By Randy Boswell - Postmedia News
The discovery of a sunken U.S. submarine from the Second World War by a Canadian father-son dive team in the Philippines has finally given closure to hundreds of relatives of the 78 men who died in the 1944 sinking.
The USS Flier was lost after it struck a mine in the Balabac Strait entrance to the South China Sea on Aug. 13, 1944 — 66 years to the day before a memorial service for the lost seamen was held Friday at a Michigan naval museum.
Among those attending the ceremony were the discoverers of the wreck, Mike and Warren Fletcher — the shipwreck mystery hunters from Port Ryerse, Ont., and stars of the History Television documentary program Dive Detectives.
The sub's destruction set in motion one of the most dramatic survival stories of the war, as a handful of sailors who escaped the initial terror swam and floated 18 hours to reach land — an uninhabited island with no fresh water.
Only eight of the 14 submariners who survived the sinking made it to that shore. Those men were then forced to raft to other islands in search of food, water and help to reach U.S. forces.
After being hidden and smuggled through Japanese-held territory by Filipinos sympathetic to the Allied cause, the eight American sailors were finally delivered safely into U.S. hands and were able to return home.
In 2008, the last of the sub's survivors — Michigan businessman Alvin Jacobson — died with his long-held dream of discovering the wreck of the USS Flier unfulfilled.
But last year, his son Steve gathered his father's research on the Flier's whereabouts and joined in a search for the sub organized by the Fletchers and Toronto-based YAP Films.
At a depth of about 110 metres off the coast of the Philippines, the dive team captured images of what they believed was the sunken USS Flier.
"It was a pretty emotional experience," Steve Jacobson said at the time. "It is tremendous closure and I wish that my dad could have experienced this."
In February, the U.S. navy's Hawaii-based Pacific submarine command confirmed the discovery.