USS Franklin (CV-13) After Bomb Hits off Japan

USS Franklin (CV-13) afire and listing after she was hit by a Japanese air attack while operating off the coast of Japan. Photographed from USS Santa Fe (CL-60), which was alongside assisting with firefighting and rescue work. Before dawn on March 19, 1945 Franklin maneuvered closer to the Japanese mainland than had any other U.S. carrier during the war. She launched a fighter sweep against Honshu and later a strike against shipping in Kobe Harbor. A single enemy plane pierced the cloud cover and made a low level run on the gallant ship to drop two semiarmor piercing bombs on the fully loaded flight deck. Radarmen on other ships swear they made warnings to Franklin, but she reacted too late. One struck the flight deck centerline, penetrating to the hanger deck, effecting destruction and igniting fires throughout the second and third decks, and knocking out the combat information center and airplot. The second hit aft, tearing through two decks and fanning fires which triggered ammunition, bombs, and rockets. Franklin, within 50 miles of the Japanese mainland, lay dead in the water, took a 13 degree starboard list, lost all radio communications, and broiled under the heat form enveloping fires. Many of the crew were blown overboard, driven off by fire, killed, or wounded, but the 106 officers and 604 enlisted who voluntarily remained saved their ship through sheer valor and tenacity. The casualties totaled 724 killed and 265 wounded, and would have far exceeded this number except for the heroic work of many survivors. Among these were Medal of Honor winners, Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O'Callahan, S.J., USNR, the ship's chaplain, who administered the last rites, organized and directed firefighting and rescue parties, and led men below to wet down magazines that threatened to explode, and Lieutenant (junior grade) Donald Gary who discovered 300 men trapped in a blackened mess compartment, and finding an exit returned repeatedly to lead groups to safety. Santa Fe (CL-60) similarly rendered vital assistance in rescuing crewmen from the sea and closing Franklin to take off the numerous wounded. Franklin was taken in tow by USS Pittsburgh (CA-72) until she managed to churn up speed of 14 knots and proceed to Pearl Harbor where a cleanup job permitted her to sail under her own power to Brooklyn, N.Y., arriving on 28 April. The carrier was stripped to the hangar deck and rebuilt, but saw no further service. She decommissioned in February 1947 and was scrapped in October 1966.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
National Archives
Date Photographed: 
Thursday, April 19, 1945
USS Franklin (CV-13)
Philippine Sea