Fifth ship of the Essex-class CVs. Fifth ship named for Benjamin Franklin…

The date – 19 March 1945. Area of operations – fifty miles off the coast of Japan. Flight ops have been underway since before dawn, beginning with a strike against Honshu and another against shipping in Kobe harbor. On the flight deck, aircraft of CVG-5 are being turned around, serviced and armed for another launch and strike; in the ready rooms, the crews are briefing…

It never takes much — it happens so fast, in the blink of an eye the world turns upside down…

Out of the low-hanging scud-layer a single Japanese aircraft suddenly appears and drops two armor-piercing bombs on the laden flightdeck….

Blink.

Mayhem erupts. A proud ship is mortally wounded, her crew decimated…

Blink

Severed AVGAS lines pour fuel into fires fed from broken aircraft and exploding ordnance on the flightdeck generating rivers of fire…

Blink

Secondary explosions from deep within the ship begin to tear it apart. Fire has spread to the second and third deck. CIC has been knocked out and all communications lost. The ship assumes a 13 degree list as her boilers go off line and fifty miles off the coast of Japan, the USS Franklin goes DIW…

Blink

Yet in the darkest hour of despair heroes emerge. The light cruiser Santa Fe rushes alongside to aid in rescuing crewmembers and fighting the fires, despite the continuing detonations…

Blink

On board Franklin 803 officers and men of ship’s company, flag staff, embarked Marines and CVG-5 and her squadrons are dead. Many are grievously burned and wounded. They fought to save their ship. Some fought to save others souls.

Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O’Callahan, ChC (SJ) USNR, the ship’s Roman Catholic chaplain –

“… a soul-stirring sight. He seemed to be everywhere, giving Extreme Unction to the dead and dying, urging the men on and himself handling hoses, jettisoning ammunition and doing everything he could to help save our ship. He was so conspicuous not only because of the cross daubed with paint across his helmet but because of his seemingly detached air as he went from place to place with head slightly bowed as if in meditation or prayer.” – CDR Joe Taylor, XO

Awarded the Medal of Honor…

Blink

Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Donald A. Gary led some 300 of his shipmates to safety. He later organized and led fire-fighting parties to battle the blazing inferno on the hangar deck, and entered number three fireroom to raise steam in one boiler, braving extreme hazards in so doing.

Awarded the Medal of Honor…

Blink

Saving a ship is brutally hard and physically and mentally debilitating…but its your ship and with your shipmates and sailors from your battle group you begin to prevail…

Blink

Eventually the fires are out, the list righted, the plant back online and making steam and you begin the long, long journey home to repair your wounds…

Blink

The skyline of Manhattan hoves into view as you make your way to the Brooklyn shipyard and enter drydock…

… bent, broken, bloodied – but unbowed…

… You remember your fallen…

… and then turn to rebuilding for there still is a war on…

… and reborn, you rejoin the fleet.

Blink

The USS Franklin was the most heavily damaged carrier of any action in WW2 – that she survived is testimony to the bravery, determination and damage control skills of her crew. One hundred six officers and 604 enlisted were all that remained to save the ship – the rest were killed or wounded. In the blink of an eye – will it be another aircraft delivering a bomb? A cruise missile? An anti-ship ballistic missile – or an explosive packed boat driven by a suicidal bomber? Maybe a mine — are you ready? Do you “game” your GQ and damage control drills? Do the minimum to get by? Think a 2 hour battle problem is “hard”? Doesn’t have to come from enemy fire — just ask the crews of the

Forrestal

Enterprise

Oriskany

Belknap

How ’bout it DivO? Chief? LPO? Are you ready?




Posted by SteelJaw in Navy, Uncategorized
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  • sid

    Only two people survived from the Franklin’s hangar deck.

    Time Magazine described the hellish scene this way:

    On the hangar deck, now a roaring furnace, pilots blundered into still-whirling plane propellers, climbed frantically up the folded wings. Later some were found hanging like black, charred monkeys, caught in the overhead structure. The sailors lined up for breakfast died with empty bellies.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Steeljaw,

    Great post. I was hoping someone would mention Franklin today. Fr O’Callahan was later a professor at my Alma Mater (Holy Cross), and the citation for his Medal of Honor was something I stopped to read almost every day for four years.

    Wonder how the “reduced manning initiative” to cut operating costs would have affected Big Ben, or Bunker Hill, or San Francisco, or Forrestal, or Enterprise, or Oriskany, or Belknap, or…..

    URR

  • sid

    Pertinent Damage Report here

    The design, which protected the ship below the hangar deck passed the test:

    Although the armored hangar deck (two courses of 1-1/4-inch STS from frame 26 to frame 166) was ruptured in four places and extensively scarred and warped, it was very effective in protecting spaces below from serious damage.
    That damage below the armored hangar deck was comparatively minor is directly attributable to the effectiveness of its armored portion, two courses of 1-1/4-inch STS, plug-welded together, between frames 26 and 166. The shielding effect of the ggmor was a principal factor in the survival of the ship.

    And, it must be remembered, that the considerable damage she suffered on 19 March was mostly attributable to the effects of her own ordnance once fire found it:

    In the action of 19 March there were considerably fewer planes on board with a correspondingly smaller total amount of gasoline in fuel tanks to feed the fire. The after gasoline system which was in operation at the time of the hits contributed somewhat to the intensity and scope of the fire by the amount of gasoline in lines above the hangar deck level, some or all of which drained out into the hangar via damaged filling lines. It is to be noted that no part of the gasoline system below the hangar deck level was involved in the fire. The significant difference between circumstances on 19 March and those of 30 October was in the amount of heavy ammunition loaded on the planes. In the earlier action only small caliber ammunition was involved; in the later action the flight and hangar decks were veritable arsenals. It is believed that, except for the ammunition involved, the fire of 19 March could have been brought under control and extinguished promptly.

    A lesson that is being ignored by those suggesting that WARships can be built to Level I survivability standards or less.

  • sid

    Wonder how the “reduced manning initiative” to cut operating costs would have affected Big Ben, or Bunker Hill, or San Francisco, or Forrestal, or Enterprise, or Oriskany, or Belknap, or…..

    Or if a T-AKE can deliver the goods like the USS Alchiba could even when grievously wounded

  • sid

    In that pic above, the Alchiba had been torpedoed a second time been beached while her crew simultaneously continued to offload supplies to the Marines, and fight the torpedo damage. She was torpedoed a second time 9 days later…

    6. ALCHIBA undoubtedly would have sunk after the first torpedo struck had she not been quickly beached. Fully laden and open for the discharge of cargo she was very vulnerable to both flooding and fire. The remarkably persistent and skillful efforts of her entire crew not only saved her but also most of her cargo, sorely needed at that time.
    The history of ALCHIBA, from the time she was torpedoed on
    28 November 1942 until she was placed back in service on
    7 August 1943, is marked by the inflexible determination
    of her personnel. This factor is the key to her ultimate
    survival and return to service.

    Could the same be expected of an “optimally” numbered crew aboard a “Cushy Ride”, more accustomed to a peacetime Corporate environment:

    “This is basically a merchant ship – we don’t shoot at anything…You put in your hours and you get paid for it, and that’s that.”…?

  • sid

    Correction to above comment…The pic was almost certainly taken after the Alchiba had been beached, but before her second torpedo hit.

  • b2

    What a story! Thanks.

    Gotta wonder though. Could this story of America take place this century?

    b2

  • Michael Veseling

    A friend showed me your website… my father was on the Santa Fe, and has shared the experience with me and my children. And, even though I know the story,it is tremendously inspiring to see your father’s ship on the internet, involved in this action, and to know the work and courage displayed by the members of the U.S Navy. God Bless you all for your work and dedication in the protection of our country and for the protection of those in need all around the world. Mike Veseling

  • http://none John McDonald

    To Michael Vessing;,my late uncle served aboard the Satna Fe also. His name was Dave Wilson. Unfortunatly he died when I was very young and I never learned much about his service. The story of the Franklin is inspiring. John M.

  • Michael Veseling

    To :John McDonald; I will check with my Father and see if he by chance remembers your uncle…I agree… some incredibly inspiring stories of ture American heroes. Mike V.

  • Wharf Rat

    In April 2007 I took my family to DC to see the sites.

    At the National Archives, approx. 50′ behind the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution – is the log book of USS Franklin CV 13.

    The log book is opened to March 19, 1945. I had chills reading the event. It wasn’t a book about the event. It was the event. I hope it’s still there.

  • Kathryn Willett

    My grandfather Louis Albert Willett died on the USS Franklin March 19, 1945. His son (my father) only 6 years old. I have pictures of O’Callahan visiting my grandmother upon his return. In loving memory of my grandfather and my father who made sure we understood and remembered such sacrifice. I hold your memory and your purple heart close to mine.

    Thank you for this page!
    Kathy

  • http://[email protected] Joan Beccard

    I just got back last nite from the USS Franklin reunion in Branson,Mo.It was wonderful to see the men from this ship again.Next year’s reunion will be in Chicago,Il.

  • Janice St. Peters

    My dad, Robert E. St. Peters, served on the Franklin and is still among the surviving veterans. We just had a reunion in Branson, MO. It was a wonderful event and is done every year in a different location.

  • John M Peluso

    My Father Michael P Peluso and his best friend William (Amillo) Martone served on the Big Ben. They were both Plank Owners.Growing up I heard many stores and also had the Honor of meeting both Father O’Callahan and Ltjg Donald Gray. In 1966 I also had the Honor of being part of the crew to move the Big Ben when it was purchased by a private individual. I never will forget the look on the chiefs face when he asked for volunteers I askthe name of the carrier and he said I wasn’t even thought of yet. When he said the Franklin and I replied the Big Ben Wow.

  • John M Peluso

    My Father Michael P Peluso and his best friend William (Amillo) Martone served on the Big Ben. They were both Plank Owners Also members of the 704 club.Growing up I heard many stores and also had the Honor of meeting both Father O’Callahan and Ltjg Donald Gray. In 1966 I also had the Honor of being part of the crew to move the Big Ben when it was purchased by a private individual. I never will forget the look on the chiefs face when he asked for volunteers I askthe name of the carrier and he said I wasn’t even thought of yet. When he said the Franklin and I replied the Big Ben Wow.

  • Beth Conard Rowland

    I just came back from the USS FRANKLIN Reunion 2012 – in Minneapolis. Twenty-four of the crew members were in attendance with many family and friends. My Dad – Donald Conard – was on when she was hit on 19 March 1945, and was trapped below for several hours. He was one of the 704 men who brought her back to Brooklyn Navy Yard. I am very thankful that my Dad is still living and I attend the reunion with him every year. Next years reunion – 2013 -date has not yet been set – will be in Charleston, SC, where we can visit the sister-ship, USS Yorktown. All family and friends – including those who have already lost their Franklin loved one – are invited. Please watch for future updated postings on up-coming USS FRANKLIN website. We are all the USS FRANKLIN FAMILY! God Bless !!!

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