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….
Mayhem erupts. A proud ship is mortally wounded, her crew decimated…
Severed AVGAS lines pour fuel into fires fed from broken aircraft and exploding ordnance on the flightdeck generating rivers of fire…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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.
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
How ’bout it DivO? Chief? LPO? Are you ready?
Recent writing by Lieutenants Misso and O’Keefe here at USNI Blog, with their call for JO’s to “stick their neck out,” as well as contributions from Lieutenant Hipple and Major Byerly at FP’s Best Defense Blog, has forwarded a vital challenge. The call for Sailors and Marines, as well as our brothers and sisters from the other services, to become active participants in the debates of the 21st century has come and gone a number of times across our history. Recently Senior Chief Murphy wrote about it from an NCO’s perspective in his Proceedings commentary “A Pseudo-Intellectual Wanna-be” in the March 2013 issue. Two months later former Army officer Jason Fritz wrote about it, also at FP’s Best Defense. Claude Berube has given us the long view of our naval history when it comes to debating new ideas with his writing on the Naval Lyceum of a century and a half ago.
On February 15th the Naval Institute Press will release the new book “21st Century Sims: Innovation, Education, and Leadership for the Modern Era.” The collection includes LCDR William Sims article “The Inherent Tactical Qualities of All-Big-Gun, One Calibre Battleships” which was seen in Proceedings in 1906. I wrote the following for Proceedings’ May 2013 issue, which offers a preview and an example of why our military services need junior officers and upstart thinkers to challenge the status quo and engage in professional writing.
Now Hear This – “If We Are to Remain A World Power…”
When the latest issue of Proceedings arrived in June 1906, Naval Institute members and the American people heard from a renowned global expert, a retired naval officer whose pen had been quiet for some months. His name was Alfred Thayer Mahan. His article, “Reflections, Historic and Other, Suggested by the Battle of the Japan Sea,” derived from the recent Russo-Japanese naval war lessons for U.S. fleet design and battleship construction. Just a few years away from Great Britain’s launch of HMS Dreadnought , which would revolutionize ship design by bringing speed together with an all-big-gun main battery, Mahan advocated for smaller and more numerous ships with mixed batteries of different calibers. As the leading naval expert, Mahan’s articles were voraciously read worldwide, and his analysis matched well with the “Big Navy” party line.
The U.S. Naval Institute, then as today, was a members’ organization. It didn’t exist for the sake of itself, but to share ideas and debate the future of the Sea Services. A naval arms race was developing in Europe; after the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War, the nation stepped onto the global stage as a naval power. A year away from the Great White Fleet sailing around the world, the USNI members understood that their ideas, innovations, and wisdom mattered. Even though many considered Mahan the greatest living navalist and a strategic genius, he was not impervious to challenges from Naval Institute members.
In the December issue of Proceedings, a member responded to Mahan’s assertions. The article didn’t come from a civilian contractor who was building the next set of battleships, or from an academic expert who made his living advising politicians. The response came from an upstart lieutenant commander on staff duty in Washington, D.C. Then-Commander Mahan had once written him up for being disorderly at the Naval Academy as a first-class midshipman. Lieutenant Commander William Sims’ article “The Inherent Tactical Qualities of All-Big-Gun, One Calibre Battleships” dissected and refuted Mahan’s arguments. He argued that “if we are to remain a world power,” the large, fast, heavily gunned battleship was the future of naval warfare.
President Theodore Roosevelt read with great interest the exchange between the renowned, retired officer and the active-duty staff officer. The articles were republished in public-affairs magazines and entered into the record during debate on the floor of the Senate. The names of two great officers and naval thinkers make the story interesting, but it was the mission and membership of the Naval Institute that made it possible. The exchange didn’t happen in the pages of The Atlantic or Harper’s. It happened in Proceedings. Both men were USNI members and understood that ensuring the future of their Navy required discussion, debate, and participation of the membership.
In the case of battleship design, the lieutenant commander won the debate. After studying the response and new information about the Pacific battles, Mahan admitted that his argument didn’t stand up. Nevertheless, his expertise and experience as a retired naval officer-turned-civilian expert was central to the development of the future Fleet, as was his willingness to debate an upstart like Sims. The Royal Navy launched HMS Dreadnought before the United States could put its first large, fast, heavily gunned battleship to sea. But we weren’t far behind, because the ideas had already been debated in Proceedings.
In the first decade of the 1900s, the United States was fighting a counterinsurgency war in the Philippines. An Asian power, the Empire of Japan, was rising to become a major economic and military force, rapidly building up its navy. USNI members faced shifting alliances and adversaries, new technologies, tactical innovation, and globalized economics. These challenges should sound familiar today. We need the expertise and experience of our senior members to keep us from repeating past mistakes. We also require the exciting and innovative ideas of new, younger members, junior officers and enlisted personnel, to propel the discussion and debate forward.
The pages of Proceedings (and USNI Blog!) need your well-developed research, thoughtful articles, and best ideas to ensure that we continue the vital debate in the 21st century. To provide an independent forum to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and national defense, we must first have those who dare to read, think, speak, and write. The U.S. Naval Institute is a members’ organization—help us continue the debate!
“Why is the Naval Academy Museum hosting a debate on the future of aircraft carriers?”
It’s a question I was asked earlier this week about the debate between Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath at USNA’s historic Mahan Auditorium. So let’s break down that question and answer it.
First, why is the Museum hosting this? Part of the Naval Academy Museum’s mission is to educate Midshipmen and the general public on the history of the Navy. While this debate is about the future of aircraft carriers, both debaters and the moderator are extremely well versed in the utility of carriers for much of the past century. In addition, the event was promulgated with additional information about the historical debate on aircraft carriers from the pages of Naval Institute Proceedings since 1922. In conjunction with the debate, the museum also has a special exhibit during January on the history of aircraft carriers. We’ve also produced through LTjg Christopher O’Keefe, the History of the Navy in 100 Objects which includes many videos on aircraft carriers. Our mission also includes demonstrating to the public the contributions of Academy graduates. It would be difficult to imagine today’s utility of aircraft carriers without the contributions of graduates such as Admirals Halsey, Mitscher, and others during World War II or nuclear propulsion guided by Admiral Rickover. This debate is open to the public.
Second, why a debate format? That’s simple. We are very fortunate at the Naval Academy to host a number of informed and recognized guest speakers and lecturers. The Museum, for examples, has a regular lecture series throughout the academic year. Although it may have happened in my ten years teaching at the Academy, I don’t recall a debate about a national security issue. It’s a great format to get to issues a single presenter might not. And, historically, there’s a real periodic tradition of debating naval issues among officers and civilians at least as far back as the Naval Lyceum and Naval Magazine in the 1830s. Both Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath are well-versed in our naval history, articulate, and serious informed navalists whose voices are important in our greater concepts about national security. I, for one, look forward to learning from each side.
Third, why is the Museum involved in a debate on the future? That’s simple. We’re a teaching museum. Ideas about the future, whether they’re about operations, platforms, or strategies, simply don’t occur out of a vacuum. As they say, you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. At the museum we’re trying to bridge the gap between our naval heritage and the future. For example, we try to integrate our artifacts in applied history projects with the midshipmen such as with the recently-acquired Mount Suribachi field glasses. In addition, our moderator is Captain CC Felker, USN, Chair of the History Department at the Naval Academy. He’s the author of “Testing American Sea Power” and holds a doctorate in history.
Finally, I owe mention to our partnership with the United States Naval Institute on this event. For those interested and unable to attend, the United States Naval Institute is livestreaming the event. The Museum and the Institute have a long history going back to when Preble Hall was built in 1939 and housed both the Museum and USNI. USNI left the building in 1999 for Beach Hall at Hospital Point but we have an excellent working relationship. We rely heavily on their photographic archives for some of our exhibits and they take photos of some of our collection for their book catalogues and Naval History Magazine.
Members of the Naval Institute will be familiar with the phrase for “To provide an independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write.” Now it’s time to debate. We hope you’ll listen and join in on the discussion in the pages of Proceedings, elsewhere, or on Twitter (#CarrierDebate).
Please join us for Midrats at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) on Sunday, 18 August 13, for Episode 189: “The Union and Confederate Navies”:
The War Between the States, the American Civil War – whichever description you prefer – this crucible on which our nation was re-formed has legions of books, movies, and rhetoric dedicated to it. Most of the history that people know involves the war on land, but what of the war at sea?
What are details behind some of the major Naval leaders of both sides that are the least known, but are the most interesting? What challenges and accomplishments were made by the belligerents in their navies, and how do they inform and influence our Navy today?
Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be James M. McPherson, the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University. He has published numerous volumes on the Civil War, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom, Crossroads of Freedom (which was a New York Times bestseller), Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, and For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, which won the Lincoln Prize.
As a starting off point for the show, we will be discussing his book, War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865.
Please join us live or listen later by clicking here.
Here and elsewhere much has been written of the Doolittle raid, from the bookstand to Hollywood and the curriculum of War Colleges the world over. Coming fast on the heels of the stunning blows barely four months prior a malevolent arc of destruction and defeat stretching from Pearl Harbor back across the Pacific to the Philippines and the rest of Asia, the raid was, no, is emblematic of the American fighting spirit and ability to improvise on the fly and conduct improbable operations on the field of battle. From John Paul Jones’ raid on the English port of Whitehaven to putting a man on the moon barely a decade after the first tentative attempts to launch a satellite, our history has been replete with no small number of audacious operations. Of all these though, the Doolittle Raid is probably the best known and yet, there are aspects that still remain shadowed. To be successful required meticulous, but rapid planning. In short order an idea, germinated in Washington had to be planned, practiced, logistically provided for and executed in an air of ironclad secrecy. This in an age where “netcentric” and “JOPES” weren’t even a mirage on the horizon. As always, it was having the right people in place to do the heavy lifting behind the scenes that laid the groundwork for success. In the case of the Doolittle raid, there were four naval officers, one you have heard of, but two or three others you just as likely haven’t, who played key roles in the planning of the raid.
CAPT Francis S. Lowe: A member of the USNA class of 1915, a 1926 Naval War College graduate, a submariner, then-CAPT Low was assigned as Operations Officer on ADM King’s staff at CINCLANTFLT, and later followed him to Washington when King became CINC, US Fleet and CNO. Among his duties as Operations Officer was overseeing the ASW operations of the fleet, and it was in this capacity that he flew to Norfolk, VA in January 1942 to review the status of the USS Hornet CV-8. Chambers Field (the original, now part of the heliport today) had the outline of an aircraft carrier painted on it for FCLP (Field Carrier Landing Practice) which is used to maintain some of the skills necessary to conduct flight operations off an aircraft carrier – to include launching with a minimum of deck space available. It was during this trip that he observed some B-25s making passes at that outline in a mock attack and realized that twin-engine aircraft would fit on the deck of a carrier and wondered if the B-25s would be able to take off from a carrier. Upon his return to Washington, he mentioned his idea to the Admiral who thought it had merit as did General “Hap” Arnold (USAAF).
CAPT Donald Duncan: A 1917 graduate of the USNA, and holder of a MS in Radio Engineering from Harvard as well as a Naval Postgraduate school grad, then CAPT Duncan, a naval aviator with extensive carrier experience, was King’s Air Operations Officer and the one to whom it fell to evaluate the possible use of the B-25 from a carrier. In 30 handwritten pages, he outlined all the necessary details and precepts for a successful strike in a feasibility study forwarded to King and Arnold recommending the use of B-25s and oversaw the proof of concept flight that showed the Mitchell bombers could indeed, launch from a carrier deck. Subsequently he also oversaw the necessary logistical and administrative details needed to get the bombers to and onboard the Hornet at Alameda Naval Station.
LT Henry L. Miller: A 1934 graduate from the Naval Academy and native of Fairbanks, Alaska, then-LT Miller was a designated Naval Aviator. A multi-engine pilot and graduate of the Bombardier course at Sandia base and the All Weather course at Corpus Christi, he was serving as a flight instructor and Personnel Officer at Ellyson Field, FLA when tasked to train Doolittle’s pilots on takeoff techniques from the limited deck of a carrier. Shifting operations to Pierce Field (one of the outlying fields at Eglin AB – literally out in the sticks) LT Miller not only trained the raiders on take off techniques, but was also principle in teaching the finer points of shipboard life in general and accompanied them as operations shifted to Sacramento, CA and all the way to launch from the Hornet, 700 nm from Tokyo.
LT Stephen Jurika: Born in Los Angeles while his parents were visiting there, then LT Jurika grew up in the Philippines where his dad owned a number of plantations. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1933 and served as a naval attache at the American Embassy in Tokyo before World War II. As the USS Hornet Association’s website notes, the plot thickens from there:
Being fluent in the Japanese language, he was able to collect significant information about the Japanese military and industrial capabilities, even photographing many of their sensitive sites. From August 1941 until October 1941, he reported to the Director of Naval Intelligence, providing a great deal of information about the Japanese threat, including specific information about the new “Zero” high performance fighter. In October 1941, he was involved with the commissioning of USS Hornet (CV-8), initially serving as the Flight Deck and Intelligence Officer. In mid-January 1942, he consulted to Captain Donald Duncan who was then conducting a feasibility study about launching a bombing raid against Tokyo. Lt Jurika provided a great deal of information about the types and locations of high priority industrial and military targets. Two months later, when the Hornet was carrying the Doolittle Raiders to their launch point, Lt Jurika spent many hours briefing them on the locations of the high value targets and optimum flight routes.
He also had a personal contribution to make to the raid:
One bomb was decorated with Japanese medals, donated by Navy Lieutenant Stephen Jurika, who had received them during pre-war naval attaché service and now wished to pointedly return them to a hostile government. (NHHC)
Each officer would go on to serve with distinction in the war and afterwards. CAPT Low took command of the cruiser Wichita and saw action from Africa to the Pacific. Returning to the US he was Chief of Staff for Tenth Fleet, running ASW operations in the Atlantic theater of operations and finished the war as Cruiser Division SIXTEEN supporting the invasion at Okinawa and strikes against the Japanese homeland. After the war he was in charge of the surrender and neutralization of all Japanese Naval installations in Korea and reported in November as Commander Destroyers Pacific Fleet, serving until March 1947, when, upon his advancement to Vice Admiral, he was given command of the Service Force, US Pacific Fleet. In November 1949 he returned to the Navy Department to conduct a special survey of the Navy’s anti-submarine program, and in February 1950 was designated Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Logistics). He continued duty in that capacity until May 1953, when he became Commander, Western Sea Frontier, and Commander Pacific Reserve Fleet. He served as such until relieved of all active duty pending his retirement, effective 1 July 1956. He was advanced to Admiral on the basis of combat awards.
CAPT Duncan would become the first CO of the lead ship of the Essex class CV and see action in the Marcus Islands and Wake. From here he would serve as CARDIV commander, CINCPACFLT Chief of Staff, DCN(Air) and finally DCNO before retiring in 1957. Following the Doolittle raid, LT Miller commanded an Air Group on board USS Princeton (CVL-23), and during the remainder of the war he had command of Air Group SIX stationed on board USS Hancock (CV-19). Following the war he served in the Navy Department until July 1948, first assigned to writing Air Operations Instructions, later serving as Executive Officer, Air Branch, Office of Naval Research. For two years he served as Public Information Officer on the Staff of Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and from June 1950 to August 1952 served successively as Executive Officer of Composite Squadron SEVEN, and of USS Leyte (CV-32). Graduating from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1953 and, he reported for duty in the Strategic Plans Division at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operation. Subsequent assignments saw him in command of USS Hancock, commander of CARDIV 15, and later, off Vietnam, CARDIV 3/Task Force 77/7th Fleet Carrier Strike Force. On July 22, 1959 Miller was commissioned a Rear Admiral, and was appointed Chief of Staff and Aide to the Commander Naval Air Force, Pacific. Rear Admiral Henry Louis Miller commanded Carrier Division FIFTEEN, which is the Anti-Submarine Hunter-Killer Task Group from May 1961 to June 1962. Admiral Miller also served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans, Joint Staff, Commander in Chief, Pacific, during the time when the turmoil in South East Asia escalated. He then assumed command of Carrier Division THREE, a Heavy Attack Carrier Task Group, and at the same time he took command of Task Force, SEVENTY-SEVEN, and the Carrier Striking Force of the SEVENTH FLEET and in this capacity, took the first nuclear power Task Force into combat with the enemy in Vietnam.
LT Jurika followed the Doolittle raid with an assignment to COMAIRSOLS on Guadalcanal as Air Ops officer, a tour which included a special operation that earned him a Legion of Merit. Returning briefly Stateside as a torpedo instructor, he returned to sea as navigator on the USS Franklin (CV-13) and in this capacity, was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on the bridge in the wake of the attack and devastating explosions and damage that almost sank Franklin. After the war and a variety of foreign service tours, retired and began a career as a professor at Stanford University and the Naval Postgraduate School.
Note: The oral histories of several of the principals involved with the Doolittle raid and battle of Midway – including that of Stephen Jurika, are available through the Naval Institute via the ‘print-on-demand’ program. I think the advent of the 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid and the upcoming Battle of Midway observances would be a great time for the Naval Institue Press, in line with the Strategic Plan released at last week’s Annual Membership meeting, to announce it was making e-book versions available of these histories. w/r, SJS
Fifth ship of the Essex class — fifth ship to bear Benjamin Franklin’s name…
On the 19th of March, 1945, her crew would write a story for the ages as they were tested in the crucible.
Today, like so many of their generation, the already small band of survivors of that day continue to dwindle. This coming March they will hold their reunion at Lodge of the Ozarks (Branson, MO). If you are a former member of the Big Ben, they’re waiting for you. If you are a student of naval history, or even just history — they will welcome you with open arms and warm hearts. Interested? Here’s the gouge:
Contact for Questions:
Sam Rhodes 772-334-0366 or
Beth Conard Rowland (daughter of crewman) 740-524-0024 (please leave message)
Registration closes 1 March, 2010.
And all you former Santa Fe crew? I’ll bet they would especially love to see you guys too…
- On Midrats 29 March 15 – Episode 273: Partnership, Influence, Presence and the role of the MSC
- The Pen and the Sword: An Interview with Professor Timothy Demy on Reading Fiction and Studying War
- On Midrats 22 March 2015 – Episode 272: Naval Professionalism; up, down, and back again – with Will Beasley
- Missile Defense and Budget Issues
- On Midrats 3/15/15 – Episode 271: “Red Flag and the Development USAF Fighter “