Dr. Edward Monroe-Jones is tire Director of the Submarine Research Center (SRC), he holds a bachelor’s degree
from Occidental College and a doctorate from University of Southe, in California. He qualified as an enlisted man on STERLET (SS-392) and as an officer on SIRAGO (SS-485) and served on the SubPac staff and WAHOO (SS-565).
George Grider ‘s heirs gave Bruce longhbridge their grandfather’s FLASHER night orders for late 1944/early 1945. The Jam ily felt it was better in a submariner’s hands than in their dusty attic. The night orders were loaned to SRC for research purposes by Bruce Lough bridge, theforme,. Chief Interior Communications Technician on DARTER (SS-576), BONEFJSH (SS-582) a11d JAMES MONROE (SSN-622).
When USS FLASHER departed Frcmantle on her fifth war patrol in mid-November, 1944 she was in company with
BECUNA (SS3 I 9) and HA WKBILL (SS-366). BECUNA was commanded by CDR Hank Sturr and HA WKBlLL by CDR Worth Scanland Jr. 1 Captain Eliot H. “Swede” Bryant, ComSubRon 18, rode HA WKBILL and was the wolf pack commander.2 The three boats under his command would act as a team in covering the assigned area of operations. During FLASHER’s trip north from Fremantle to Darwin, the jumping off point, its captain, CDR George Grider drilled his crew. In doing so
he was becoming familiar with FLASHER’s routine as much as the crew of FLASH ER was learning about the boat’s new captain.
George Grider was an experienced submarine officer, having served with CDR Marvin Kennedy and CDR Dudley W. “Mush”
Morton on WAHOO (SS-238) and S. P. Mosely in the trusty old POLLACK (SS-180).3 Grider had first met Morton at the SuBase Pearl swimming pool where he had been whipped by Morton in a spontaneous swimming race.~ Morton, the famous submarine commander, had greatly influenced Grider with somewhat unorthodox fire control procedures. W AHOO’s captain preferred to let his executive officer, LCDR Richard O’Kane, handle the periscope when making submerged approaches on Japanese shipping. This left Morton free to reflect on the tactical situation and observe the
attack procedure without becoming involved in the detail of periscope observations.
5 O’Kane, later to become famous in his own right as captain of TANG (SS-306), was as unique a figure as
Morton. It had been he and Grider who had rigged a Graflex camera in WAHOO’s wardroom to superimpose a geography
textbook map of Wewak Harbor, New Guinea onto a chart and from that to create a workable chart for the exploration of the harbor. 0 f course, the venture into the harbor resulted in one of the Second World War’s great submarine exploits. 6 Clearly, Grider’s formative years as a submarine officer were molded by the best role models.
Now, as Commanding Officer of FLASHER, he brought to the boat a vast and unique experience, yet he had the wisdom to integrate his own methods into FLASHER’s existing tactical procedures without turning things upside down. The transition from FLASHER’s former and very successful skipper (15 ships for 60,846 tons), CDR Reuben T. Whitaker, was comfortable for officers and men.7 FLASHER was a Gato class submarine and the oldest boat of the wolf pack three. It was thin skinned with a test depth of only 300 feet, but after having served on POLLACK, an even older boat with constant equipment failures, Grider had the highest regard for FLASHER. He was determined to keep up with his counterparts in whatever might come during the boat’s fifth patrol. By the time the fuel tanks had been topped off in Darwin and all was ready, the new captain had confidence in his executive officer, LCDR Phil Glennon and the other members of his wardroom.
One problem plagued FLASHER. Bow buoyancy vent was unpredictable. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. In
Fremantle it was thought to have been repaired by the tender, but on test dives after leaving Darwin the problem reappeared. A war patrol without a reliable bow buoyancy vent valve was not a happy prospect. Grider determined to get to the bottom of the problem and while at sea, in dangerous waters, Auxiliaryman Bill Beaman volunteered to go inside the tank and sec for himself the cause of the problem. He crawled into the superstructure, unbolted the tank’s access cover, crawled inside, and while the chief on the hydraulic manifold in control, exercised the valve, Beaman adjusted the operating linkage. Satisfied that the problem had been corrected, he crawled out of the pitch-dark tank and rcboltcd the access cover. This claustrophobic feat in enemy patrolled waters was well recognized by Grider and such praise was well deserved .
When two days later the TDC failed, Firecontrolman Joe Webb pronounced it dead on arrival. Chief Cypheard held the little follow-up motor in his hand when he told FLASHER’s commanding officer that the boat had no replacement. Not giving up, Grider sent a message through ComSubRon 18 on HA WKBILL asking any boat heading for the barn to lend FLASHER the crucial followup motor. In four hours the boat rendezvoused with HARDHEAD (SS-365) which high-lined a replacement part. Grider exclaimed that he couldn’t get that kind of service tied up alongside the tender. FLASHER had been equipped with standard radar and ECM of the time. SD was a submarine radar that used an A scope. It was useful as an air search radar, but had only one range scale up to about 20 nautical miles. Its SJ radar was its basic surface search radar with a plan position indicator and magnetron which made it directional. The SJ could present both range and bearing information.
It was later replaced by the smaller version, SS radar. 10 ST radar, another late addition, could be used for obtaining range information while running at periscope depth. 11 FLASHER had state-of-the-art JP passive sonar. It covered 70 Hz to 12 kHz. Normally operated in the conning tower it provided approximate target bearing information as well as target speed from turn count conversion knowing the
type of vessel.
FLASHER had the APR-I, this was an omni-directional electronic intelligence gathering pulse analyzer or ELINT. As the fore-runner of modern ECM equipment it covered surface vessel and aircraft frequencies and was most useful in detecting aircraft at ranges exceeding that which could be obtained by radar. The APRSAX was the improved version.
Phil Glennon, the executive officer, acted as safety officer in the conning tower’s fire control party. LT Tom McCants, called “Mac” by Grider, was the torpedo data computer operator with Ensign Eddie Atkinson acting as assistant TDC operator. LT Kiko Harrison stood behind McCants at the TDC observing the solution. LT Snap Coffin was the engineer and diving officer during battle stations
13 LT Jim Hamlin headed the fire control plotting party which ran a geographical plot of submarine and target course and speed. The quartermaster kept the log as events unfolded. He tended the periscope’s stadimeter and bearing ring when Glennon was otherwise occupied. At the opposite (forward) end of the conning tower was the battle station helmsman who kept the course and transmitted speed changes to maneuvering. Radar/sonar operator tried to take up as little space as possible in the Gato class conning tower. Of course, the captain was at the periscope during submerged approaches and at the TBT (target bearing transmitter) on the bridge when making a surface approach. Grider had elected to use the more conventional organization of the boat’s fire control party, preferring to see first hand events on the surface.
By December 3, 1944 FLASH ER had traversed the Ma lay Barrier, Macassar Strait and the Sulu Sea.’4 It was now traveling north in the open South China Sea. The three boats operated in separate areas, but FLASHER had slipped out of its proper position because an overcast prevented getting a star sight. Despite this, the
patrol was thus far routine. The night orders for Dec 3/4 read as
3-4 Dec 1944
Underway on course 000 (T) at one-engine speed, carrying
a zero float and propulsion on one engine.
At 2000, change course to 180 (T), reverse course every two
Start zig zag at moonrise.
HA WKBILL is 20-30 miles to the south of us.
SJ and APR are manned.
Carry out usual morning routine.
At 0600, we will adjust course and speed to get in position
20 miles north of HA WKBILL, as advised by navigator.
Respectfully, G W Grider
Night orders initialed by B (Tom Burke), H (Jim Hamlin),
TM (Tom McCants) and FBH (Kiko Harrison).
When dawn brought a clear sky, navigator Glennon’s fix put FLASHER 15 miles west of its proper position. This may have been cause for immediate correction, except that at about the same time a message was received from HA WKBILL that a convoy was projected to pass close aboard FLASHER’s present position. Mccants had the deck and Grider raised the periscope. He saw the masts of the hull-down ships and gave McCants the order to come left to intercept. 16 When FLASHER steadied on its new course the captain told Mccants to dive the boat. At the same time the quartermaster pushed the alarm knob and men began pushing their way through the boat to their respective battle stations. M cCants simply held the bridge hatch shut while the quartermaster dogged it, then slid over to the TDC. Below him in control, Coffin yelled into the conning tower that he had the dive.
When the TDC generated range was down to about 3000 yards on the lead ship a rain squall hit the area and Grider’s periscope became useless. The sonar operator said that he had high speed screws. The next observation had a destroyer just where the TDC had generated it. Grider marked the bearing and Glennon repeated it from the bearing ring. With stadimeter set, Glennon told Mccants the range. A small adjustment was made in the TDC, but the torpedo gyro angle was too large. Grider gave the order for a full rudder tum, but the destroyer’s speed could out-pace the swing.
Grider went to a full back bell on the inboard screw. With one more look through the periscope as FLASHER continued its tum, Grider decided to shoot while swinging. He gave a final bearing and shoot. Glennon repeated the order, McCants made a small correction and Atkinson was set when the red ready light glowed. The data was being fed into the torpedos and Grider gave the order to fire tubes one, two, three and four.
Two loud explosions followed . Grider raised the periscope and saw the destroyer already beginning to sink. But there were two more escorts. As Grider was swinging the periscope for a quick 360 safety sweep, he caught sight of a huge tanker. His bow tube shot at the destroyer had placed his stem tubes toward the tanker. With a quick bearing and range estimate (2500 yards) he pondered the
advisability of a four torpedo spread. Glennon nodded his head and
torpedoes left tubes seven and eight. 1
The scope was raised and Grider saw the tanker turning. He checked fire on the remaining
two torpedoes, then swung the scope to sec the remaining escorts bearing down on him.
FLASHER went deep at two thirds speed and went to silent running. It had not descended far when two explosions were heard through the hull. Those in the conning tower were amazed. Both torpedoes had struck the tanker. McCants looked at his TDC solution which continued to generate. With nearly zero gyros any range error was minimized. He nodded in satisfaction. Grider said in his patrol report, “As we were going deep, heard two timed hits
on tanker. Apparently, he was making more than ten knots and his maneuver slowed him down just enough to let him catch them both in the tail.”
After running deep for an hour and a half but staying in the area, FLASHER came back up to periscope depth. Clay Blair Jr. describes the scene, “He (Grider) found the tanker burning furiously and sinking aft. In addition -unbelievably- he saw another destroyer motionless on the water. Grider was uneasy. Why was this destroyer making himself a perfect target? He fired four torpedoes: three at the stopped destroyer, one at the tanker just beyond. Three torpedoes hit the destroyce. ”
Grider had sunk the destroyers KISHJNANI and IWANAMI with the tanker HAKKO MARU. He and his crew were in good spirits. That evening he wrote his night orders and could not resist the temptation for a bit of levity: 4-5 December 1944 Underway at 2/3 speed on course 090 (T). When battery charge is completed, shift to zero float and propulsion on one engine.
At about 2300, when pit log reads 32.2 c/c to 000 (T) and instruct radio to send the wolfpack message to comwolfpack.
Reverse course at 0 I 00 to 180 (T)
At 0200, reverse course to 000 (T)
Thereafter, reverse course every two hours on the hour.
SJ and APR are manned. Keep an alert watch as the Japs are a little piqued and may come looking for us.
When we arrive at the point at about 2300, HA WKBILL should be about I 0 miles south of us. Carry out the usual morning routine.
Respectfully, G W Grider21 On December 13th FLASHER received new orders from HA WKBILL. It was to approach the entrance to Manila harbor and take station at the mouth of the giant bay. The object was to intercept and sink ships entering and leaving the harbor. It arrived north of Lu bang Island the next night and set up a patrol routine. It was a fruitless endeavor. Other than watching American planes bombing the mainland the surface cruise was uneventful. Grider sent HA WKBILL a tongue in cheek message that he was doing his duty. If Admiral Christie, back in Australia read it, the humor might not be well placed. A few days later, FLASHER was ordered to leave its unproductive watch on Manila Bay and to head west to Camranh Bay on the Inda-Chinese coast, now Vietnam. Arriving there, he resumed his routine of running submerged during the day and on the surface at night while charging batteries. At one point he tried to intercept a convoy reported by DACE (SS-24 7), but the seas were running high and his attempt failed. His night orders for December 20121
reflected his intentions:
Underway at l /3 speed on course 180 (T) patrolling off
Camranh Bay, French lndo China.
When Fisherman Island bears 300 (T) c/c to 000.
When Fisherman Island bears 235 (T) c/c to 180.
Continue this all night. Keep Fisherman Island at a distance of between 8000 and I 0,000 yards when passing it abeam. We have a 3-knot southerly current; you should stay on the
northern leg much longer than the southern. Last night there were strong indications of a 220 mgcs radar on Camranh Head. Look for it while near the southern limit of the leg .
When the charge is completed, put one engine on charge and
SJ, APR, and sound arc manned. In the event of a plane
contact on SJ, submerge at a range of 6,000 yards.
PADDLE is to south of us. BECUNA is to the east.
We plan to submerge at daybreak, do not start the SD in the
Keep me informed. Report any marked change in the
Call me at 0600, or sooner if it appears to be getting light
Respectfully G W Grider
Night orders initialed by B.(Burke) and H (Hamlin)
Then, at about midnight Grider decided to change his venue to the north. The night orders were modified:
0 I 00: We arc proceeding to a point off Van Fong Peninsula at a speed of 12 knots. Steer courses as directed by navigator. The general course will be about 010 (T). When the charge is completed, put the auxiliary engine on a
Night orders initialed by TRM (McCants) and FBH (Harrison). The waters around Van Fong Peninsula were far more traversed by Japanese north-south traffic than in and out of Manila. When late on December 20th, Grider turned FLASHER north to patrol off Hon Doi Island near Van Fong Bay, south of Cape Varella, he kept in mind the shallow water in the new area. When dawn broke, FLASH ER submerged to 100 feet and went to one third speed. This minimal depth was the result of the shallow water in the patrol area. It was a dangerous hunting ground for a submarine, but the Japanese tended to hug the coast and for that reason the hunting was good. The morning of December 21 was the boat’s first day on its new station. FLASHER had dived at dawn and was running submerged at I 00 feet. LT. Burke relieved LT. Coffin in the conning tower. He ordered the diving officer to bring the boat up to periscope depth for a look-around. At 0905 he sighted a Japanese patrol boat at l 77T on a northerly course. The captain was called to the conning tower and FLASHER was turned to seaward so that the patrol boat would pass between land and FLASHER. Sonar reported multiple screws to the south. GRIDER waited patiently, then spotted several large tankers. It was a juicy target, but the seas were rough and he doubted that his torpedoes could perform. He let the convoy pass, surfaced and sent a contact report.23
Pushing FLASHER at standard on three engines he could only make about 12- 13 knots through heavy seas. He stayed on the surface through the day and into the following night. Grider was like a blind man looking for a rabbit in the forest. He knew the convoy was somewhere along the coast, but he didn’t know if he was ahead of it, behind it or if it had ducked into one of the many harbors to escape a suspected submarine.
Meanwhile, at about midnight the two lookouts, Radioman Fillipone and Signalman Corneau got into a heated discussion on the bridge. The port lookout watched the vague outline of the beach, miles away. Both lookouts tried to guess what the outline was. The officer of the deck got into the discussion and suggested to conn that the executive officer try to spot the outline using the periscope. Both the quartermaster and executive officer saw the shape and tried to fix it to a point of land on the chart. As both the bridge and conning tower were pondering the problem, the captain was half awake in his bunk. Finally, he climbed the ladder into conn, but stopped to listen to the quartermaster arguing with the executive officer. Both were pointing to a spot on the chart, then peering through the periscope. It was about 0 I 00 when Glennon admitted to the quartermaster that either Tortue Island was underway, or they had spotted the convoy. 24 Grider kept to seaward of the convoy and tried to get ahead of it. The escort destroyer stayed between FLASH ER and his line of tankers. A few more escort vessels ranged up and down the seaward side of the ships. The tightly packed group of tankers were so close to the shore that zig zagging was impossible. Grider guessed that all the escorts had been assigned to the seaward side of the convoy since water to the west of it was too shallow for a submarine to operate safely. Try as Grider might, he couldn’t get FLASHER past
the snoopy destroyer. He and Glennon were convinced that the Japanese captain knew that a submarine was trying to penetrate his defensive screen. Grider jockeyed FLASH ER up and down the seaward side of the convoy, but the destroyer matched Grider’s every move with a defensive one of his own. In frustration, Grider
determined to plow on ahead, get in front of the convoy and drill into it no matter what the destroyer might do. When ahead of the ships, Grider secured the engines and went ahead on the battery while remaining on the surface. He was now ahead and on the left of the convoy. The destroyer had followed FLASHER around the convoy’s van, but veered back to the seaward side.25 Land was only 12 miles to the west of FLASHER and the tankers were moving to pass between Cape Batangan and Kulao Rai Island. The submarine remained 30 degrees off the convoy’s port bow with the lead ship about at I 0,000 yards. Water depth was about 100 feet.
Jim Hamlin manned the bridge TBT and kept bearings flowing into the TDC. When the lead tanker was at 2500 yards, and McCants on TDC was tracking without difficulty, Grider fired all six forward tubes at the first two tankers; three at the first and three at the second. With full rudder the stem tubes were brought to bear on the third tanker. lt was 0446 and dawn had not yet arrived as the first and second tankers exploded. Night turned into day as flames soared into the sky. Grider, on the bridge, check-fired the stern tubes. He might need the four torpedoes in tubes aft for a get-away. Time passed as McCants looked at a perfect solution with near zero torpedo gyro angle. It was now or never. Glennon in conn then fired the after tubes. In the fire control party organization, the captain was only the safety officer on the bridge and the executive officer in conn was in charge of the attack. Be it right or wrong, it was done and all held their breaths.26
Even before the explosions marking the end of the third tanker, Grider and his executive officer were dealing with the destroyer.
He went to flank on four engines and set course 180 degrees to slide
down the west side of the three flaming, wrecked tankers. FLASHER would have to out-maneuver the destroyer and the other smaller escorts. It wouldn’t be easy. The destroyer had radar and it was apparent to Grider that it was still shadowing FLASHER. As the operate safely. Try as Grider might, he couldn’t get FLASHER past the snoopy destroyer. He and Glennon were convinced that the Japanese captain knew that a submarine was trying to penetrate his defensive screen. Grider jockeyed FLASH ER up and down the seaward side of the convoy, but the destroyer matched Grider’s every move with a defensive one of his own. In frustration, Grider determined to plow on ahead, get in front of the convoy and drill into it no matter what the destroyer might do. When ahead of the ships, Grider secured the engines and went ahead on the battery while remaining on the surface. He was now ahead and on the left of the convoy. The destroyer had followed FLASHER around the convoy’s van, but veered back to the seaward side.25 Land was only 12 miles to the west of FLASHER and the tankers were moving to pass between Cape Batangan and Kulao Rai Island. The submarine remained 30 degrees off the convoy’s port bow with the lead ship about at 10,000 yards. Water depth was about 100 feet.
Jim Hamlin manned the bridge TBT and kept bearings flowing into the TDC. When the lead tanker was at 2500 yards, and McCants on TDC was tracking without difficulty, Grider fired all six forward tubes at the first two tankers; three at the first and three at the second. With full rudder the stem tubes were brought to bear on the third tanker. lt was 0446 and dawn had not yet arrived as the first and second tankers exploded. Night turned into day as flames soared into the sky. Grider, on the bridge, check-fired the stern tubes. He might need the four torpedoes in tubes aft for a get-away. Time passed as McCants looked at a perfect solution with near zero torpedo gyro angle. It was now or never. Glennon in conn then fired the after tubes. In the fire control party organization, the captain was only the safety officer on the bridge and the executive officer in conn was in charge of the attack. Be it right or wrong, it was done and all held their breaths.
Even before the explosions marking the end of the third tanker, Grider and his executive officer were dealing with the destroyer. He went to flank on four engines and set course 180 degrees to slide down the west side of the three flaming, wrecked tankers. FLASHER would have to out-maneuver the destroyer and the other smaller escorts. It wouldn’t be easy. The destroyer had radar and it was apparent to Grider that it was still shadowing FLASHER. As the submarine raced south with its GM engines at 110 percent, the destroyer made a turn to parallel FLASHER on a 180 course. Grider was boxed in; the destroyer barring his way to deeper water.
After covering a little over two miles, the destroyer slowed and then turned to get back to his sinking ships.
FLASHER turned cast and dove after reaching submarine-safe water. It had been a long morning and all were in need of rest and a good meal. The wardroom and crews mess were both full of
mutual congratulations and back slapping. At 1631 FLA SH ER surfaced and sent a message to CTF 71 . It then headed for the barn.
It was evening and the relieving officer of the deck, Jim Hamlin reviewed the night orders on the chart table in conn prior to go ing onto the bridge. He took note of the captain’s concern about Japanese aircraft and periscopes. They were on their way back to Fremantle, but were still in Japanese infested waters. The skipper’s remark about getting home safely applied to all on board, but especially to Phil Glennon who was to be married to an Australian
girl upon FLASHER’s arrival in Perth.2
The last line of Dec 22/23’s night orders reflected Grider’s
concern to stay alert:
Underway on course 173 (T) at standard speed. Carrying n
zero float on the auxiliary engine.
At about 00 I 0, when pit log reads 55 .0, c/c to 180 (T).
Zig zag until moonset.
SJ and APR arc manned.
Carry out usual morning routine. Key SD continuously.
Have BN warmed up but do not use. Dive on all plane
contacts at I 0 miles or less.
Keep a sharp lookout for periscopes.
We want to get home.
Respectfully, G W Gridcr.29
FLASHER’s fifth war patrol lasted 48 days. During that period
it sank 4 tankers and 2 destroyers for a JAN AC total of 42,800