Posts Tagged ‘USS Harder’

The Coastwatchers

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Aug 26 2010

Al and the Fliers were now on the slopes of Addison Peak, waiting for pickup.  The moment Captain Crowley knew he had the ability to send  a message to Brisbane Australia (the Coastwatchers, being an Army unit, not a Navy unit, had the clearances, frequencies, ect. to contact McArthur’s headquarters, not Admiral Christie’s, but of course, were willing to forward it to Fremantle) he sent a message saying Flier was lost with some survivors, and that they likely hit a mine in Balabac Strait, and needed pick up.  Up until this point, it was suspected/assumed that Balabac was mined because it was such a used strait with such limited paths through making it nearly ideal for mining.  But now, Crowley was convinced it was, and despite the convenience,  should be avoided at all costs.

The message was embedded in the usual weather report (the Japanese could always be listening in, but since what the Coastwatchers sent was, more often that not, weather reports, it wasn’t too likely they’d listen closely), sent to Brisbane and quickly forwarded to Fremantle.

Fremantle, to put it lightly, wasn’t happy.  Not. At. All.

The next night, they sent a blistering scolding to the Coastwatchers, who weren’t even their men, telling them that they were highly disappointed in the quality of the men’s observations and that they were supposed to be watching the straits for things like mines, and they expected much better in the future.

For the commander of the group, Armando Corpus, who had suffered from depression before during this mission, it might have been the last straw.  If he followed the pattern established earlier in this mission, he likely withdrew from the other men and talked openly about how he was useless to do anything.  The other men, lead by Palacido who was the de facto leader of the group, tried to tell him it wasn’t their fault, certainly not Corpus’s alone, and that he was a valuable leader of their band.

From what I have seen, the Fliers certainly never held the Coastwatchers responsible for what happened to their boat, it was the fortunes of war.  Moreover, the Straits had been mined before the Coastwatchers got there.  Personally, I think the accusation a bit unfair, but a lot of these facts came out after the war, and 1944 wasn’t exactly a relaxing time for anyone in the Submarine Force.  Fresh off the realization that Robalo isn’t answering her repeated calls, nor calling in to report when she’d be in port, and is therefore, likely lost, to hear Flier was certainly lost in the same general area, had to be a devastating blow.  To add to that, submarine Hake reported that her hunting partner, submarine Harder, had taken a severe depth charging from the escorts of their last targets, and wasn’t answering Hake’s calls.  Hake suspected Harder was  lost with all hands, including legendary skipper Sam Dealey.  So news of all three submarines lost with their crews was hitting Christie’s office at once.  It might have been too much to take for whoever composed the scathing message.

The Fliers meanwhile were sitting back and relaxing for the first time.  As their feet healed, they started to participate in the activities of the mountain encampment and meet the people around here, including trapped missionaries, survivors of the Bataan Death March, and salvage divers.

But more on that tomorrow.

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.

Rounding out the Robalo for now

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 26 2010

We’ll finish the story of the Robalo today, though it will play out for a few more days.

Shortly after deciding to stay on patrol for 48 more hours to see if his radio tech could fix the Sonar, Robalo sighted a convoy and chased them for several hours, but were always too far away to set up an attack.  Given Robalo’s condition, that might have been a good thing!

Almost 36 hours after deciding to stay out, Robalo’s Radio Technician fixed the Sonar, and Kimmel decided to stay out for as long as the Sonar stayed fixed.  If something happened to the Sonar or the only semi-working periscope, they were going to turn around and head for home immediately.

Robalo stayed out for the remainder of her patrol, which ended up being very dangerous, but successful, and some said, overly agressive.  When she returned to Fremantle, she submitted SIX PAGES of items that needed fixing, most as a direct or indirect result of the APril 24 airplane bombing and a depth charge attack that later occured.

According to some sources, there were other submarine commanders and Admiral Christie were concerned that Kimmel might be a bit too eager to redeem his family’s honor, or too aggressive in attacking the enemy, or risking his ship.  After all, the argument went, most submarine commanders would have returned home after surviving a bombing like that. 

But, it could not be argued that Robalo had sunk a valuable freighter, and survived. 

In addition, submarine commanders were encouraged to be aggressive and take out the enemy.  The Wahoo had been commanded by Dudly “Mush” Morton who accomplished incredible feats, sinking 20 ships (including one patrol where they sank 8, ) and sucessfully invading the Sea of Japan before Wahoo met her fate in 1943.  The Harder was commanded by Sam Dealey who had taken out an impressive talley of 12 ships in three patrols and was in the midst of a very successful fourth patrol.  Creed Burlingame and later John Coye of the Silversides had ranked up 11 and 14 ships between them, respectively, and Coye showed no signs of stopping.  None of those scores came without significant risk to men and boat, and risks that were sucessful were rewarded with medals, commendations, and promotions, for the men of the boats as much as for the officers.  There were often more complaints from a submarine’s crew about a passive skipper who let convoys pass them by than there were captains who took semi-crazy risks to attack.

But where did the line that seperates a superbly aggressive submarine commander who knows just how far he can push his boat and crew (before either push back) from an overly aggressive and dangerous one, fall?

Kimmel came close to losing his command of the Robalo, partially for his own good and the safety of his crew, but the fact that Kimmel’s own writing showed that he was aware of his boat’s weaknesses and ready to turn if anything more happened, and likely recommendations from his men, allowed him to take the Robalo out again.

But the question of his possible aggressiveness would raise questions in September, when he couldn’t defend himself.