On 11 July 1943, USS FLIER (SS-250) slid into the Thames River in Groton, CT. Built by Electric Boat Company, the vessel was 311 feet long and 27 feet in diameter; she displaced just over 2,400 tons submerged. After being commissioned in October, FLIER headed for Pearl Harbor. She ventured out on her first war patrol on 12 January 1944.
Just four days later, bad luck reared its ugly head for the first time. FLIER ran aground near Midway island and USS MACAW (ASR-11), a submarine rescue ship, managed to run aground herself and sink before she could render assistance. USS FLORIKAN (ASR-9) was able to wrench the sub free and tow her back to Pearl Harbor. From there, she was towed to Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California for repairs. On 21 May FLIER was finally ready for action once more.
The boat headed for Luzon, one of the Philippine islands, in the South China Sea. On 4 June she found her first contacts, a convoy of five merchant ships. After firing a total of six torpedoes, FLIER sank Hakusan Maru, a transport. She hit another ship, but was forced to evacuate the area to avoid retaliation before she could ascertain the extent of the damage she caused. Nine days later, FLIER came upon a heavily guarded convoy of 11 ships; once again she was forced to flee before a full damage report could be made. 22 and 23 June were probably her most successful days: on the 22nd she launched six torpedoes and made four hits on two cargo ships; the following day she went three for four against another cargo vessel.
After a month-long refit in Fremantle, Australia, FLIER set out on her second war patrol at the beginning of August. Unfortunately, this patrol would not be nearly as successful as the first. Just ten days in, at 2200 on 12 August, FLIER struck a mine while transiting the Balabac Strait. In sixty seconds the boat had sunk beneath the waves; 14 men, out of a total complement of 86, made it out. After spending 15 hours in the water, eight of the survivors, severely sunburned and with skin shredded by coral, managed to reach Mantangula Island. A coast-watcher, to whom the men were guided by a friendly local, orchestrated a rescue by another submarine, USS REDFIN (SS-272), on the night of 30 August. Other locals and a guerilla group ensured the Sailors’ safety during the two weeks between the sinking and the rescue.
Sixty-five years after FLIER’s loss, the U.S. Navy announced that Mike and Warren Fletcher, a father-son dive team, had located the boat. The divers were part of a team from YAP films, which investigates nautical mysteries. Al Jacobson, one of the FLIER survivors, had spent much of his retirement investigating the sinking; the Jacobson family provided YAP with all the information he had collected to aid in the search. Today FLIER, located almost exactly where Jacobson predicted she would be, lies in 330 feet of water with the 72 crewmembers who went down with her.