Submariners assert their's was the most dangerous duty posting in World War II. Unlike the thousands of Airmen shot down over Europe who had a chance to bail out, if submariners were forced to abandon ship, there was little chance of survival. "The USS Flier: Death and Survival on a World War II Submarine" retells the story of eight survivors who not only survived the sinking of their ship, but made their way back to allied lines to fight again.
Sturma researched War Patrol Reports and the 1944 transcripts of the ship's skipper, Commander John Crowley, along with numerous other applicable publications available from US Navy Archives. After reading the book, you may jump to the conclusion either Commander John Crowley was a hard luck skipper, or the USS Flier was a hard-luck ship. In January 1944, on its first outing in the Pacific, Commander Crowley brought the sub into Midway harbor for refueling. Sturma provides a detailed look into the circumstances that led to the stranding of the submarine and subsequent sinking of its rescue vessel, the USS Macaw.
The book briefly describes the board of inquiry into the accident which held Crowley accountable, but permitted him to retain command. After major repairs in California, Commander Crowley led the USS Flier on its second patrol where it came to an abrupt end in the Balabac Strait on August 13, 1944.
Sturma begins with survivor accounts ("there was a big explosion") and analyzes the possible causes for the explosion. Although never proven conclusively, Sturma establishes a credible argument for a Japanese naval mine as the probable cause of the explosion. The story continues with the incredible fourteen-hour swim to a nearby island. Two days later the survivors make contact with coast watchers in the Phillipines, who radioed US Seventh Fleet to coordinate a rescue during the night of August 29, 1944.
The balance of the book describes the subsequent inquiry into the loss of the USS Flier, and the careers of Crowley, the other survivors, and Admiral Christie, the commander of the submarine fleet based out of Freemantle, Australia.
Whether it's a description of the evolution of Midway Harbor; mine warfare tactics; or the personal rivalries between the American commanders of Australia-based submarines, Sturma provides detailed segues into many facets of Naval and submarine warfare during World War II. The book has numerous charts that enhance the reader's ability to understand the operations areas.
This enjoyable and readable book honoring the USS Flier would be a welcome addition to any maritime library.