Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

On Eternal Patrol: USS Shark (I) SS-174 11 Feb 1942

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 11 2012

USS Shark was an older Porpoise class submarine n December 7, 1941.  Launched in 1935, she had been in Manila for a full year when the Japanese attacked Manila harbor just hours after laying waste to Pearl.  Like most of the submarines, she survived the attack, and left on patrol the next day.  Like Swordfish, Shark was recalled to Manila to evacuate Manila personnel, in this case, Admiral Thomas Hart, Commander in Chief of the Asiatic Fleet.

Her career after this, was sadly, very short. So short, in fact, that no record of her War Patrol Reports is found at HNSA, which lists and carries all submarine War Patrol Reports from WWII.  So it appears that after December 8, 1941, Shark was never in port at a Sub Base long enough to file her war patrol reports, and sank with all of her records.  Without this record in her own words, we can only speculate about her movements.

On January 6, 1942, Shark radioed home saying she narrowly missed a torpedo dropped by a Japanese submarine. After observing Ambon Islands in theMoluccas, she headed north on the Molucca Passage, on her way to join a pack of submarines patrolling the area, as the Japanese worked their way quickly south.

February 2, she reported to Java that she’d been depth-charged, and missed a Japanese ship.  Febrary 7, she radioed in, reporting chasing an empty cargo vessel.  According to Clay Blair Jr.’s book, “Silent Victory: the US Submarine War against Japan.”, Admiral John Wilkes, coordinating and commanding the submarines from Java, upbraided Hart for breaking radio silence for a report on an empty cargo ship.

It was the last radio message from the Shark.

The next day, February 8, Shark was ordered to to proceed to Makkassar Strait.  She never responded.  She was ordered to respond.  And didn’t.  On March 18, the Navy released the following Communique:

Navy Department Communiqué No. 57, March 18, 1942

The U. S. submarine Shark has been overdue in the Far East for more than a month and must be presumed to be lost.  The next of kin of the personnel of the Shark have been notified.

During the month of December, the U. S. submarine Sealion which was under extensive overhaul at Cavite, was so damaged as to necessitate her demolition to prevent her use by the enemy in the event of capture.

After the war, Japanese records revealed a number of attacks on the 11th, 17th and 21st of February.  There were many English and Dutch submarines in addition to American subs, which may have been attacked, so until the Shark is discovered, it’s impossible to connect any particular date with her demise.

In her honor, Shark was honored with a little sister, Shark (II), SS-314.  Shark (II) commissioned 14 February 1944.  Serving three patrols, she shared her older sister’s fate.  Another, nuclear submarine, Shark (III) SSN-591 was named in both their honors.  Shark (III) thankfully, seemed to escape her sister’s fate.

The Shark (I) sleeps with 59 souls.

Rest in Peace.

On Eternal Patrol: USS Swordfish, SS-193 January 12, 1945

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Jan 12 2012

The Swordfish started her life by setting an inadvertent record.  The color photograph taken of her launch on 1 April 1939, is the oldest color photograph in the Navy’s collection that can be definitively dated.  Swordfish was a Sargo-class submarine, one of the last two classes designed before the war began.  Designed to dive 250 feet, with a crew of (generally) 54 men and 5 officers, Swordfish had just over a year’s experience before going to war.

And here's that photo. US Navy Photo from

On 3 November 1941, Swordfish, along with her sisters Salmon, Sturgeon and Skipjack, escorted their tender USS Holland to Manila for a new assignment.  The Navy was bolstering the defenses of Manila, where, they believed, an attack from Japan was most likely to occur.  (Some believed the target was actually Pearl, few imagined that the target was Pearl AND Manila AND Midway AND Wake AND Guam and a number of other places).   On the morning of 8 December 1941 (Day of Pearl Harbor attack, due to the International Date Line,) she set sail on patrol and therefore missed the attack on Manila.

On December 9, she fired two torpedoes at a steamer, but had to dive to avoid a gun counter-attack, and never knew the results.  On 11 December she sighted another freighter, but the torpedoes either both missed, or were duds (a sadly common occurrence for the next two years).

Swordfish kept busy, and in these, the opening days of the war, and with unrestricted warfare on the menu, there was no shortage of targets provided by the world’s second largest Navy and arguably largest civilian fleet.  She fired again  on the 14th but wasn’t able to see any damage or destruction by the night’s light.

Finally, on the 16th, Swordfish sighted rich pickings: six freighters accompanied by two destroyers.  The lead freighter was the ATSUTASAN MARU, and Swordfish sent three torpedoes sailing her way.

“Hit amidships, ATSUTASAN MARU eruped in a cloud of smoke, flame and escaping steam as she settled by the stern at (18°-06’N; 109°-44’E).”  –Official Navy History of USS Swordfish, SS-193

ATSUTASAN MARU ended up being the first confirmed sinking of a US Submarine after the start of the war.

Shortly after this, on 22 December, Swordfish was ordered to return to Manila.  The Japanese invasion was too strong, and the military and government, in an effort to minimize civilian casualties and unnecessary destruction of the city, abandoned Manila and declared it an “Open City” on December 24. (In essence, allowing the Japanese to come in freely in the hopes that no civilians would be harmed or have their property damaged.  This type of tactic was common, and happened several times in the European theater for both the Nazis and the Allies).  The Filipino government and military were not tucking tail, but reinforcing Corregidor Island and the more sparsly populated and defensible peninsula of Bataan.  But in the process of doing all this, the US lost Cavite Naval Base and the Nichols Air Base, and there was no space for submarines.  They were being moved to the Dutch Naval Base in Java.  Swordfish’s return order was to pick up Captain John Wilkes and his staff and taxi everyone to the new base.  She safely arrived there on 7 January, which is considered the end of her first war patrol.

Two weeks later, she was out again, and quickly re-routed back to Manila…again.  This time, her guests were Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon and his family, leading the Philippine Government in exile.  Quezon, his wife, their two daughers and son were joined by the Vice President Osmena, Chief Justice Santos, General Valdes, Colonol Nieto and their chaplain Captain Oritz.  The political party were headed to Australia and eventually America where they were re-set up the Philippine government in D.C., but Swordfish was needed for only two days, dropping them off at San Jose on the Philippine Island of Panay.  Sent straight back to Manila, she now picked up the Philippine High Commissioner, his wife, and nine more governmental officials.  Enroute to the Dutch Submarine Base in Java, Swordfish was re-routed to Fremantle.  The Japanese were already taking Java, and the Dutch Base was abandoned for Australia.

Corrigedor fell, and the Philippines completely taken before Swordfish could return with the supplies she had for the men trapped there. Still, she went on to finish ten more patrols, sinking at least 12 vessels, and earning an impressive eight battle stars.  Her age, however, was showing.  Now an old boat among the increasing crowd of new boats rolling off the ways at the rate of nearly two a week, Swordfish’s aging and battered hull and equipment sometimes forced her to terminate her patrols early for repairs.  But she and her crew kept going, getting some impressive scores.  They avenged the invasion of the Philippines by sinking the Japanese destroyer Matsukaze, which landed troops on Luzon.

Swordfish after a refit and overhaul stateside in 1943. This overhaul fixed some things, but apparently broke a whole lot more. Her patrol after the refit went well, but during her next one, the ninth patrol, she had so many problems, she was back in port after only three weeks. During the tenth patrol, she had so many mechanical problems she nearly was sunk a few times. But her men kept her going. In this photo, notice how much the conning tower has been cut down and re-shaped from her launch photo. US Navy Photo, from

On 22 December 1944, Swordfish departed Pearl Harbor for her thirteenth patrol.  Besides the normal “if it flies the Japanese flag, sink it” general order, she had a special mission: photographic reconnaissance of Okinawa in preparation for the Okinawa campagain.

She stopped by Midway, and regueled on 26 December, and was ordered to delay her reconnaissance work until 11 January.  Swordfish acknowledged this change in orders on 3 January.  It was the last anyone heard of her.

After not responding to repeated radio calls, she was presumed lost by 15 Februrary.

So why is her loss date listed as 12 January?  Another submarine, USS Kete, was on her first (and, as it turned out, only complete war patrol)  in the area.  On 12 January, she noted the following in her war patrol report:

12 January

0508 (hours)      Friendly intereference -282°T

0759                 Submerged off passes-Received part of message while going down telling of PUFFER’s patrol craft contact between OKINOYTERNBU and YORON SHII-nothing in sight in our immediate vicinity

0949                 Heard about 15 distinct depth charges-Patrol craft were still around.


That “friendly intereference” at 5 am was supposed by the Navy to be the Swordfish, and her fate possibly also recorded by Kete, around 9:50 that morning.  The rest of the day, Kete reported seeing far more patrol planes than they had recently.  It’s possible that Swordfish was sunk by aerial attack, but Japanese records don’t mention anyone attacking any submarine on the morning of 12 January near Okinawa.  There were a number of mines planted around Okinawa, in anticipation of an attack, which may have taken Swordfish, or she could have sunk somewhere en route to Japan from Midway Island.

Until she is discovered, these questions will remain unanswered, but the Navy selected 12 January as the date of Swordfish’s loss.

The crew of the Swordfish with their battleflag sometime after their tenth patrol. I am unable to discover whether this flag was preserved, or went down with her.

Swordfish was honored with a younger sister, Swordfish (II) SSN-579in 1957.

The memorial for USS Swordfish stands at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul Minnesota.


USS Swordfish’s lost crew

Article about one of Swordfish’s CO’s and the challenges they faced

Swordfish’s first War Patrol Reports and the Official Navy History of USS Swordfish

Pearl Harbor Aftermath

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Dec 09 2011

The aftermath of Pearl Harbor was an overwhelming task. Only the drydocks, Fuel farm and Submarine Base were untouched.  Unknown to those recovering from the attack, they’d only suffered two-thirds of the total plan.  The Japanese had planned to send a third wave, which was assigned to destroy the fuel farm, and the drydocks, but, in December 1941, no one had yet managed to land on an aircraft carrier at night, which the third wave would be forced to do.  Since the second wave of Japanese planes had been shot down in a much higher number than the first surprise wave, the Japanese officers decided to spare their pilots for further fighting, rather than smash an enemy who was already fairly well destroyed.

It proved to be a crucial error.

With the fuel still intact, and the drydocks operations, the recovery effort began immediately.  The submarines at the Submarine Base were quickly fueled and sent to sea, assigned to sink anything flying the Rising Sun flag and report anyone else.  The Aircraft carrier Enterprise, nearly two days late getting to port (she was supposed to be in Pearl on December 6) entered on the 8th, and despite the wreckage of Pearl, the sailors managed to refuel her, restock her, and send her on her way in 24 hours, to protect what was left.  Pearl could still function, and her people threw themselves into recovery and support.

By some accounts, the burned and scorched oil was several inches thick in many parts of the harbor.  Ships that were only lightly damaged were quickly overhauled, fueled and sent to the States for final repairs.  Others, West Virginia, Oklahoma, California, would take longer.  Arizona and Utah’s fate was still unknown in those first days, and would end up resting in Pearl forever.

Edward Beach, who would become a celebrated submarine commander, and later author, recounted his feelings on nseein Pearl harbor in late May, 1942, nearly six months after the attack, in his book, “Submarine!”

“No one who saw it will ever forget the awful vista of Pearl Harbor. Although we had been prepared for it, the sight of four of our great battleships lying crushed in the mud staggered us.”

He further described the scene in his novel, Run Silent, Run Deep.

“The stench of crude oil was everywhere.  It struck my nostrils with almost physical pain.  The shoreline, wherever it could be seen was black; filthy; and the water was likewise filthy, and here and there a  coagulated streak of black grease clinging like relaxed death to bits of oily debris…The pictures showed a lot, but they could never show the hopeless, horrible desolation and destruction, the smashing, in an instant, of years of tradition and growth. 

California’s cage masts had seemed canted a bit peculiarly when we first caught sight of them, and now we could see why.  Her bow was underwater



…astern of her lay the bulging side and bottom of a great ship with one propeller sticking out of the water…this was Oklahoma…



another shattered sunken hulk showed its gaunt sides: West Virginia, once the pride of the fleet…a grimy dirty waterline, now high out of the water, showed how far she had sunk.  She was obviously afloat again, but horribly mangled. We could see some of the shattered side, gaping above the cofferdam built around it.




Abaft West Virginia, a single tripod mast stood in the water.  Below it a silent gun turrent, water lapping in the gun ports and around the muzzles of the huge rifles.  Nothing forward except a confused mass of rusty junk. A flag floated from the gaff of the tripod mast, symbol that the United States would never surrender. Arizona…”

It would take years.  By May, when Beach observed this scene, battleships Pennsylvania, Nevada, Tenessee, Maryland had already been recovered and sent to the States. Maryland and Tenessee were repaired and on patrol.   Pennsylvania, repaired, was testing of California.  Nevada was in Puget Sound being overhauled.

California would be refloated and on her way by June of ’42.

When  West Virginia was refloated in May of ’42, sixty-six bodies of her sailors were discovered.  While all the recovered ships had such sad recoveries to make, the Wee Vee had a few shocks within her.  The following is an excerpt from her salvage report.

29. Recovery of Bodies: During the salvage operations sixty-six bodies were recovered from the West Virginia. These were found widely scattered throughout the ship…

30. There were evidences that some of the men had lived for considerable period and finally succumbed due to lack of oxygen. In the after engine room, several bodies were found lying on top of the steam pipes, which areas were probably within the air bubble existing in that flooded space.

31. Three bodies were found on the lower shelf of storeroom A-111 clad in blues and jerseys. This storeroom was open to fresh water pump room, A-109, which presumably was the battle station assigned to these men. The emergency rations at this station had been consumed and a manhole to the fresh water tanks below the pumps had been removed. A calendar which was found in this compartment had an “X” marked on each date from December 7, 1941 to December 23, 1941 inclusive.

The “Wee Vee” would finally be stable enough to go to the States in May 1943, and would eventually participate in the Leyte Landings.

 Oklahoma would take months to roll over and refloat, and her hulk was still being salvaged when Flier entered Pearl Harbor December 1943.  She’d ultimately prove a total loss.

Utah, already an old target ship when she sank in the first moments of Pearl Harbor’s attack, was not to be salvaged. After Oklahoma was rolled over, the cranes were moved to Utah, rolling her over and out of the traffic lanes.  There, she was left to rest with her 54 lost crew, and the ashes of a baby girl.

Arizona, of course, never moved again.  Her hull was so shattered and broken it was thought she could not be salvaged even if she was refloated.  Nearly half of the Pearl Harbor casualties rested inside.  By the first anniversary of the attack, the decision had been made.  She would rest where she fell.

Her superstructure and guns were removed, to place most of her hulk underwater.  Her aft main guns became a battery protecting Kaneohe Bay.  Another set of guns, after being repaired, were placed on her sister Nevada, and fired against the enemy during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. (Today, yet another set of her guns lie rusting in the East coast.  The state of Arizona is seeking to bring them to her namesake state as a memorial.)

And the country of course advanced steadily into war, hundreds of ships running in and out of Pearl Harbor the whole time these repairs and salvages doggedly continued.  By 8 December, while Roosevelt and Congress declared war on Japan, the Japanese were landing on Wake Island, Guam, the Philippines, Thailand, and Maylasia.  By the time German and Italy declared war on the US and had the offer accepted and reciprocated on December 11, 1941, the Japanese military had expanded their reach beyond what most military strategists had assumed was possible so quickly. The American military, with their back broken in the form of battelships and destroyers, scrambled anything that could still move and sent it out on orders to conduct “unrestricted warfare.”

And the submarine, a curious misfit with little use on December 6, 1941, (according to some commanders) came into its own.

But Pearl wasn’t over.  The blame was beginning to settle.  But where? And on whom would it rest?

The following is film footage shot at Pearl just days after the attack

Day of Infamy: The First Move: Manchuria

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Nov 03 2011

In honor of the upcoming 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I’m presenting a series on the steps to war, and what better way to start than at the beginning?  Soon I’ll catch up and we’ll go thought what happened in real time.  Many WWII historians consider the Mukden Incident and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria to be the start of the Pacific War, and how and why that was important, was interesting.  I hope you enjoy.


Most historians agree that the roots of the European theater of WWII lie, at least in part, in the Versailles Treaty and the reparations required by Germany after WWI.  The roots of the Pacific theater of WWII reach much further back, even before WWI, or even the 20th century.  Those roots, like many, run deep and are rather tangled, so this will be a simplified account of what happened.

Shortly after Japan opened its doors to international trade in the 1850’s, they began to quickly modernize and have a population  explosion-which was a problem.  Japan had (well, has) extremely limited land and resources, and has long relied on trade, even during their isolationist “Shokoku” period.  In the late 1800’s the Japanese relied heavily on trade with Korea, and feared that if some other country took it over, colonized it, or it came under the influence of an unfriendly nation, it could make life difficult. The Japanese needed to annex it, or at least make sure it remained independent, and 1894 there were over three thousand Chinese Troops in Korea. The first Sino (Chinese)-Japanese War (1894-1895) ended with the Japanese capturing the Korean emperor, and signing the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which guaranteed Korean independence in perpetuity and gave the island of Taiwan (a Chinese island at that point) to Japan.

This move made both China and Russia nervous, so in 1898, China and Russia signed a treaty in Moscow, called the Li-Lobanov Treaty.  It essentially pledged mutual support in case of a Japanese attack (another one of those “secret treaties” that caused so much trouble during WWI), but also allowed the Russians to build an extension of the Trans-Siberian Railroad through a part of China known as Manchuria, just north of Korea, and control of the city the rail ended in: Port Arthur (modern Lünshunkou).  Port Arthur was a warm water port, something Russia doesn’t have many or any of in various points in her history, so this was a great, and well protected resource for them.  The treaty also gave them territorial authority to defend and man the rail, including depots, repairs, and more.

This map shows the strategic location of Port Arthur and its relative location to Korea, Manchuria and Beijing. From

So enter the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). This war is considered the first great war of the 20th century by some historians. It’s origins are rather convoluted, but in the end, it centers around Port Arthur, which had seen action and occupation during the Sino-Japan war.  Besides being a warm water port, Port Arthur was important because it’s a bit like Gibralter in the Med, it’s a choke point and those who control Port Arthur can potentially control all shipping into and out of Beijing.  Those were the Russians, who also had a 25-year lease on the place. And as long as they had control, they were going to use it. They built up fortifications, machine shops, ammo and fuel depots, and all support facilities for the Russian Navy, which, in 1904 consisted of a number of modern battleships, cruisers and destroyers.

This made Japan uneasy.  Negotiations about this dragged on, and on and on and finally, on February 8, 1904, Japan struck Port Arthur again in a surprise night attack using a torpedo boat destroyer.  They quickly destroyed two Russian battleships and cruiser and distracted everyone….from the Japanese troops landing in Korea.

Japanese postcard showing battle of Port Arthur, and the destruction of Russian ships.

(Incidentally, it’s worth noting that Japan declared war on Russia three hours after the attack on Port Arthur began.  When the Russians complained that Japan had attacked without a formal declaration of war, Japan pointed out that Russia had attacked Sweden during the Finnish War nearly 100 years before prior to a formal declaration of war. After this war, it became international law to formally declare war opening actions.)

In the end, Russia capitulated (it didn’t help that Bloody Sunday and the ensuring 1905 Russian Revolution was also happening, making the war an unpopular drain)  Russian turned Korea over to the sphere of Japanese influence, and signed over its rights to Port Arthur and the railway that they had built.

Japan created a semi-private company and created the Southern Manchuria Railway, which ran from Port Arthur to Mukden.  Japan soon expanded along the railway zone, building coal mines, hotels, warehouses for goods, and bringing over Japanese men and their families to run most of it.  Soon there were smaller companies, mills, power plants, and steel works, and they soon acquired the contract to work the Korean Railway system.  During this expansion of growth, more and more Japanese came to live and work in Manchuria, protected by segments of the Japanese military which guarded the rail and the railway zone.

Fast forward to 1931, and the first step to war.  Sometime after 10 pm on September 18, 1931, a small bit of dynamite exploded near a track south of Mukden where a freight train was soon to come through (didn’t damage the track, the train came in just fine). This is what is now called the Mukden Incident. The Japanese soldiers stationed there claimed that they saw Chinese dissidents light the dynamite, and this was used to invade the local Chinese barracks (which was, due to tensions with Japanese troops in the area, aremed with dummy rifles…soooo…it wasn’t a long fight.) then Manchuria, utilizing troops from Korea as well, all in the name of self defense and defense of the Japanese people working the rail and the attached businesses.  The invasion of Manchuria (soon to be known as Manchuko) had begun.

This was precisely what the League of Nations had been formed to prevent, or at least, solve without violence.  Both China and Japan were members, and China had no problems taking this affair to the League.

Besides, there was something fishy about the Chinese dissident story…


Information about the Sino-Japanese war and Russo-Japanese War

US Department of State website about the Mukden Incident

The Russo-Japanese War Research Society

Countdown to the Day of Infamy: The Final Spies

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Nov 01 2011

Saturday, November 1, 1941: Honolulu Harbor, Hawaii.  8:30 am.

It was a familiar old ship, that pulled into Honolulu harbor that morning. She used to ply the seas from Yokohama to San Francisco every few weeks, always stopping here, docking to throngs of waving, cheering people, who draped on her lucky passengers and welcomed them ashore with dancers and music. But now, the American built ship, Taiyo Maru, flying the Japanese flag, had been chartered by the Japanese government to bring home any citizens who wished to return. Trade relations were broken, and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin warned that this might be the last ship bound for Japan permitted to dock here for months-or longer. So, even though she’d visited this harbor dozens of times, the local authorities and counter-intelligence watched her warily now, and established strict rules.

The Taiyo Maru, from a postcard during her glory days as a luxury passenger liner for NYK Line. If she looks familiar to long-time readers, it's because they're distant sisters.

There were rumors in the air, on this Saturday morning, November 1, 1941, and growing stronger, that the Japanese empire was seeking to expand her reach. The United States had recently cut Japan off from their shipments of oil and gas.  The diesel burning in Taiyo Maru’s tanks was already scarce, and there were rumors of immense aircraft carriers, battleships and destroyers back home which also needed those supplies. But Pearl wasn’t thought to be a target.  It was too far away, and a busy port. Even despite the embargo against Japan, dozens of ships pulled in and out daily, heading to and from America, the Philippines, Mexico, the Panama Canal, the South Seas, and Australia. No one could sneak in here, with so many eyes watching, much less an armed fleet.

And six miles away, sat the American Navy, inside Pearl Harbor. The great ships, including the mighty Arizona, flagship and pride of the American Navy, the aircraft carriers Enterprise and Lexington, and the submarine base, sat at the ready, constantly practicing, constantly drilling, for the war no one wanted. No one in Honolulu believed there was danger here. Manila maybe, Singapore, maybe, Hong Kong, maybe, but Japan, for all her might, couldn’t come this far unseen.

Still, the District Intelligence Office in Honolulu, long taxed from trying to track any hint of war from Japan, knew something was afoot. For months before the oil embargo, Japanese tankers would come and go every few days, most leaving behind or picking up a few hands, each time. So many men were impossible to track, and tensions were now so high that Customs and District Intelligence office refused to allow any hands off the Taiyo Maru, save a few the ship’s master deemed absolutely necessary for maintenance, and store purchases, and those few could easily be followed. Any passengers, once aboard, were not permitted to leave again. As far as possible, the District Intelligence Office was making sure that no information could get on or off, and the Taiyo was certianley going to leave with every person she brought with her still onboard.

They were right to fear spies.  Dozens had come through in the past months, many that never stayed in Honolulu more than a couple of hours while those tankers refueled, and there were three aboard the Taiyo now, disguised as stewards and an assistant purser. They were not trained in espionage, they were high ranking members of the Imperial Japanese Navy: Commander Mae-jima Toshihide, Commander Suzuki Suguru, and Lt. Matsuo Keiu, and they never planned to leave the Taiyo or set foot on Honolulu-at least, not on this trip.

They had, in fact, already completed half of the mission. The Taiyo Maru, rather than follow the well-traveled direct sea route from Yokohama to Honolulu, traveled north, and cut east between the Aleutian Islands and Midway, before turning sharply south.  During the whole journey the three men measured wind speeds, tracked the weather, and watched the horizon constantly for ships or air patrols, admittedly strange behavior for men who usually were more concerned with food and upkeep aboard.  But it had been a success: not even a fishing boat had been seen until they were nearly in sight of Oahu.

And they had managed to send information out of the Taiyo Maru.  Despite broken trade relations, there was still diplomatic relations between the countries.  Indeed, the Japanese Consulate in Washington D.C. was working through marathon talks to keep war at bay, while the consulate in Honolulu worked hard as well, but was it more diplomacy, or a cover for espionage?  District Intelligence had often wondered, but there was no way to break the sovereignty of the consulate and get inside information.  And as a Japanese ship, bound back home, according to diplomatic treaties and traditions, one of the Taiyo’s crew carried instructions from the Japanese government to the consulate written and sealed in the consulate pouch.  The consulate also returned a pouch with their own papers, observations, and recommendations to the Taiyo for transport home. What the District Intelligence Office didn’t know was there were written questions directly from the IJN officers aboard in the outgoing pouch, and the written responses, along with photos of Pearl Harbor, the anchorages of the Naval ships and other information, in the incoming pouch.

They were looking for final details, final answered questions, and, since the Taiyo docked on a Saturday, and would stay until Wednesday, the officers onboard would answer a few questions with their own eyes: how seriously did the Americans take their “weekend”? How many people seemed to attend Sunday services?  How many sailors and civilians were out and about on a weekend rather than a weekday?  How many ships and submarines were sighted going in and out of Pearl Harbor each day? When did they enter and leave? When was there a lot of traffic, and none?

These answers were crucial, since the talks continued in Washington and Tokyo, and this plan may never come to fruition depending on the answers the officers brought home.

The strangest thing of all, had to be that the plan they were proposing, and even now were scouting, was not new. In fact, Pearl Harbor had been attacked twice before in the ten years previous using this plan. By Americans.

Inadvertant Hiatus

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Oct 16 2011

Hi everyone,

It’s bee a long summer, full of interstate travel, and emotional highs and lows. Things have been quite busy, and in the shuffle, this blog got dropped. Hard. (I’d say “Dropped like a lead balloon”, but the Mythbusters actually proved those things can float!)

But in that time, I’ve gotten to talk to more people and heard more stories, and will be back at it soon. The Flier Exhibit has been green-lighted, and we’re going through the blueprints, making sure it works, doesn’t violate any pesky codes or permits, or red tape, and trying to unearth those amazing little stories about the 85+ unique people that made up the Flier’s crew. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some of that with you as we go.

So I’m back, and have that promised post on the second half of the life of the Hakusan Maru, and will try to post at least twice a week in the future.

Thanks for your patience, I am excited to be back!

She was an odd little boat.

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 29 2011

Only three more days, and then we’ll see the Dive Detective’s American debut!

It’s funny, I worked with and on USS Silversides and her history for a few years before I met Al Jacobson and got involved with the Flier.  When you look at the Silversides and Flier’s histories, they look so different.  Silversides had a long, successful history, but outside of her underwater appendectomy on her Murphy’s Law Patrol, she was a stellar example of the average submarine.  (I’m not putting down Silversides, she’s a wonderful little boat, so full of quirks and I’m glad she’s still around to stand for her sisters, but trying to keep her twelve fourteen (I had to look it up) patrols straight is a monumental task!  The correction in this sentence should be evidence of that!)

Flier, on the other hand, seemed to want to make her mark on history.  Her first patrol ended on the reef of Midway, she sank four ships on her first full patrol , an unusual number by 1944, when targets were growing scarce and those that were left were more heavily guarded by escort ships.  Things were looking up when she went down on August 13, becoming one of only eight submarines which sank leaving some of the crew behind.  And her crew became the only ones to return home eluding a stay at a POW camp.  Amazing odds really: Only 4 submarines (Tarpon, Scorpion, Trigger and Flier) grounded at Midway for any length of time, only eight sunken submarines left some crew behind, (Perch, Gernadier, Sculpin, Tang, S-44, Tullibee, Robalo, and Flier) and only five sunken submarines have been found since WWII: (Lagarto, Grunion, Perch, Wahoo and Flier).

In a strange way, she really was a remarkable boat.

But she was more than that.  Jim Alls ended up serving on a number of boats, but said there was a special closeness that the Flier crew had that he never found again.  They certainly had a lot of fun together.  Walter Klock wrote to his mother just prior to Flier leaving on her first full patrol and told her how the Flier crew decided to have a beer party and baseball game and barbecue.  They took a small series of photos, likely using Klock’s camera. (His mother sent it to him for his birthday a couple of years earlier).

That's the way I like to remember these guys: relaxed and enjoying life. Sadly, they only had about three months left.

It’s become one of my favorite photos of this crew.  It’s hard to remember these guys were mostly teenagers and in their twenties in WWII.

Well, to my Flier people out there, I see Walter Klock, Bernard Fite and Paul Barron in this photo.  Do you recognize anyone?

A new Flier-related (sort of) website

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 11 2011

I had a wonderful surprise today.  Every few weeks I Google the names of several ships that featured largely in Flier’s history: Robalo, Redfin, Jack, Harder, Silversides, Orion, and of course, Macaw.   Usually, I find nothing, occasionally a new photo.

But today, I found a whole new website about USS Macaw, written by the son of Macaw’s Executive Officer, the most senior officer who survived the sinking.  It was incredible to read through and see the photos of this scarcely known ship.  The one on the home page was the best for me, a photo of Macaw as she sat, grounded, at Midway.  Wow.  THIS is why I keep sifting through the Internet to find stuff on Flier and all her connections.

So, I hope you visit the USS Macaw Website.

P.S.  It seems that particular area of Midway’s channel was VERY dangerous. Not only Flier, Macaw and that water barge (see March 23rds entry) grounded there, but so did USS Tarpon, another submarine on December 10, 1942.

From the War Patrol Report of USS Tarpon: December 10. 1942

1018(Y):  Grounded just before entering channel to NOB, Midway, bering 166 1/2 (degrees) T from W. H-beam pile, distant 850 yards.  Particulars of grounding covered in seperate correspondence.

1034(Y): Backed clear, proceeded up channel

1100(Y): Moored NOB Midway.  Diver inspected underwater condition of hull.


You’d think, with this warning 13 months earlier, someone should have blown that channel a little wider in 1943!  The strangest thing of this tale has to be the Executive Officer and Navigator of Tarpon that morning was Paul Burton.

Who, 13 months later, would be at Midway.  Commanding the new Submarine Rescue Ship USS Macaw.

I wonder if he felt a shiver go down his spine that morning in December.  13 months later, an unlucky number that (Flier would also sink on August 13, yeesh) He would drown in nearly the same spot.

Still digging…

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 07 2011

Yup, still digging and only occasionally coming up for air…or light…what time is it?  Wait,  is it actually spring?!  When did that happen?

Actually, I feel so great right now because I just finished and submitted my proposal for what I think the Flier exhibit should look like at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum.  I love the Flier story, I loved creating the floor plan, the story path, the graphics…I just LOATHE writing the actual proposal.  I don’t know why–but I do. I can tell stories of any kind all day long, quite happily, (something my children are likely going to hate in coming years!) but writing proposals is very difficult for me.  Verbal presentation, I can do.  Written, GAH!

But it’s done!  It’s done!  For better or worse, it’s in the bag and sent off!  I might actually get to bed before midnight tonight.  That’d be a first this week.

Now some of you might be interested in what it looks like, after all there is an “Exhibit” page on this site, and the subtitle of this blog is “Behind the scenes of building a museum exhibit”.  But, since I’m up against two professional museum exhibit firms, I’m sure you can understand why I’m not posting my proposal here for now.  Once I know the other two firms have submitted their proposals, I might post mine here, and once a proposal is decided on, regardless of whose it is, I’ll likely post that too.

So take a good look at the Exhibit Page now, because what was just submitted is radically different.  The location changed, the parameters changed, everything is different.  But I think I like the new ideas much better than the old.

Now on to other things!  First, where’s the interiors of my eyelids?  Ah,…how I’ve missed you…

Good night!


Finally off to war…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How hard could this be?