USS FLIER (SS-250) departed Fremantle on August 04, 1944 for her 2nd War Patrol enroute to the area off SIAGON, FRENCH INDO-China.

After refueling at EXMOUTH GULF, FLIER departed early the next morning.  She made passage through LOMBOCK STRAIT after the crew made repairs to one of the engines that had blown. 

On Sunday, August 13th FLIER started up BALABAC STRAIT instead of going through MINDORE STRAIT because they had received a dispatch informing them of a Japanese Convoy going down the western side of PALAWAN ISLAND. 

Captain CROWLEY had come to the bridge and at 2130 he called Battle Stations.  So now there were 4 Officers, 4 Lookouts and Captain Crowley on the bridge. 

At 2200 there was a very loud explosion.  The bridge was showered with oil, water and a lot of debris.  A gush of air came up from the Conning Tower carrying LT JAMES LIDDELL (XO) to the bridge.  Several men scrambled up the ladder to the bridge. 

The FLIER was still making 15 knots and sank within a few minutes.  It was later determined that FLIER had hit a mine. 

Fifteen survivors all gathered in the water in a group which included Captain CROWLEY.  The Navigation Officer stated that land was on three sides of them at a distance of 14 miles and more but it was dark now with an overcast.  They could see some mountains in the distance when the lightning would strike but lost all sense of direction without the lightning. 

After several hours of swimming, the tide and waves took their toll.  CHARLES D. POPE, GMC; GERALD F. MADEO, F2 and EDGAR W. HUDSON, MoMMC were swept away and lost.  A little later, LTjg W.L. REYNOLDS and Ens. P.S. MAYER, who were badly injured, were not able to swim on and the Sea claimed their lives.  After being separated from the group, LT PAUL KNAPP disappeared. 

The group agreed that the policy would be “Every Man for Himself”.  Later LT JOHN E. CASEY, who had been blinded by oil, refused help from ALVIN JACOBSON and soon disappeared. 

At 0300 on August 14th the moon rose, the rain stopped and this raised the spirits of the group and made the going a little easier.  They could not see any land until about 0500 when the sun rose.  At this time they picked out the closest island and all agreed that each person would swim at their own pace, JAMES DELLO RUSSO, QM3 swam ahead and was the first to reach the island.

A Japanese airplane flew over them at 1300 but did not see them in the water.  JACOBSON, GEORGE HOWELL, CRT (AA) and EARL R. BUMGART, MoMM3 thought they saw a native boat, it turned out to be a floating palm tree.  They caught onto it, which gave them some relief.  They spotted Captain CROWLEY and waved to him, he was just about ready to give up but swam to them and the tree. 

At 1530 they reached land after 17 hours of swimming.  JAMES DELLO RUSSO was waiting for them as they reached the beach.  As he walked to the end of the island he found DONALD P. TREMAINE, FRC2.  An hour later they found WESLEY MILLER, MoMM3 who had reached the island in the dark and spent the night there. 

In all, eight men of FLIER had survived the explosion, sinking and the sea and they were; CDR JOHN D. CROWLEY (CO), LT JAMES W. LIDDEll (XO), Ens. ALVIN E. JACOBSON, ARTHUR GEORGE HOWELL, CRT (AA), DONALD P. TREMAINE, FRc2, JAMES DELLO RUSSO, QM3, EARL R. BUMGART, MoMM3 and WESLEY B. MILLER, MoMM3. 

They survived for 5 more days living on the rain water collected in 20 large sea shells.  A raft which could hold two people was constructed from bamboo found on the beach and lashed together with vines found in the trees.  Captain CROWLEY made two paddles from the bamboo and they found two long sticks.  As a lot of the water was shallow in places around the islands they would use the sticks to propel the raft through the shallow water. 

After reaching several small islands they finally reached the fourth island and met some friendly natives who gave them water, rice and some dried fish then led them to a Coast Watchers Unit on PALAWAN.  Later it was discovered these were the same Coast Watchers that USS REDFIN (SS-272) had landed.  The US Army Coast Watchers made contact with REFDFIN and arrangements were made for their evacuation. 

On the night of August 30th the FLIER survivors made their way offshore in native boats (Kumpits) to REDFIN and arrived onboard at 0103 on the morning of August 31, 1944. 

The survivors were grateful for the luck and stamina that kept them going, but they would never forget their shipmates who were unable to ‘make it’. 

This material is based on a book written by;

Alvin E. Jacobson

Survivor’s Story Submarine USS FLIER

Lost August 13, 1944

Published August 1997

Revised December 2002