Posts Tagged ‘USS Florikan’

USS Macaw Conclusion–Pt. 2

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

By 2:30 am, the situation on the Macaw was desperate.  The air in the pilothouse was foul from the steady depletion of oxygen.  According to witnesses on Midway, some men were desperate enough to climb up to Macaw’s Crow’s Nest.  Search and Rescue parties were being organized on Eastern Island, but had to wait for daylight.

Water was washing into the pilothouse and breaking over the roof.  The men of the Macaw were trapped and it was only a matter of time before their options ran out.

Macaw's near sister ship, Florikan (the one that towed Flier back to Pearl). Macaw would have appeared similar to this before she grounded.

The men grabbed whatever floatation device or piece of wreck they thought would float, and threw themselves into the sea, likely praying to God that they would see morning.

By dawn’s light, the search for survivors began.  Men were found washed up of reefs, clinging to buoys, even deep in the lagoon miles away.  Seventeen survivors in all.

Sadly, five men, including Macaw’s CO were not found, and are presumed lost at sea.

And now, Macaw posed an even bigger hazard.  Sunk in the middle of the channel, she was tall enough that her masts protruded above the water, and her superstructure lurked just below, to snag or puncture the hull of any vessel entering or leaving.  She was going to have to be moved, or destroyed.  It took eight months, 1,068 diving hours, and nearly a ton and a half of explosives, but eventually, most of Macaw was reduced to a twisted, flattish mass of metal deep enough beneath the surface to allow ships to safely pass over her grave.  Her loss was officially announced on March 20, 1944.

Midway Island remained an active Naval base for a number of years, finally closing in 1993.  Today, it is maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which keeps a staff on the islands, and, since 1996, has permitted people to visit Midway, though tourism is restricted to 100 people on the islands any given day.

It is a bird sanctuary, a protected fish lagoon, and is one of the last pristine environments.  The Wreck of the Macaw is one of the diving sites available for non-invasive touring.  Despite the shallow depth of the Macaw (25 ft. at the bow, 55 ft at the stern) conditions at the mouth of the channel make diving her impossible for all but the very skilled most days.  (The weather needs to be calm and it needs to be high tide before she can be safely visited) Her bow is the only recognizable portion.

The Bow of the USS Macaw

The wreck was thoroughly (and non-invasively) explored and documented in 2003, and is protected and maintained by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  Incidentally, a water barge broke loose from its mooring and wrecked on the approximate location of Flier in 1957.  It too, can only be visited occasionally during the season.

For more information,

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

Sixty-Six Years Ago…the Jinx Begins

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

Originally Posted on January 30, 2010

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

“She’s a jinxed boat…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Flier only had eight months left.