Posts Tagged ‘USS Robalo’

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.

Investigation Continues

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Sep 25 2010

Admiral Christie having gotten through the first round of questioning, it was now Commander Crowley’s turn.

As soon as Christie had withdrawn, Crowley took the stand voluntarily to relate the information he had concerning the Robalo.

“Sergeant  Pasqual de la Cruz, Philippine Army, USAFFE, whim I encountered at the Guerilla outpost at Cap Buliluyan, informed me on August 21st that he had recently returned from a reconnaissance trip to Balabac Island, This trip was made to verify a tumor that some Americans had been captured there.  He received the following information which he told me.  The USS Robalo was sunk by an explosion in the forward battery on 3 July 1944.  The reported position of the vessel at the time of the explosion was forty miles west of  Balabac Island.  There were four survivors of Robalo who were found on the beach of Comiran Island.  From his story, of which the facts are not clear, I arrived at three possible solutions as to the fate of hte survivors:  (1) that the four were surprised on the beach and jumped up, two escaped and two were captured: (2) in the foregoing event, two were captured and two were shot; (3) in the foregoing even all four were captured and two were deliberately shot after capture.  The names of the two survivors made prisoner were purported to me as Lieutenant Tucker and quartermaster Martin.  One of the others apparently was the commanding officer of the Robalo, and no information exists or was given to me as to the identity of the fourth  The reason for the conflicting stories as to the fate of the survivors is that Sergeant de la Cruz received the information from difference sources.  One other thing that he also told me, that the Robalo departed Port Darwin on a date late in June, I which I do not remember correctly.  I believe it was the 29th.  Apparently, it came from a survivor.  The two prisoners are reported to have been sent to the Japanese prison camp at Puerto Princesa, Palawan.  This is all of the information that I have.”

Next up was all the information about the Flier’s final hours, and from this, as well as the previous statement that both Flier and Robalo were recommended to follow Crevalle’s route through Balabac/Natsubata, we can reconstruct what happened.

Crowley stated that he was on the bridge and Lt. Casey was the OFficer of the Deck, however, he, Crowley, had the Conn.  This is significant because the Conn, or control of the engines and rudder, is usually the job of the Junior Officer of the Deck, in this case, Al Jacobson.  Technically speaking, Crowley revealed in that moment that he was unnecesary on the bridge, since there was an Officer of the Deck (OOD) Casey, and Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD), Jacobson.  However, since the Captain is ultimately responsible for his boat, and this was going to be a tricky passage, it wasn’t considered that unusual that Crowley was on deck.  His having the Conn meant that he was responsible for the speed and directino of the boat, not Jacobson.  It’s quite possible that Crowley took the Conn because Jacobson was several feet away from the OOD and the Bridge hatch, through which he could talk to the Navigator, Liddell, whereas, Captain Crowley was sitting just over the bridge hatch and next to the OOD.

He was then asked how many lookouts he had posted.  He had four officers, two forward, two aft, on the bridge, four enlisted lookouts overhead in the periscope shears, the navigator and quartermaster were in the Conning Tower not Control Room (one floor below), on operator on the battle station radar, another radar tracking operator, someone on soundgear and Sonar (same station), and the radar detector was manned.

He named those one each level, though, when it came to the conning tower, not who was at what station.  Those who survived would report their own positions, and a few would report on someone else’s position, though they did not do so unless asked.

The four men on the periscope shears were Wes Miller, Earl Baumgart, Gerald Madeo, and Eugene Heller.  On the Bridge with Crowley were Casey (OOD), Jacobson, (JOOD), Lt Bill Reynolds, and Ens. Phil Mayer.  Inside the Conning Tower manning the various pieces of technology were Lt. Liddell (navigator), Lt. Paul Knapp, Art Howell, Don Tremaine, James Dello Russo, and Charles Pope.   Earl Hudson was Chief of the Watch in the Control Room beneath.

And so now we have the set up.  Looking at the line up of those who were on duty the moment Flier went down there are some interesting items.

They were officer heavy.  According to Jacobson, Ens. Beahr was on duty at the maptable in the Control Room, leaving only Ens. Miner unaccounted for.  With nearly half of the officers exposed outside and the rest in the center of the ship, Crowley was running the risk that a good gun battle could make an ensign or a lieutenant the CO of Flier in case of a shore gun attack, which was possible.  If something happened to pierce the skin of the Conning Tower and straife the deck, the men in the Control Room could, potentially, dive, sealing off the Conning Tower, drowning all within.  It had happened before, (on other boats) and the men were trained to do it if necessary.

Next up, the other Flier crewmemebers, who are currently waiting in the passage outside the improvised courtroom, give their accounts of that night.

Investigation

The Book, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Sep 15 2010

In light of the fact that the trial was quite long and easily bogged down, and I’m in the midst of a bunch of family stuff that cannot be put off, we will no longer be following the Flier on the 66th anniversary.  The Board of Investigation into the loss of Flier and Robalo began on Thursday, September 14, 1944, and continued to Saturday, September 16.  A day or so later, the men started their journeys back to the US where they were going to be debriefed, thoroughly interviewed by the press (though with strict guidlelines about what could and could not be said, leading to some interesting news articles), then each to 30 days leave with his family then back to service, whether aboard Submarines or not would be up to the men.

While all this was going on, and before the men were allowed to write many letters home, the news of Flier’s demise was slowly leaking out.  Like the service today, the Navy wanted to wait  until they had informed the family members (by letter or telegraph) before the official announcement, but the fact that there were survivors of the Flier lead to articles saying most or all of the crew had been saved, leading to some crushed hopes for many people stateside.

Since this story will now become so complex, I’ll be spacing things out a bit for a few weeks.  I hope you’ll find it interesting, but it takes the pressure off of me to stay on timeline and allows me to NOT write mini-novels every day for the next two weeks.  We’ll catch up and start doing some more stuff again soon.

Oh, by the way, The “Look Inside” thing is up one my book at Amazon.com, so you can check it out.  The Kindle version will be coming soon (provided I don’t shoot Adobe InDesign).

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog entry…The men reported to the “courtroom” such as it was, aboard Submarine Tender Eurayle.

The last time Captain Crowley had faced a panal of people questioning his ability to command the Flier, he acted as his own defense attorney.  This time, he opted for representation and requested Commander Charles “Herb” Andrews, commanding officer of USS Gurnard who had pulled into Fremantle at about the same time the Flier’s had returned.  He had also been “recruited” into this position less than 12 hours before, so this was going to be interesting for him.

Admiral Christie, likewise, opted for counsel and requested George Patterson to stand with him.

The first morning was a lot of preliminary items.  Crowley confirmed that he was the Commanding Officer at the time Flier was lost.  Admiral Christie confirmed that he was the person who assigned Flier and Robalo the routes they took.

Admiral Christie was the first one in the hot seat.  He was thoroughly questioned by Admiral Daubin about how and why submarines were routed to their various posts from Fremantle.   The reasons why various submarines were routed the ways they were routed were really complex. Even the phases of the moon were taken into account (because the phases could impact depths of water and strengths of tides during various points in the phases) when planning submarine routes.  No submarine could travel with another, no route could become a beaten path lest the enemy start to patrol more often.

Balabac, as it came out during the trial, was fairly well traveled, and had been crossed over 40 times in the 18 or so months since Christie commanded Fremantle.  (about 2-3 times a month)  During the investigation, Christie even referenced the fact that since the first suspicions that Balabac might be mined back in February, the Crevalle (three times), Tinosa, Puffer, Ray Bluefish, Bonefish, Roblalo (during her last completed patrol)and Lapon had all safely crossed Balabac and, as a matter of fact, the route Crevalle used when she crossed it in 8 May 1944 was given to BOTH Flier and Robalo to help them get through the strait (the route is listed point by point in the records).

With the loss of the Flier on the heels of the suspected loss of the Robalo, Balabac was ordered closed until further notice.

Christie also listed the reasons why each submarine was routed through the various places and the disadvantages to each when the decision so send this boat this way and that boat that way were made.  How depths and currents made some places unminable but more traffiked and patrolled.  How Balabac strait could be crossed through a number of channels:  Middle, Main, Lumbucan and Natsubata, but only Natsubata could not be mined in the deep water routes, which is why all submarine captains were recommended to cross there.  It was well known that the water in Natsubata was over 100 fathoms (600 feet) deep everywhere, though a strong cross current was also there, pushing submarines west.

Next up, was Captain Crowley, and we start learning more about what all happened that night…

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.

Guerilla Headquarters

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Aug 21 2010

The waters north of Bugsuk Island are riddled with reefs and shallow places.  The charts clearly mark more places that are “exposed at low tide” and “passable at high tide” and “passible by shallow-bottomed boats” than they do the actual path through.

Sula LaHud, who the Fliers quickly re-named “Sailor” in respect for his amazing talents, knew the way, and darkness or treacherous waters were nothing to him, this was his home after all.  He was a Moro Trader, and according to what I can find, a Moro is a general term for a Muslim resident from (mostly) southern Palawan Island.  They apparently do not call themselves Moro, though they will recognize that you are referring to them if you use it (they don’t consider it an insult), and from what little I can find, they have never been united under any one leadership, or political entity.  I guess it’s like being from Michigan, and being called a Troll.  We don’t call ourselves that, but if someone does, we know two things: 1,) They are also Michganders and 2.) They are from the Upper Penninsula.  (People from Lower Peninsula in Michigan are Trolls cause we live under the (Mackinaw) Bridge, get it?)  But we don’t call ourselves that and we certainly aren’t united politically that way (The Troll Party of Michigan.  We believe in eating anyone who crosses our bridge.   Hey, where did everyone go?)

Oh dear, I really am sleep deprived.

Anyway, this man was apparently well known to everyone as one of the best traders and navigators in the area, and Al and the other Fliers marveled at how easily he slipped his boat through the waves, even though, just before sunset, they could see corals just inches below the waters on either side of the boat, but the boat would slide past them quickly with only a few words passing between Sailor and his two young helpers.

Taken from my book, "Surviving the Flier", and based on a map originally drawn by survivor Al Jacobson, this shows the path from the morning they were taken into the care of guerillas to landing at Brooke's Point. Note the really twisted path the boat had to take from the northern tip of Bugsuk Island to the southern tip of Palawan. If you saw this on Google Earth overhead (which I can't access on this computer right now) you would see this path corresponds to the only dark blue (deep water) path from Bugsuk to Baliluyan.

They landed without incident at Cape Baliluyan at 3 am that morning, and the guerillas were waiting for them.  They ran down to the beach, unloaded everyone and everything from Sailor’s kumpit, dragged it under cover and got everyone to the shelter as quickly as they could.

These men, the Fliers quickly learned, were mostly college students or graduates, or even teachers before the war, but now they fought against the Japanese stranglehold on the island.  They did this so well on the southern half of Palawan that they nicknamed it “Free Palawan”.  The Japanese knew they were there, and though they strongly held the northern half of Palawan (where the POW camp was) and Balabac Island, they tended to steer clear of this area so long as the guerillas weren’t too obvious about what they were up to.

There had been almost no news in this area since the fall of Manila in 1942, and these men were desperate for news of the outside world and hung on to every word the men could tell them about the defeat of the Japanese in Guadalcanal, the Bismark Sea, the Coral Sea, the Marianas, even as near as the Philippine Sea.  All news was censored and highly classified here, and these men knew none of what had happened and were jubulient to learn that, despite appearances here, the Japanese hold was weakening.

The next morning, after breakfast, the head of these Guerillas, Seargent Pasqual De la Cruz, gave them a gift.  All the guerillas donated every spare bit of clothing they had so the Fliers could walk around in something other than their boxers and t-shirts.  Again, these men had no new clothing in four years, and they didn’t know how soon they might get more, so this was an incredibly generous gift.  Each Flier man found a pair of pants that would fit him, and Al was one of the few who found a shirt that fit (though he said it was so tight it would not button across his chest).

Then de la Cruz started to question the Fliers, asking their names, ranks, serials, boat’s name, how long at sea.  There wasn’t much Captain Crowley was permitted to tell him, even though he was an Ally.  One never knew if he would be captured and tortured in the next few days or weeks after all.  But during this time, everyone discovered something no one suspected up until now:  De la Cruz had sent his men to find submariners from a boat he heard rumors of sinking OVER A MONTH BEFORE.  Sarmiento and the Bugsuk Battalion was looking for sailors that had escaped another submarine, not Flier.

De La Cruz, away from the other Fliers, gave Captain Crowley news saying he had spent the better part of the last two weeks on Balabac Island chasing down rumors of captured navy men.  He didn’t know the name of the boat, though he was certain it was a submarine, but he did hear two names: Tucker and Martin, and that they had been captured while the others with them had been killed (depending on who he interviewed, either they were killed trying to escape or killed in cold blood after their capture.  There were also rumors of two more men, but he didn’t get their names).  He also told Crowley that the submarine these two had been on had been in Darwin Australia on or around June 28.  If Crowley got back to the Allied territory, he was supposed to pass that information on.

After a dinner of, yup, more rice, and a special treat of thinly slicked and cured carabao meat (Jacobson said despite being so thin either the meat was so tough or their jaws were so weak they could barely chew it) it was time to go.  Sarmiento decided to go back to Bugsuk to keep an eye out for more survivors and resume his duties.

The Fliers were on schedule to get to Brooke’s Point, the Coastwatcher’s place, the following morning.

But there ended up being a snag.  Shortly after leaving Cape Baliluyan, Sailor’s boat came across a Japanese patrol boat.  With twelve people on such a little craft (eight Fliers, Sailor and his two boys plus de la Cruz who came to give a report to Brooke’s Point) the Filipinos knew that there was no way the Japanese patrol would think this was a fishing boat if they spotted it.  Sailor pulled his craft closer to shore, where he had to maneuver more delicately through the corals, and had the boys drop the sail to make their craft harder to see.

The patrol boat took its sweet time, plodding slowly down the coast of Palawan, and by the time Sailor thought it was safe enough to raise the sail, the wind had died.  De la Cruz, the boys, and Sailor took turns rowing through the sea, but they just couldn’t make enough progress.

In the end, Sailor decided that since they weren’t going to make Brooke’s Point before the first aerial patrols the next morning, it was better to stop for the night.  Sailor knew of a family that lived nearby, and so they landed at Rio Tuba, a tiny two-hut village three miles up the Tuba River.  The men were quickly ushered into one of the houses, where they fell asleep.

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.

Flier back in drydock

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

So sixty-six years ago today Flier is back in drydock, though this time, for a minor problem.

What was actually causing the loud noise on  the starboard side of Flier was never fully explained, but she was drydocked, and her starboard tailshaft, both propellers and starboard strut bearings were pulled and replaced.  This is going to take a few days.

Today also marks the anniversary of the Robalo’s official disappearance date.   I’m not sure what intelligence information caused the Navy to select this date as the day the Robalo went down, but nonetheless, this is it.

The official record today reads that due to a mine strike, Robalo sank today two miles west of Palawan Island.  Four men made it to the shore of Palawan, were captured and held as guerilla forces, rather than POWs.  Two of those men were Ensign Tucker and Quartermaster Martin, the same names that de la Cruz and later, Captain Crowley would report to the investigation were washed up on Comiran Island and captured.

The green regions are all areas the Robalo was reported going down. The red dot is the resting place of Flier, now known. As you can see, the search for the Robalo could be very long indeed.

So who’s right?  Until the wreck of the Robalo is discovered, we may never know.  Even if the wreck is discovered, that will likely not answer questions about the number of survivors that might have made it to shore, though it might tell us which scenario is more plausible.

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.