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Allied Intelligence Bureau

Allied Intelligence Bureau

It was to be Narwhal's closest brush with death. The submarine force's giant had completed a Spyron mission further north, embarking evacuees for transport to Australia. The second leg of her mission had brought her to the Sulu Archipelago to deliver vital supplies to Lieutenant Frank Young, an Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) coast watcher.

Young had been a third lieutenant in the Philippine Army that had been routed by the Japanese in 1941. He had escaped capture and joined a guerrilla unit on Luzon. His commanding officer had ordered him to deliver several important messages to General MacArthur at Corregidor. However, the general had retreated to Australia. Ever resourceful, Young joined forces with a German sea pilot (Jordan Hamner) who hated the Nazis, and acquired a small sail boat with six able native Moro crewmen. They made landfall on Australia in late 1942 and were rushed to AIB headquarters at Brisbane. The group, including the Moro tribesmen, eventually underwent training for return to the Philippines as coast watchers. The party embarked May 23, 1943 and was inserted on Mindanao. Hamner would proceed to Borneo to link up with British agents. Young and the Moros would establish themselves in the Tawi-Tawi group. Young was to report enemy ship movements southward through the Sibutu Passage; Hamner was to keep watch over the Balabac Strait.

As 1943 waned, Young started to confront a problem neither he nor his AIB handlers had contemplated. This related to the Moros. They were devout Muslims who were steadfastly hostile to infidels of any color, even their own. The Moros on Young's team naturally fell under the influence of the semi-savage indigenous Tawi-Tawi Moro Muslim population. They became hostile to Young and posed a continous threat of sudden and fierce attack. The Japanese also posed a serious threat. They had become more efficient at triangulating the coast watcher's radio signals. Troops were dispatched to hunt him down in the humid dark hill country. Young had to be constantly alert and on the move. As a hunted man, he had to move his encampments frequently, abandoning vital supply caches. Soon he was badly in need of food, medicines, and money. Especially money to induce friendlier natives to serve as porters and lookouts.

So it was that Narwhal surfaced off the prearranged drop off point in the Sulu Archipelago. Young's flotilla of small boats paddled from shore to effect the transfer. Aboard the Narwhal, lookouts were doubled. Everything seemed to be following plans. Probably due to Japanese efficiency or Moro treachery, a lookout soon sighted two IJN destroyers closing quickly from each end of the island. Narwhal's klaxon sounded and she went to full speed. The supplies became flotsam and the small craft raced for shore. The submarine dove sharply and touched bottom. Commander Frank Latta ordered all to brace for depth charges, which came forthwith. The detonations shook the boat tremendously causing all lights to fail, but the submarine's hull had not buckled. Then the explosions stopped. Latta knew the enemy was still listening so he passed word for total silence. Some time later explosions were heard 300 yards away from the submarine's position. Latta knew that the destroyers' sonars had detected a long and narrow rock shelf at that position and that the warships were focused on blasting the "rock" submarine to pieces. The IJN ships left confident their mission had been accomplished. The Narwhal made her way to Australia with the evacuees. Young returned to the hill country without his supplies.

With his pursuit by the Japanese and the Moro threat in mind, Young decided to discontinue his clandestine status and courageously confronted his disloyal Moro troops, declaring himself to be the newly MacArthur-appointed leader chosen to form and lead a guerrilla unit. However, the Moro natives were hesitant, believing MacArthur would never appoint a lieutenant for such a position. Young told them he was indeed a captain commissioned by the general to lead them against the Japanese. With this deceit he was able to form a small guerrilla unit. To provide cover for his guise, Young sent the following dispatch to GHQ-Brisbane:


One of the most important messages he transmitted to GHQ involved a substantial buildup of Japanese naval shipping in the Tawi-Tawi group in April 1944. Following the American bombing of Palau (Operation Desecrate), the Japanese contingency plan called for a retreat of their fleet units to Davao, Tawi-Tawi, Singapore, and Surabaya. The buildup Young spotted was part of this plan. Young initially reported the arrival of twenty-seven ships; additional ships arrived regularly thereafter. Later, as American forces assaulted Leyte, Young transmitted the following message to GHQ:


What the American fleet did to "dos guys" in the Battle of Leyte Gulf is well known.

The foregoing is my rendition of one of the many stories told by Lieutenant Colonel Allison Ind in his book Allied Intelligence Bureau. Ind was in the AIB management ranks since its inception, and a senior staff member on MacArthur's post-war occupation force in Japan. During the war he was directly involved in AIB's day-to-day operations.

The book is a memoir based on Ind's reminiscences and records. There are no footnotes, or a bibliography. I have found this to be typical of books published during the same period about the coast watchers and AIB. I surmise there was probably a rush among publishers to market these memoirs to a curious public before the authors were lost to the ages. The stories Ind presents in his book contain details verifiable through other sources, so I am confident it is an accurate accounting.

Ind was gifted with a clear and precise writing style, and an ability to describe an AIB special operation in a way that makes you want read the pages without pause. His six chapters cover the operations of most of AIB's sections - the coast watchers, the commandos, and the Filipino guerrilla units. In almost every chapter, Fremantle-based submarines played an important role in inserting, supplying, and evacuating AIB personnel. 3 The section covering Philippines operations is particularly valuable as a primary source on how the Spyron island-wide radio network was established, grew, and contributed to honing the guerrilla gangs into disciplined military units.

The book's subtitle is Our Secret Weapon in the War Against Japan. As was the case for the Allied code breakers and the Silent Service during the Pacific War, the AIB's activities and accomplishments were not made public. It was a strategic decision not to herald them so the enemy would not take steps to foil their effectiveness.

The book was published in 1958 and is now out-of-print. It has many finely detailed maps by Donald Pitcher. The book's index is very helpful in finding specific information within the book's 294 pages. It is still widely available at many online sources. I purchased a first edition in excellent condition online for $7.95 with free shipping.


1. Ind, Allison, Allied Intelligence Bureau, p. 196.

2. Ibid., p. 197.

3. "Forty-one Spyron missions to the Philippines delivered more than 330 agents and 1,325 tons of supplies. More than 470 passengers made the return trip to Australia. Nineteen submarines took part, with Narwhal, Nautilus, and Stingray undertaking the lion's share of the missions." Jones, David, and Peter Nunan, U.S. Subs Down Under: Brisbane 1942-1945, p. 218. By my own count, about 30 similar missions were undertaken by Fremantle and Brisbane submarines in the Solomon Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea, Netherlands East Indies, and Southeast Asia.