USS FRANKLIN CV 13
The fifth USS Franklin (CV 13) was launched by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Va., on October 14, 1943; sponsored by Lt. Cmdr. Mildred A. McAfee, USNR, Director of the WAVES; and commissioned on January 31, 1944, with Captain James M. Shoemaker in command.
USS Franklin cruised to Trinidad for shakedown and soon thereafter departed in Task Group (TG) 27.7 for San Diego to engage in intensive training exercises preliminary to combat duty. In June she sailed via Pearl Harbor for Eniwetok where she joined TG 58.2.
On the last day of June 1944 she sortied for carrier strikes on the Bonins in support of the subsequent Marianas assault. Her planes scored well against aircraft on the ground and in the air as well as against gun installations, airfield and enemy shipping. On July 4th strikes were launched against Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima and Ha Ha Jima with her planes battering the land, sinking a large cargo vessel in the harbor and firing three smaller ships.
On July 6th she began strikes on Guam and Rota to soften up for the invasion forces, and continued until the 21st when she lent direct support to enable safe landing of the first assault waves. Two days of replenishment at Saipan permitted her to steam in Task Force (TF) 58 for photographic reconnaissance and air strikes against the islands of the Palau group. Her planes effected their mission on the 25th and 26th, exacting a heavy toll in enemy planes, ground installations, and shipping. She departed on July 28 en route to Saipan and the following day shifted to TG 68.1.
Although high seas prevented taking on needed bombs and rockets, USS Franklin steamed for another raid against the Bonins. The 4th of August 1944 bode well, for her fighters launched against Chichi Jima and her dive bombers and torpedo planes against a convoy north of Ototo Jima rained destruction against the radio stations, seaplane base, airstrips and ships.
A period of upkeep and recreation from August 9 to 28th ensued at Eniwetok before she departed in company with carriers USS Enterprise (CV 6), USS Belleau Wood (CVL 24) and USS San Jacinto (CVL 30) for neutralization and diversionary attacks aga inst the Bonins. From August 31 to September 2nd spirited and productive strikes from Franklin inflicted much ground damage, sank two cargo ships, bagged numerous enemy planes in flight, and accomplished photographic survey.
On September 4, 1944, she onloaded supplies at Saipan and steamed in TG 38.4 for an attack against Yap (September 3-6) which included direct air coverage of the Peleliu invasion on the 16th. The group took on supplies at Manus Island from September 21-25th.
USS Franklin (CV 13), as flagship of TG 38.4, returned to the Palau area where she launched daily patrols and night fighters. On October 9 she rendezvoused with carrier groups cooperating in air strikes in support of the coming occupation of 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 Franklin's deck abaft the island structure, slid across the deck and into the water on her starboard beam.
Early on October 14, 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 16th she 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 and wounding 22. The tenacious carrier continued her daily operations hitting hard at Manila Bay on October 19 when her planes sank a number of ships, damaged many, destroyed a floating drydock, and bagged 11 planes.
During the initial landings on Leyte (October 20, 1944), her aircraft hit surrounding air strips, and launched search patrols in anticipation of the approach of a reported enemy attack force. On the morning of October 24th her planes sank a destroyer and damaged two others. Franklin, with Task Groups 38.4, 38.3, and 38.2, sped to intercept the advancing Japanese carrier force and attack at dawn. Franklin's four strike groups combined with those from the other aircraft carriers in sending to the bottom four Japanese carriers, and battering their screens.
Retiring in her task group to refuel, she returned to the Leyte action on October 27, her planes concentrating on a heavy cruiser and two destroyers south of Mindoro. She was underway about 1,000 miles off Samar on October 30 when enemy bombers appeared bent on a suicide mission. Three doggedly pursued 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 and wounding 60; the third discharging another near miss at Franklin before diving into the flight deck of Belleau Wood.
Both carriers retired to Ulithi for temporary repairs and USS Franklin proceeded to Puget Sound Navy Yard arriving November 28, 1944 for battle damage overhaul.
She departed Bremerton on February 2, 1945 and after training exercises and pilot qualification joined TG 58.2 for strikes on the Japanese homeland in support of the Okinawa landings. On March 15 she rendezvoused with TF 58 units and 3 days later launched sweeps and strikes against Kagoshima and Izumi on southern Kyushu.
Before dawn on March 19, 1945 USS Franklin who had maneuvered closer to the Japanese mainland than had any other U.S. carrier during the war, launched a fighter sweep against Honshu and later a strike against shipping in Kobe Harbor. Suddenly, a single enemy plane pierced the cloud cover and made a low level run on the gallant ship to drop two semi-armor piercing bombs. One struck the flight deck centerline, penetrating to the hangar deck, effecting destruction and igniting fires through 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° starboard list, lost all radio communications, and broiled under the heat from 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, Lt. Cmdr. 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 Lt. (j.g.) Donald Gary who discovered 300 men trapped in a blackened mess compartment, and finding an exit returned repeatedly to lead groups to safety. USS Santa Fe (CL 60) similarly rendered vital assistance in rescuing crewmen from the sea and closing Franklin to take off the numerous wounded.
USS Franklin (CV 13) was taken in tow by USS Pittsburgh (CA 72) until she managed to churn up speed to 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 April 28. Following the end of the war, Franklin was opened to the public for Navy Day celebrations and on February 17, 1947, the ship was placed out of commission at Bayonne, N.J. On May 15, 1959 she was reclassified AVT 8.