Posts Tagged ‘USS Redfin’

Enroute Home

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

Grrrr….I’m done wrestling with my computer for a while.  I tried desperately today to make a graphic showing where Redfin with the Flier survivors and other Brooke’s Point people is as they make their dash for Darwin, but Google Earth and my  Photoshop programs are having issues and I’m the one giving up.  Hopefully, tomorrow, they’ll have made up and if they decide to continue their tiff, it’ll be when I don’t need them at the same time.

So tomorrow, I’ll show you where they are.

A submarine is no place for people who have not been trained to be there.  Officer’s Country is the least complicated (in terms of machinery) and most luxurious (in terms of…well as opposed to the rest of the submarine.  It’s still really, really, spartan) part of a submarine.  My guess, and mind, it’s only a guess, is the Sutherland family was in the Chief’s quarters because that is the only cabin with four bunks, and the Three Amigos (Charlie, George and “Red”) were in the XO’s cabin because that had three bunks, and Garretson and Keirson were in one of the junior officer’s cabins, because those had two bunks a piece.  That’s my guess at any rate.  But the non-submariners were kept to Officer’s Country outside of escorted trips anywhere, including the head, or bathroom, which was likely flushed for them.  (This is not an insult to anyone by the way.   For those who have ever READ the instructions for flushing a toilet on a WWII Gato-class submarine, you’ll see WHY people who are untrained shouldn’t attempt it.  It consists of like fourteen steps to flush the thing, some taking place before, some during and some after.  And if you get it wrong…eeeeewwww)

The Fliers of course, as fully qualified submariners (and, for the next few days, official members of the Redfin crew, they’re still listed on the crew’s Master Crew List) were given freedom  to walk about, and do as they liked if they stayed out of the way, and sleep where they could find an open space (which may or may not be out of the way).  With the nine civilians in Officer’s Country, not only did the Fliers but nine of Redfin’s officer ranks also had to nap where there was an open rack whenever they could.  A fully-staffed submarine feels crowded anyway, but this must have felt so much worse.

The civilians were allowed to take meals in the Officer’s Wardroom, however, and talk together, so it wasn’t like they were in solitary confinement.  One night, as a matter of fact, Mrs. Sutherland discovered a pair of silk stockings tucked under her plate as a gift for her.  She’d never owned a pair before, and thanks to military rationing in the States and Australia, they were quite rare and valuable now.  A sailor who had bought them for someone else decided he could simply get another pair in  a few days when they docked at Darwin.  Mrs. Sutherland may have been forced to be shoeless, but once she could fix that in Darwin, she would at least have stockings to go with!

Other than that, nothing much happened during these days.  The most exciting thing on Redfin’s report other than the gunfight with the mysterious maru, was the sighting on Radar of what appeared to be a destroyer, but on closer examination proved to be an Aircraft Carrier carrying what appeared to be Allied aircraft.  They also saw a few fishing boats and a small patrol craft.  Nothing exciting, compared with the normal fare.

REDFIN!

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Aug 31 2010

Hey everyone, if I can get 64 more people to visit this site before midnight tonight, that’ll be 4,000 visits this month, a record, and quite a nice one, wouldn’t you agree?

Back to the story.

Midnight passed, and the moon rose higher, causing the people in the kumpit to fear the maru might see them if they were really looking.  Howell kept working the CW Keying on the small radio, and Russo kept flickering the flashlight out into the night, though less enthusiastically than two hours before.

Suddenly Howell, checking his cry of success, told Russo to stop signaling, Redfin saw them!

They heard her before they saw her, she was steaming on the surface from out at sea.  Austin, on deck, ordered Redfin to reverse just before they came up on them to stop the giant steel sub from knocking over these small wooden boats.  They lowered the deck to just above the surface of the water, and Al was so eager to get onboard that he forgot his formal Navy manners and didn’t ask permission to board, just grabbed the first Redfin’s hand that reached for him and scrambled on board.  Of was 0043 (or 12: 43 am) August 31, 1944.  The Flier’s ordeal was over, after 18 days.

Everyone was quickly brought on board, including Mrs. Edwards, embarrassed to be seen without her carefully kept shoes.  Every pair except her best had long since rotted away in the humid environment.  She kept her best pair in their box so she would not have to be rescued, if rescue ever came, barefoot…only to discover, as Redfin approached, that a couple of years barefoot in the Philippine jungle caused her feet to swell so much her shoes would not fit!

Alastair was amazed to be on board a real submarine, though Heather, by most accounts, watched silently from her mother’s arms.

Redfin’s CO had news for everyone too:  faced with Americans needing evacuation, Redfin received orders two hours before to grab the evacuees and head straight for Darwin, Australia, the nearest Allied port, and not to attack anyone or reveal themselves in any way between now and then.

So when the Coastwatchers asked for a few donations (the Redfin agreed during Crowley and Austin’s radio interview the night before to giving a gallon of lubricating oil for the kumpit) the Redfins turned over everything that wasn’t needed for survival for seven days.  The list of things given is really amazing:

(2) .30-caliber Browning Automatic Rifles

(2) .30-caliber machine guns

(2) .45 caliber Thompson Machine Guns

(4) Springfield .30 caliber rifles

(10) .45 caliber Colt Pistols

(3) .30 Caliber M-1 Carbine Rifles

20,000 rounds of  .30 caliber ammo

3,000 rounds of .45 caliber ammo

2,800 rounds of .30 caliber ammo for the carbines

Writing Paper

Pencils

Typewriter Ribbons

(3) Bags medical supplies including sulpha drugs, quinine and atrabrine to fight malaria

Flour

Yeast

Coffee

Canned Fruits and Vegetables

200 cartons cigarettes (it was 1944, lots of people smoked)

Playing Cards

Diesel Oil

Sulpheric Acid

Radio Tubes

Toilet Paper

Soap

And that’s just the list from the official inventory.  According to the Redfins, the men gave some of their change of clothes and one even handed over his pair of 9-1/2 shoes for Mr. Edwards when he heard Mr. Edwards had none.

If the Japanese feared Brooke’s Point before, they would doubly now, since Coastwatchers and guerrillas were well armed, had real ammo, and were well fed, entertained, clothed and shod.  This list, I think, shows something else: how little these people had been operating with for years.  It really makes their story just as amazing as the survivors.

That Japanese ship just sat there though.  Captain Austin,  who was shocked to see Palacido, who he had dropped off two months earlier a hundred miles south, suggested that his men might need some deck gun practice.  If he did, would Palacido  be sure to be responsible and clean the beach of any and all supplies and capture any men who washed up?

Palacido eagerly agreed, and the men left on the kumpits, now heavily laden with the equivalent of four years of Christmas.

The refugees were hustled downstairs and the civilians were quickly assigned cabins where they were required to stay unless they were escorted by a member of the crew to the head or the Mess.  It may sound cruel, but it was a necessary step to ensure everyone’s safety in case of trouble.  Civilians would not be rushing around, getting in the way of crew members who would be trying to help.

George, Charlie and Red, despite being military, were also confined to cabins, since they were not qualified by the Sub School to be on a submarine.

Only the Fliers were permitted some freedom, though it was limited since they had no duty stations, the three Flier officers were not going to be part of the decision making of this crew, and at most, they were free to throw themselves in any unoccupied bunk to try and rest.

Redfin soon shuddered under the  thunder of her three deck guns.  The first flash blinded the gunners themselves, who had to rely on the directions given by the lookouts overhead.

The Maru, now in danger, quickly picked up her anchor and headed south,hugging the the coast all the way.  She must have had a very shallow draft, since she glided over coral reefs Austin didn’t dare send Redfin into, or even shoot a torpedo at (they had a tendency to blow up coral reefs ather than ships over coral reefs)

It was over, the Redfin turned her nose south west, heading away from Flier’s last route through Makassar, and away from Flier’s last position.  Of the eight men who would forever remember their shipmates, only one would ever see those islands again.

And Captain Crowley, once again through no fault of his own, faced investigation into the loss of his boat.  The same boat.

Enemy Surprise

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Aug 30 2010

It was the morning of departure.  After Captain Austin and Captain Crowley finalized the last steps to evacuation the message went out to the local people:  if you’re coming, you have 12 hours to get rid of your possessions and report to the base.

The Coastwatchers, of course, were staying.  All of them being on Filipino descent, they at least LOOKED the part, even if they could not speak the language in a tight corner.

Despite being American and having two daughters attending college in the US, Mr. Edwards and his wife and youngest daughter decided to stay too.  Mrs. Edwards, being local to the area, could rely on her family and people to hide her husband if necessary, and the Edwards felt that they could still do a lot of good for the people of the Brooke’s Point area.

The Sutherlands reported to the clearing early in the morning.  Alastair Sutherland was agog that his prayers had come true so precisely, and they were about to go on a submarine.  George, Red and Charlie were ready, as was Henry Garretson, as well as a new member of the party.

He was tall and thin, and likely spoke with an Scandinavian accent.  his name was Vens Taivo Kierson, born in Finland, emigrated with his family to the northwest US when he was about 15, and now experienced world traveler.  He actually left school to become a topper for a lumber company that felled trees for Boeing to build their plane frames.  When aircraft manufacturers started to build frames from steel rather than lumber, he learned to salvage dive and moved to Alaska.  He received a huge bonus from one of his clients when he recovered something from a recent shipwreck which enabled him to tour the Pacific.  Soon, he began working salvage in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and the Philippines.  He fought the Japanese during the (what is now known as) First Battle of Shanghai in 1932, helped the Philippine Army until the invasion of Manila and was Garretson’s partner in the salvage of the SS Panay. Why had the Fliers not seen him before now?

He had been conducting a scouting and trading mission around the island.  A couple of months earlier, a Japanese ship grounded.  The crew got off, but couldn’t take any of the cargo with them.  Kierson salvaged pretty much everything that could be carried off  the ship before the official salvage team could get there.  This haul of rifles, medicine, money, liquor, food stuffs, paper, charts and more was a godsend, and Keirson set off on a tour of the island, gathering intelligence, trading the goods for other needed items and checking in with the local guerrilla factions.

He had one other talent: transforming Japanese mines into ammunition.

Japanese mines of the time period were designed to deactivate if they came loose from their chains and floated to the surface.  This was obviously because a floating mine was dangerous to everyone, friend or foe.  Occasionally, one of these loose mines would come to rest on the beaches of Palawan.  Using a technique he’d invented and developed on Negros, Kierson would dismatle the thing to get at the black powder charge which he would put in the empty ammo shells and top with small, carefully selected and shaped pebbles for bullets, thus keeping the guerrillas on Palawan in ammunition after the official stuff had long since be used up.  It was more than tricky work, and those mines, as it turned out, rarely deactivated when they popped up on the surface, so deactivating the mines was a tricky and dangerous business.

He taught the guerrillas everything he knew, and now, with an opportunity to escape, the guerrillas were insisting that Kierson leave for his own protection.

Eight Fliers, the four Sutherlands, Charlie, Red, George, Garretson and Kierson…seventeen extra people  on an already crowded boat, and more than half unqualified and/or civilians, on patrol for who knows how long.  If Redfin had been assigned a similar length of patrol as Flier, they still had about three or four weeks left.

After breakfast, the group set off for the beach, the Flier’s feet now healed enough that most of them walked a good distance down the mountain.

But an ugly surprise waited for them:  that morning, a Japanese shipping vessel dropped anchor offshore, less than a mile from the planned rendezvous point.  Even more eerie, no one could see any sailors on the decks or pilothouse, it was as if she was abandoned.

Had they been found out?  Was the Maru waiting for Redfin to show herself before blowing them all away?  Was she bait for the rest of the convoy, lying in wait somewhere out of sight?

No one knew, but the three officers of Flier had to make a decision.  If the maru didn’t move by nightfall, would they try to make for the rendezvous point anyway, hoping the maru would miss them in the darkness?  Should they skip the attempt tonight and hope the maru would move during the night or next day and they can try again the following night on the backup date?

In the end, the officers decided to ask the civilians if they would be willing to risk the trip tonight, keeping the small boats further away from the maru and the rendezvous point than previously planned, and using the radio Howell fixed to call Redfin, since there was no way they could safely hang the lanterns in the lighthouse for the “all safe” signal to get Redfin to show herself.    The civilians quickly agreed to try that night.

After sunset, and farewells for a bunch of people who likely would never see each other again, the small crafts took off.   They headed south before looping west in a great arc, keeping a safe distance from the maru.  Howell kept calling with the radio, trying to raise the Redfin, then trying CW Keying (a variation on telegraph) in case there was something wrong.

After an hour of trying to raise the Redfin, Howell suddenly heard a staticy message.  Redfin couldn’t see them, and the CW Keying was coming through more clearly.  Howell abandoned the voice radio to concentrate on the CW Keying, while Russo grabbed a flashlight (some accounts say a shuttered lantern) and began to signal to the Redfin with it.

An hour passed, then another.  It was now midnight.  There was no sign of the Redfin, and no sign of life from the strange maru anchored too closely for comfort.

USS Flier, USS Redfin and the Memorial Ceremony

Memorial Ceremony, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Aug 05 2010

Well, today, USS Flier is on her way to the war.  Not much else to say about that, at least, not today.

Meanwhile, USS Redfin is in the training stage for her fourth patrol.  They took a break on August 4 to award several commendations earned by Redfin’s Captain and her crew (even if some months late).  Cmdr. Austin was awarded a Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy.”  Ens. Eugene Helz was awarded the Silver Star for heroism for being the volunteer leader of a landing party on an enemy held coast.  Kenneth Herrington was also awarded a Silver Star for his part in that rescue.

That’s all for sixty-six years ago.  Today, we have news about the Memorial Service.  The Navy has announced the Keynote Speaker she is sending, as well as another official guest.

The Keynote Speaker is Rear Admiral Michael J. Yurina, Deputy Director of the Submarine Security and Technology Submarine Warfare Division.  According to his Navy bio, he’s done just about everything in the Submarine Force, serving on nucs (the diesels were REALLY rare by the time he graduated the Academy in 1978), a Submarine Tender, and many shore stations, culminating with several command posts.  In addition, he holds a Bachelor’s degree in Naval Architecture, plus a Master’s in Public Administration and A Master’s of Science in National Resource Strategy.

The Navy is also sending Command Master Chief Kirk Saunders, and if my search is correct, he is the Command Master Chief of Submarine Squadron Eleven based out of San Diego, California.

It’s only a week left!

Here’s a link to Flier’s webpage showing photos of both men.

Book Proof!

The Book, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 28 2010

It’s here!  It’s here!  It’s here!

Actually, it was here on Monday.  But between the camera being dead, and my schedule and finishing a surprise that I hope the families of the Flier crew will love, I hadn’t gotten around to taking proper photos.

But I have now.  Here we go.

There's the front cover. What do you think? (Seriously, I'd welcome the feedback)

There it is in all its glory.  This is  a proof, meaning it’s for the author’s eyes only, and it’s a last gasp chance to make sure everything is perfect, all photos, graphics, wording, everything.

It’s a good thing too, because despite my every effort, I’ve had to replace five photos that came out too dark and a handful of typos and some stuff I forgot about last minute, including three thank yous and seven bibliographic references.  Thank goodness, they only charge for one more upload rather than per correction!  (If you purchase this book and happen to find a typo or something PLEASE don’t tell me for at least a week!  I’ll need the time to adjust to not-panic drive!)

This is a pretty cool book, even if I am prejudiced.  Here’s the start to Chapter One:

The opening to Chapter One. That is an actual photo of the crew of the Flier likely receiving their awards for the stellar job done on the first patrol. I wish there was a date for this, whether it happened shortly after Flier arrived, or shortly before she left, but a number of men on the Flier received commendations such as Bronze Stars and Silver Stars, and Crowley received a Navy Cross. If you're curious about the coffee reference in the opening pages, that's a true reference. Al remembered this strange thing about the Flier crew: they insisted on Hills Bros. coffee, and nothing else. Though he couldn't taste a difference, he said some of the crew were dead serious about that coffee.

And another random spread in Chapter 2 with a map included.  I was able to put over 20 maps, photos and diagrams, though they are not evenly spaced throughout the book.  Since obviously, none of the men were carrying a camera during their escape, there are few photos in the middle of the book.

From Chapter Two where Al and the other officers learned where the Flier was going for her second patrol. In order to keep submarines as safe as possible, only the Commanding Officer was told where they were going before the submarine left port. If, like Flier's case, they had to stop somewhere to refuel, no one else was told where they were headed until after the submarine had left the last vestiges of Allied civilization behind. Thanks to the later investigation and the Operation Orders of the Flier, we know where they were supposed to head, and how and when they were supposed to get home, had Fate not intervened.

Despite the title and the fact that this book is centered around the doomed second patrol of the Flier and the escape of the eight Fliers themselves, there are a number of backstories and flashbacks in this book to try and flesh out Flier’s life and that of her crew before the explosion.  The most frustrating thing was, of course, with eighty four men onboard Flier, I couldn’t feature or name them all during the course of the book, but I hope this shows a good cross section of who these guys were.

So its 294 pages long, 14 of which is Bibliography alone  (I might shrink the text in the Bib to give me more room if I need it).

As soon as the proof is re-sent with the final final FINAL (I hope) revisions, we’ll finish up the e-books starting with the Amazon Kindle version.  I’ll let you know when we get that up for those who are interested in that sort of format rather than a hard copy.

We were hoping to do a Barnes and Noble Nook version, but we can’t seem to find any information on how to convert these books into that format.  If you know, please contact me about how to do that.

Audiobook version will be coming.  It just might not be ready for the launch.  Sorry.  It’s coming, I promise.

Well, now back to work.  I have a deck log to photograph, a DVD to create, and another Exhibit to design.  I’m swamped.  (in a good way)

And where was Flier, Redfin and Robalo? Robalo is definitely lost now, though how many of her men remain alive and/or free or imprisoned is still a matter of debate.  Flier is in drydock having her starboard mechanical everything thoroughly gone over, and the Redfins are reporting back on duty.  The Coastwatchers are well and settled in Brooke’s Point, establishing one radio station on the beach and one on the side of Addison Peak a mile or so inland.  They have no idea Balabac Straits are definitively mined (it was assumed, not known that Balabac was mined at this time) and their radios are having problems again anyway, so they haven’t told HQ.  This fact will have deadly consequences for more than the submariners.

The Robalo and the Coastwatchers

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 19 2010

Well the days of R&R for the Fliers and the Redfins are drawing to a close, so we’ ll leave them to their amusements and go to the Coastwatchers and the Robalo.

The Coastwatchers, who left the Redfin and landed on Ramos Island on June 8, found more trouble than they had been prepared for.  To begin with, it was the rainy season, and they day after they landed, it POURED.  Rain, plus electronic components wrapped in non-waterproof cases equals…well, nothing I can write here.

They had to open all the containers and spread everything out all over the  campsite to dry.  It was hot and extremely humid and as anyone who has ever tried to dry clothes on the line in those conditions, or in a steamy bathroom can tell you, it takes forever.

In the meantime, the local people found them.  One of the first men who found them was a Filipino who had escaped the Japanese Prison Camp at Puerto Princesa on Palawan.  He was the first to tell them about the conditions of the prisoners there.  He also told them that the Japanese were camped too close and that it was too dangerous to remain.  In addition, according to the official report, he told them to not trust any non Christians, since they will happily report their presence for little money.

On June 23, they moved to Mantangule Island, using several kumpits they hired for the journey.  They day after they landed on Mantangule, it rained.  Again.  They had to dry out all of their equipment.  Again.

While they were doing this, Sgt. Corpus left the camp in the care of Sgt. Palacido the second in command, to head for Brooke’s Point, to make contact with the guerilla command in that area.  He also had a message for one Mr. Edwards of Brooke’s Point (He’ll show up again).  It said that his two oldest girls had been safely delivered to the USA and college.

By July 6, when the Fliers were enjoying their first days of freedom and the Redfins were one day from Darwin and the Robalo was already four days past her final transmission, the Coastwatchers finally got their equipment dry enough to contact headquarters and tell them they were fine, and where they were now located.

On July 8, Sgt. Palacido de la Cruz of the Cape Baliluyan guerillas, George Marquez (remember these two, they’ll show up again) along with the police chief of Balabac City found the Coastwatchers on Mantangule, and listened to their first radio news broadcast since the war fell.  In the Philippines, it was easy to believe the Japanese were winning, since their grip was still tight, but it was rapidly breaking elsewhere.

Two days after that, Corpus returned from Brooke’s Point with Captain Nazario Mayor of the Brooke’s Point guerillas (and he’ll reappear too) along with his guerilla contingent with many kumpits and fishing boats, to move everyone to Brooke’s Point.  They said the Japanese, while not stationed on Mantangule, patrolled nearby regularly and would probably find the Coastwatchers before the month was out.  Considering how frequently everyone else found them, they might have been right.  Mayor even said he was shocked to find they were still alive.  He had all but convinced Corpus that his men were certainly killed or captured in the week he’d been gone.

So they packed up one more time, and headed to Brooke’s Point, landing sixty-six years ago today.  But already there was a disturbing rumor that Pasqual de la Cruz started to look into.

Robalo had not returned any calls or radioed her position.  No one was alarmed yet.  Some submarines went several days between transmissions, since it could be too dangerous if they were near an enemy installment.

But on or shortly after July 3, a story started to circulate among the native peoples of Balabac City that there had been four to six submariners that washed up on the beaches of Comiran Island.  Their submarine had exploded and sank in Lumbucan Channel, south of Comiran Island.  Two had been captured, at least two more shot while escaping or shot after capture, and possibly two escaping.  The story was very muddled, some saying only four had made it to Comiran, some four captured and two executed, some all six captured with no executions, and de la Cruz was on his way to Balabac Island to check the truth of this story.

Courtesy of the family of Al Jacobson, and Mr. Jacobson's trip to the Philippines to retrace his and the possibly Robalo survivors steps, we see here the actual beach of Comiran Island. This place is so tiny it doesn't matter how closely you zoom in on Google Earth, it won't show. The only two ways through Balabac Strait is either through Natsubata Channel north of this island, or Lumbucan Channel, south of it. If the 1944 rumors de la Cruz heard are true, Robalo might be under Lumbucan Channel. But some of those rumors listed other places she went down. The proper name for this island is Comiran, despite the caption above.

It was slow going, for apparently all witnesses to this story were Japanese, who obviously were not going to verify anything to him.  He found enough corroborating information to make him think the story was likely true in essentials, and he had some details to back it up.

It took most of the end of July and the first half of August, but he managed to get two surnames of the alleged captured submariners who were being held in Balabac City: Lieutenant Tucker and Quartermaster Martin.  He kept those names to himself as well as two more pieces of information he was able to glean: the name USS Robalo, and the fact her last point of call had been Port Darwin on or around June 29.  This trip took him some time, but it would end up likely saving the lives of some, if not all of the Flier survivors.

I thought a map of the current complex movements might help. You'll be looking at a lot of this area over the next six weeks. Please remember that until the wreck of the Robalo is found, that anything that may or may not have happened to her is part detective work, and mostly speculation.

It’s time to Return

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 07 2010

Thanks to all of you who e-mailed me and condoled me on the loss of my Kairey Girl.  She was one special dog.  But then again, I think everyone says that about their dog, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

I do want to make one correction to that post.  My husband talked to the firemen who hit Kairey (they were nice enough to come back so we at least knew what happened to her) and told him why they couldn’t stop when it happened.  They were the ones who told him about the little girl.  When I asked him if the girl survived, he apparently said “I don’t know,” but between his sobs and mine, I heard “No”.

The girl may have survived.  I dearly dearly hope so. I have not seen any obits for anyone that young, nor any articles in the local paper.

If Kairey had to go, at least another life might have been spared.

Taken last fall by my brother, this was my Kairey dog. She loved to run, fetch, play, give kisses and nap. She could fit into two square inches of space and nap, especially if it was against a warm body or in the sun.

I thought I would post a photo of Kairey dog.  Though purebred, she had too much white on her chest to really qualify as a show animal (which was fine by us, we wanted a hunting dog and family pet and had no interest in breeding,) but the white patch on her chest was in the shape of a nearly-perfect five-pointed star.  I’m not kidding.

The star on Kairey's chest was one of the first things we noticed about her. That, and the fact that she kept trying to chew our shoes apart. Though technically considered a "disfiguring" mark, we thought it was great. She narrowly avoided being named "Star", but apparently "S" names don't work well in the hunting field. Some of her full-blooded brothers and sisters are in breeding programs all over the country, so maybe someday, several years from now, we'll adopt a great-great nephew or niece. I'd even take one of those sisters or brothers if they need a home after being retired from breeding.

Thanks for your patience and understanding during this difficult time for me and my husband.

Now back to our (semi) regularly scheduled program…

Flier arrived in Fremantle on July 5, 1944 to a welcoming committee.  Having claimed to sink four boats on patrol and damaging another two, she was one of the stars of Fremantle at that time.  Captain Crowley would win a Navy Cross for this patrol, and Flier and her crew would earn a battle star for that patrol.

The Flier was in decent condition.  Unlike the Robalo, who had six pages of defects to check and fix, Flier had only three items that needed attention:  The high pressure air compressor motors needed to be looked at since both had been flooded during a routine dive, and had been disassembled and dried before being reassembled.  The electrical panels controlling the low-pressure blowers seemed to be troublesome too, and needed to be looked at.  The worst trouble, however, was the Flier lost control of her stern planes three times during critical moments during an attack.  It turned out that the motor operating those planes had three settings: slow, medium and fast, in terms of how quickly it would change the tilt angle of the planes.  When on slow or medium, there was an electrical problem, that caused the planes to fail completely, so Flier kept them on “full” for the rest of the patrol.  They wanted all of that looked at and fixed in addition to the usual  tinkering, polishing, deep cleaning, airing out, and other usual things.

The men were now free to spend the next two weeks any way they wanted.  They had four hotels to pick from and the Navy would pick up the tab, in addition to the family homes of any friends they might have in Fremantle (at least Earl Baumgart had such a friend).  There was swimming, fishing, dancing, sports, almost anything one could think of to do.  Some men, according to Michael Sturma’s “USS Flier: Death and Survival on a WWII Submarine” borrowed Flier’s small arms and ammo to go kangaroo and rabbit hunting in the Outback.

Redfin, meanwhile, pulled into Darwin, sixty-six years ago today.  Pluta was taken off the sub and transported to the hospital in Darwin, and since Redfin had already been out for over a month, she was told to proceed to Fremantle and terminate her patrol there.

Robalo, on the other hand is a mystery.  She may have been sunk by now, or severely damaged.  On the other hand, she might be just fine, stalking the west coast of Palawan or on her way to Indo-China.  I have to go through my research and organize my thoughts before I can delve really deeply into this.

Today, I also want to take time to remember the USS S-28, for two reasons.  One, because it sank sixty-six years ago on the Fourth, and two, she was Captain Crowley’s command before he was awarded Flier.

S-28 was a very old boat, who completed seven patrols in Alaska, the first four of which were under Crowley’s command.  After the seventh patrol, the S-28 was transferred to Pearl Harbor to be a training boat.  On July 3, 1944, S-28 left Pearl with a crew of fifty to train with the US Coast Guard Cutter (though the Coast Guard vessels had been taken over by the Navy by this point, ) Reliance. On the Fourth of July, they went into the last exercise, but Reliance had problems contacting S-28. It was as if S-28’s radio was having problems or was broken. An hour after they dove, Reliance heard one brief radio call, then nothing.  Alarmed, Reliance called Pearl Harbor, who sent out several more ships.  Two days later, on the 6th of June, they discovered an oil slick in the vicinity that S-28 was last spotted.  It was quickly discovered that S-28 was far too deep to recover using the best technology of the time, and so she was left in peace, along with her crew.  She has remained undiscovered.

The S-28 taken after her refit in 1943.

Since S-28 sank during a practice patrol, the Navy did not wait to announce her loss.  Captain Crowley likely heard about her loss the day they came in from patrol, if not shortly afterwards.

What effect this might have had on him is not known.  I’m sure he grieved the loss of his old boat, and her crew, though more than likely, all the men he had known had been transferred off over the course of the last year and a half.  It was becoming disturbingly commonplace to hear of lost boats every time a submarine came to port, but it must have been a touch of a shock to hear of the loss of a boat he had previously commanded.  It wasn’t going to get better…

Memorial Page for USS S-28’s lost crew

Robalo’s last known position, and Redfin’s unexpected return

Uncategorized, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 02 2010

Two things occurred today that impact our story, and neither of them involve Flier. She’s still puttering her way south, in the neighborhood of Exmouth Gulf, though she’ll skip re-fueling and just head strait for Fremantle.

Also today, the condition of Torpedoman Pluta on the Redfin is serious enough that HQ ordered the Redfin to terminate her patrol early, and make for Darwin using the Sibutu Passage head SE and exit the war area east of Timor Island.  Apparently, there was no one else near enough to take him aboard, so they had to head for the nearest Allied medical facility, which happened to be 1,600 miles away, as the crow flies.  Poor Pluta.  It was going to be a hard five day run.

The Solid Green line indicates Robalo's prjected path based on the three known points at which she was seen or detected using radar, plus her last reported position. Everything from here on out will be dotted, meaning, conjectured. Some of her track will be guessed at based partially on Flier's orders and Crevalle's path through the strait. The dotted yellow line is the rough path that Redfin has just been ordered to take to get Pluta to Darwin. Good thing they'll remember it, it'll come in handy before they know it.

Most importantly, today is the last transmission from the Robalo, revealing her location.  Her orders were to take Lombok, Makkasar, to the Celebes Sea to Balabac Straits (the same route Captain Crowley would be given in a month).  She radioed her position, as you see above, just off the eastern coast of Borneo, having just spotted a 3-ship convoy made up of a battleship and two destroyers with air cover.

What happens to her from this point forward will be mostly conjecture.  Until someone finds her wreck, we may not know what happened.  For all we know, the convoy that she just reported (and I cannot find any reference saying that she intended to attack said convoy) found her and took her out right there near Borneo, though the evidence strongly suggests she at least made it to Balabac.  If she stayed on schedule, she would have reached it within 24 hours from this point.

Homeward and Outbound

Uncategorized, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 30 2010

Flier is still working her way slowly homeward.  She continued through the Sulu Sea, the Sibutu Passage and is currently in the Makkassar Strait, and crossed the Equator today, officially landing her in the Southern Hemisphere.

Flier is heading for the exit of the war at Lombok Straits and about to run across a native fishing vessel.  More on that another day.

Red is Flier heading for Fremantle, Yellow is Redfin, patrolling in the Philippines, Green are the two confirmed hits on Robalo as she leaves Fremantle and heads to her patrol area.

Redfin, meanwhile, was in the midst of patrol aound the Visaya Islands in the Philippines, and  had been fairly successful, sinking two ships.  Today, a new wrinkle came up:  Torpedoman Leonard Pluta was diagnosed with acute appendicitis.  Some cases will heal themselves, and the sub Pharmacist’s Mates were under strict instructions to not attempt any more appendectomies.  Pluta was treated with Sulpha drugs and ice packs and put under observation for 24 hours to try to keep the infection under control, and wait and see for more direction.

Today, the Flier and the Robalo met for the last time.  I found two references to the Robalo on 6/28 when she was sighted by the crew of the Gunnel, returning from patrol.  Since they met on the friendly side of Lombok, the Gunnel reported that they closed with the Robalo closely enough that Captain Kimmel and Captain John McCain of the Gunnel could talk in the open air.  (And if you’re wondering, yes, that particular Captain McCain is the father of recent presidential candidate and current Arizona Senator John McCain III)

Two days later, sixty-six years ago today, the Flier made a ship’s contact, which they decided was a submarine, most likely a Robalo, though the two vessels were already far apart from each other when Flier’s radar picked up on Robalos’ presence and since they were moving in opposite directions, they soon lost each other.

These are two of the last contacts with Robalo, and strangely enough, as far as I can tell from the records, this is the last time Robalo will be seen by another US naval vessel.    The last contact will be from Robalo herself, and everything we know about her from that point forward will be a matter of conjecture.

The Golet Goes to the Deep

Lost Subs, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 17 2010

While Flier was attacking her convoy and having her stuffing pounded out of her, over two thousand miles away, another submarine saw her final day.

USS Golet was a Maitowoc boat and was built alongside the Redfin and  Robalo.  She launched just before Redfin and  Robalo were commissioned and shipped down the Mississippi.

On the day of her launch, she wore an unusual sign:  “This Fighting Ship sponsored and made possible by war bond purchases of the people of Shreveport.”   I know of no other ship or submarine that bore a sign like that during their launch.  I wonder if the people of Shreveport had a celebration of her when she passed through the city on her way to the Gulf.

This is the Shreveport sign Golet wore just before her launch

She arrived at Pearl Harbor for final training then left on 18 March 1944 for her first patrol near the Kurile Islands, the island chain connecting northern Japan with the Kamchatka penninsula of Russia. (Herring was sunk in this chain a few days prior).  It was foul weather there, and between the rain, the fog and ice, she never really had a chance to get many targets.  During the entire patrol she only saw one thing that was worth of a torpedo, but it never got close enough to Golet.

The Golet during her trials on Lake Michigan the fall of 1943

She returned to Midway Island where her Commanding Officer, Philip Ross, was replaced with James S. Clark.  She was sent to patrol near the northeastern shore of Honshu on 28 May 1944.  She was never heard from again.

On 26 July, 1944, she was considered “Overdue and Presumed Lost”, though her men were listed as MIA, not KIA, as was normal for this time.

Following the war, Japanese records revealed that on June 14, 1944, a Japanese ship attacked a suspected submarine in Golet’s patrol area, and the attack resulted in debris of cork, rafts and a large pool of oil.  This was considered proof of Golet’s demise.

Perhaps owing to her unusual town sponsor, the state of Louisiana was given the Golet as their memorial submarine.  Her memorial stood on a  military base until its recent closing, and the memorial’s re-dedication has been postponed until a suitible site has been secured.

The Memorial Site for USS Golet and her crew