Essex-class aircraft carrier
27,100 Tons (standard)
36,380 Tons (full load)
820' x 93' x 28' 5" (as built)
4 x Twin 5" guns
4 x Single 5" guns
8 x Quad 40mm
46 x 20mm AA guns
USN October 14, 1943
USN February 21, 1944
USN August 1944
USN October 24, 1944
USN October 30, 1944
USN January 1945
USN March 19, 1945
USN April 28, 1945
Built by Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) in Newport News, Virgina. Laid down December 7, 1942 in slipway no. 11 as an Essex-class aircraft carrier. Launched October 14, 1943. Commissioned January 31, 1944 into the USN (USN) as USS Franklin CV-13 as the second ship named in honor of Benjamin Franklin with Captain James M. Shoemaker in command. Nicknamed "Big Ben".
Franklin steamed to Trinidad for a shakedown cruise then departed with Task Group 27.7 (TG 27.7) for San Diego, to engage in intensive training exercises preliminary to combat duty. In June 1944 steamed via Pearl Harbor to Eniwetok and joined Task Group 58.2 (TG 58.2).
On June 30, 1944 departed
Eniwetok to participate in strikes against the Bonin Islands to support of the U.S. landing on Saipan. On July 4, 1944 Franklin launched air strikes against Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima, and Haha Jima with her aircraft striking targets on the islands, sinking a large cargo vessel and setting three smaller ships on fire.
On July 6, Franklin began strikes on Guam and Rota as part of the preparations for the assault on Guam, and those strikes continued until the 21st when she lent direct support to enable safe landing of the first assault waves.
Replenished for two days at Saipan, then joined in Task Force 58 (TF 58) for photographic reconnaissance and air strikes against Palau. Her planes effected their mission on the 25th and 26th, exacting a heavy toll in enemy planes, ships, and ground installations. Franklin departed on July 28 and returned for Saipan, and the following day she was shifted to TG 58.1.
Although high seas prevented taking on a needed load of bombs and rockets, Franklin steamed for another raid against the Bonin Islands. On August 4, 1944 her fighters attacked Chichi Jima and her dive bombers and torpedo bombers attacked a ship convoy north of Ototo Jima were very effective against the radio stations, seaplane base, airfields and ships.
Afterwards, steamed to Eniwetok for a period of upkeep and recreation from August 9-28, then departed with USS Essex CV-9, USS Belleau Wood CVL-24 and USS San Jacinto CVL-30 for neutralization and diversionary attacks against the Bonin Islands. Between August 31, 1944 until September 2, 1944 Franklin aircraft attacked ground targets, sank two cargo ships, bagged numerous enemy planes in flight and a photographic survey of the islands.
On September 4, 1944 Franklin resupplied at Saipan, then she steamed with Task Group 38.1 (TG 38.1) for an attacks against Yap between September 3-8, 1944. On September 8, 1944 lost is F6F Hellcat 58140 pilot rescued. Next, provided air cover for the invasion of Peleliu on September 15. The Task Group took on supplies at Manus during September 21 to 25.
Franklin was selected as flagship of TG 38.4, returned to the Peleliu and launched daily patrols and night fighters. On October 9, she rendezvoused with carrier groups cooperating in air strikes in support of the coming landing on Leyte. At twilight on the 13th, the task group came under attack by four bombers, and Franklin twice was narrowly missed by torpedoes. An enemy plane, crashed on Franklin's deck abaft the aircraft carrier's island, and it slid across the deck and off the deck into the water on her starboard beam.
Early on the 14th, a fighter sweep was made against Aparri, Luzon, following which she steamed to the east of Luzon to neutralize installations to the east prior to invasion landings on Leyte. On the 15th, Franklin was attacked by three enemy planes, one of which scored with a bomb that hit the after outboard corner of the deck edge elevator, killing three men and wounding 22. The carrier's aircraft hit Manila Bay on 19 October when her planes sank and damaged many ships and boats, destroyed a floating dry dock, and shot down 11 Japanese aircraft.
During the initial landings on Leyte on October 20, the aircraft of Franklin hit surrounding airstrips and launched search patrols in anticipation of the approach of a reported enemy attack force. On the morning of 24 October, in the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, her planes were part of the attacks against the Japanese First Raiding Force and participated in attacks against Musashi, damage Fusō and Yamashiro, and sink Wakaba.
As further enemy threats seemed to materialize elsewhere, Franklin with Task Group 38.4 (TG 38.4), Task Group 38.3 (TG 38.3) and Task Group 38.2 (TG 38.2) sped to intercept the Japanese carrier force and attack at dawn. The distant carrier force was actually a sacrificial feint. On October 25, 1944 during the Battle off Cape Engaño Franklin's strike groups combined with other carrier aircraft damage Chiyoda and sink Zuihō. Afterwards, withdrew to refuel. On October 27, 1944 returned to the Leyte and her planes attacked a heavy cruiser and two destroyers south of Mindoro.
On October 30, 1944 Franklin was underway roughly 1,000 miles off Samar when Japanese enemy bombers appeared and three targeted Franklin, the first plummeting off her starboard side, the second hitting the flight deck and crashing through to the gallery deck, showering destruction, killing 56 men and wounding 60; the third scored a near miss near Franklin then dove into the flight deck of Belleau Wood CVL-24.
Damaged, both carriers proceeded to Ulithi for temporary repairs, then Franklin cross the Pacific to Bremerton, Washington. On November 7, 1944 Captain Leslie E. Gehres took command. On November 28, 1944 arrived at Puget Sound Navy Yard for additional repairs for over a month.
On February 2, 1945 departed Bremerton and underwent training exercises and pilot qualification flights then steamed back across the Pacific to join Task Group 58.2 for strikes against Japan in support of the assault on Okinawa. On March 15, 1945 rendezvoused with Task Force 58 (TF 58) and three days later began fighter sweeps and strikes against Kagoshima and Izumi on southern Kyūshū.
Damaged by Bombs
On March 19, 1945 before dawn Franklin maneuvered to within 50 miles off Japan nearer than any other Allied aircraft carrier during the Pacific War and launched a fighter sweep against Honshū and later a strike against shipping off Kobe.
During the sorties, Franklin's flight deck was crammed with 31 aircraft fully fueled and armed. In the hanger deck below were 22 aircraft of which 16 were fueled and 5 armed. At that moment, a single enemy aircraft, possibly a D4Y Judy or D3A Val made a low level bombing run and released two semi-armor piercing bombs.
The first bomb hit at the centerline of the flight deck and penetrated to the hanger deck and when it exploded causing fires in the second deck and third deck and knocked out the Combat Information Center (CIC). The explosion on the hangar deck ignited the fuel tanks on the aircraft, and gasoline vapor explosion devastated the deck area with only two surviving the explosion and fire and caused the aircraft on the flight deck to smash together causing other fires as ordnance to detonate including rockets to fire but luckily most went overboard and the explosions on deck were contained by the armor plate installed below the flight deck. The second bomb hit aft and penetrated two decks when it exploded. Aboard, many crew were blown overboard or jumped overboard due to the fire and explosions. Also, George Fox earned the Navy Cross, posthumously and 26 other crew earned the Silver Star for their actions.
The casualties sustained from this attack were the highest and most severe of any U.S. fleet carrier during World War II. Officially, the U.S. Navy reported the casualties as 724 were killed and 265 wounded during the attack and aftermath. Researcher Joseph A. Springer places the casualties as 807 killed and 487 wounded.
Afterwards, Franklin was dead in the water and took a 13° starboard list and lost all radio communication. Aboard, the surviving crew worked to contain the fires and perform damage control. Among them, LCdr Joseph T. O'Callahan the Catholic chaplain performed last rites to the dying and aided firefighting and rescue efforts and later earned the Medal of Honor for his actions. Also, Lt(jg) Donald A. Gary rescued 300 crew trapped in a mess compartment and led them to an exit and later organized fire fighting in the hanger deck and entered no. 3 fire room to start a boiler and later earned the Medal of Honor.
Meanwhile, USS Santa Fe (CL-60) rescued crew from the sea and took wounded crew aboard for medical aid. Towed by USS Pittsburgh (CA-72) until she was able to raise enough steam to reach a speed of 14 knots then she proceed to Ulithi under her own power for emergency repairs then departed for Pearl Harbor.
While en route Captain Gehres proclaimed 704 of the crew members of the "Big Ben 704 Club" for having stayed with the heavily-damaged carrier, but later investigations revealed only about 400 were aboard continuously, the others were brought back from other warships or rejoined the carrier at Ulithi. Next, steamed to Pearl Harbor where more repairs were made allowing her to steam via the Panama Canal to New York because all the west coast facilities were repairing other warships and overloaded with repair work.
On April 28, 1945 arrived New York Harbor and anchored off Brooklyn Navy Yard to be fully repaired. While being repaired, Captain Gehres accused many crew of desertion for leaving the ship when it was damaged, including those who jumped overboard to escape fire or because they believed an order to abandon ship had been given. After investigations, all of his charges were dropped. During World War II, Franklin received four battle stars.
On October 27, 1946 Franklin was opened to the public for Navy Day. On February 17, 1947, placed out of commission and mothballed at Bayonne, New Jersey. On October 1, 1952
redesignated CVA-13 as an anti-submarine warfare support carrier. On August 8, 1953 redesignated as CVS-13. On May 15, 1959 redesignated AVT-8. Both Franklin and Bunker Hill never went to sea again and were the only Essex-class aircraft carrier that never returned to active duty. On October 1, 1964 struck from the Navy Register.
Although the Navy initially sold Franklin to Peck Iron and Metal Company of Portsmouth, Virginia, they reclaimed her due to an urgent Bureau of Ships requirement for her four steam turbines. Ultimately, however, this carrier was sold for scrap on July 27, 1966 to Portsmouth Salvage Company in Chesapeake, Virginia. On August 1, 1966 during the evening towed away by Red Star Towing Company and broken up for scrap.
NHHC - USS Franklin CV-13 War Damage Report No. 56 September 15, 1946
Naval History and Heritage Command - USS Franklin CV-13 War Damage Report No. 56 September 15, 1946
USS Franklin Association
"Saga of the Franklin" wartime documentary
Task Force (1949) includes film footage of the actual attack on USS Franklin
NavSource - USS Franklin (CV-13)
NavSource - USS Franklin Air Attack, March 19, 1945
World War II Magazine "USS Franklin: Struck by a Japanese Dive Bomber During World War II" by David H. Lippman, March 1995
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August 4, 2020