the trigonometry needed to aim torpedoes.) that night.  And that was all.

Last up was Lt. Liddell.  After Crowley, Liddell had the most on the line, since he could potentially be held responsible if he hadn’t navigated correctly and allowed Flier to stray into dangerous waters.

He was questioned closely, the investigators wanting to know when was the last fix taken by stars, landmarks, the last reading on the azimuth, how often did he take depth soundings, radar fixes, and on and on.  Judging from his responses, he was a highly skilled navigator, and his skill stood the interrogation.

The strangest part of the tale is simply that when Liddlel and Crowley planned their route that evening, there were two reasons why they did not follow the Crevalle’s route precisely, when that was the route HQ sent them to help them safely transverse Balabac.  The first was Crevalle was heading north, not west, which meant that Flier would have to take a wide arc out of their way to match her track precisely.  But more importantly, Crevalle tracked very close to a pair of reefs, which were clearly shown on the map.  That was too close for comfort for Crowley and Liddell, and they decided to put more distance between Flier and those reefs, which would have been easily mineable.  Today’s charts, however, clearly show that the ocean floor drops steeply down near the reefs and comes up gradually near Comiran Island.  Liddell and Crowley tried to keep her as safe as they could, but this time, her luck ran out.

The remaining portions of the investigation/trial are detailed, and interesting, but maybe only to me.  There was a lot of questioning of Admiral Christie’s staff from this point forward, about intelligence gathering, known Japanese mines, how was information gathered and relayed to submarine COs, the risks of Natsubata Channel verses the other channels in the strait, on and on and on.  They even covered the history of Robalo’s CO, and called in the temporary COs of Robalo and Flier (these men were the CO while the real COs were on R&R and who remained onboard during all of the training sessions prior to patrol departure to observe the training and the abilities of the crews) to inquire how the crew and CO worked together, and how prepared the crews of these lost boats might or might not have been.

The conclusions reached by the investigation was that Flier and Robalo both had been given the best information possible, but their loss was officially attributed to “the fortunes of war”.  Both Admiral Christie and Commander Crowley were absolved of all fault regarding the loss of these boats and their crews, but Admiral Christie’s career had reached its zenith.  Shortly after this investigation, for unknown reasons, he was assigned to a new post: overseeing the Naval Yard in Bremerton Washington.  This sort of assignment was often given to admirals who were on their way to retirement, and despite the fact that four submarines (Flier, Robalo, Harder and USS Seawolf, sunk on 3 October in one of the few friendly fire incidents of WWII–carrying 17 Army Special Forces aboard) had been recently lost out of Fremantle, Christie had a good record of safety and support of his submarine crews.

It is possible that Christie simply got shuffled around in the normal rotation of things, but, while there are no written records, and no one willing to go on record, there were rumors that Christie may have been on the receiving end of some other admirals’ displeasure for the clean slate given to Christie and Crowley.  It’s also interesting to note that Admiral Daubin, the presiding officer, was also shortly relieved of the command of Atlantic Submarines (at which he also had been doing a laudable job) and moved to oversee the Naval Yard at New York.

Who knows?

But now the Navy had to sit and wait.  There were rumors of at least four survivors of the Robalo. Four men, Ensign Samuel Tucker, Signalman Wallace Martin, Quartermaster Floyd Laughlin, and Electrician’s Mate Mason Poston, had dropped a note from their Puerto Princesa prison cell on August 2, which had been smuggled out to the Allies.  Their current whereabouts were unknown.  There were also seven survivors of Flier who potentially could have swam to other islands and be living as castaways or captured.  In addition, Flier was believed to be in 40-50 fathoms of water (240-300 feet of water).  All submariners are trained to escape out of a disabled submarine at that depth, so if some of the Fliers had survived the crash into the seafloor and could reach the escape hatches, is was possible that more might surface after the war.  There was no way to tell.

But the families were going to have to be told something…

This particular Submarine Escape Training Tower is located in New London Connecticut at the Subamarine School. Every man was required to escape from the bottom of it to the top, learning how to use the various escape equipment. So it was possible, not likely, but possible, that other Fliers might have found their way to the surface after the Flier came to rest on the bottom. It would have been a potentially lethal and nearly impossible ascent, but with eight men already proving the impossible could happen, the Navy was willing to leave that door open for now.

Tony Curtis and the Flier Investigation Continues

And now for something completely different..., Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Oct 04 2010

Before we resume the Flier investigation I thought I would take a moment to remember Tony Curtis, legendary Hollywood actor, who passed recently, and whose funeral was held today in Las Vegas.

Why remember Tony Curtis in this blog, about a lost WWII submarine?  Well, Curtis was involved in the US Submarine Force, in a way.  At 17, he was assigned as a member of the crew of the Submarine Tender Proteus, stationed, at the time our story takes place, in Guam.  He was a Submarine Relief crewmember, which meant every time a submarine tied up to the side of his Tender and her official crew vanished for two weeks R&R, the relief crew would become temporary members of that submarine and do all the dirty work that needed to get done, inside and out: scraping barnacles, fixing systems, running tests, upgrading equipment, anything and everything that needed to get done in order for the submarine to be ready for her tests when the crew returned.  It was an important, if labor intensive job.

Curtis, as a member of Proteus, also witnessed history.  Proteus was the Submarine Tender in Tokyo Bay the day the Japanese surrendered on the Missouri.  He apparently watched the ceremony from the signal bridge, a place he would have been familiar with since he was a signalman.

He was a great actor (Some Like It Hot is one of my personal favorite movies) and will be missed, but if you want to read an interesting interview about his time on Tenders during WWII,click here. It’s a great interview from the site Tender Tales, all about the unsung (and now, vanished) heroes of the Submarine Force, the men and ships of the Submarine Tender.

Back to our story.

Two men down, now a Motor Mac was up.  Earl Baumgart was one of the plankowners of Flier, (a sailor who was assigned to a ship from her first day in service) who always believed that she was jinxed.  I saw a letter from him written in 1996, talking about how she never felt right to him and he knew from the first that she wasn’t going to make it.  Short of leaving the Submarine Force altogether, there wasn’t much he could do about it, but I wonder why he thought that.  Did something happen during the launch? Or the Commissioning?  Was it Midway?

Baumgart reported to the Courtroom for his interrogation, and the initial questions were the same as the other men faced: Name, Rank, present duty station (“attached to USS Flier”), location the night Flier went down (“After Starboard Lookout”), had he adapted his eyes for night lookout duty, (yes), what was the visibility, (“Overcast, not too visible”) and so on.

Baumgart really wasn’t on the hot seat, nor could he offer much about the cause of Flier’s sinking, though he was asked whether he saw the same light Miller mentioned seeing that night, but he hadn’t.  Considering that Miller was looking over Flier’s bow, and Baumgart the stern, this isn’t that odd.

The opposition declined to cross-examine Baumgart and he left the room.

Next up was Art Howell, the Radio Technician.  Now, I was quite interested in the Flier crew list when I was writing this book because I noticed that she didn’t carry any radarmen or sonarmen aboard.  Come to find out, these titles were not generally used during this part of WWII because these men, if captured, might be tortured for information about the specs of the Sonar and Radar systems of their submarines.  By keeping their job rating something like “Radio Technician” or “Radioman” it helped them blend into the background, because the Japanese and Allied radios were essentially the same.  So Howell, despite his rating, was frequently on the Radar and Sonar systems of Flier, though his efforts on Palawan proved that he really could fix a radio using anything but coconuts if necessary.

The night Flier sank, he was her Radar Operator for navigational pruposes.  With an overcast sky, this was vital, since one of the ways they could make sure Flier didn’t stray out of her path was to keep a radar eye on the peaks of the surrounding mountains to triangulate Flier’s position and keep her on track.

On Radar, Howell had seen the lighthouse that Miller saw with his eyes on lookout two decks above.  There were no ship’s contacts, no other people around, and Howell fed information continuously to navigation as it came in.  The Radar was working efficiently as well, so the trouble was not with their equipment.

Seconds before the Flier exploded, Howell fed the last coordinates to Liddell at the maptable.  Since the investigation was being held almost exactly one month following Flier’s sinking, it’s understandable that Howell didn’t remember precise coordinates, but he did say that the nearest last was between 5,000-7,000 yards away, and the large island dead ahead (Balabac) was between 14,000 and 18,000 yards away.  Considering Flier was found right in that area, I guess Howell had a good memory.

But now it’s late, and I have a horrible urge to find a copy of Operation Petticoat somewhere.  I’ve always wanted to see it, and now, it seems really appropriate, considering Curtis’s passing.

Tomorrow:  Dello-Russo’s testimony and Liddell along with the conclusion.