The USS Franklin (CV-13), nicknamed "Big Ben," was an Essex-class aircraft carriers. She served in the Pacific War campaign: Bonin and Mariana Islands assaults, Peleliu, invasion, invasion landings on Leyte, Honshū and later a strike against shipping in Kobe Harbor). She earned four battle stars.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) operating near the Marianas, 1 August 1944. Between May 1944 and November 1944, Franklin was the only carrier wearing two different camouflage schemes, Measure 32 Design 3A on the port side, and Design 6A on the starboard side (U.S. Navy)
Overhead plan and starboard profile meticulously drawn by John Robert Barrett (www.navsource.org)
She was badly damaged by a Japanese air attack in March 1945, with the loss of over 800 of her crew, becoming the most heavily damaged United States carrier to survive the war. But, how did this bombing happen?
According to the U.S. Navy, on March 19, 1945, USS Franklin (CV 13), which had maneuvered closer to the Japanese homeland than any other U.S. carrier, had launched a pre-dawn strike against the island of Honshu as well as a later strike against shipping in Kobe Harbor.
Suddenly, a single Japanese plane came through the cloud cover, made a low level run on the ship and dropped two armor-piercing bombs. One struck the flight deck centerline, penetrating to the hangar deck which it devastated. The bomb also ignited fires through the second and third decks and knocked out the combat information center and air plot.
An explosion rocks the USS Franklin after being hit by two 500 pound armor-piercing bombs from a Japanese dive bomber, on March 19, 1945, off the coast of Honshu, during the Okinawa invasion. (AP Photo)
The second bomb hit aft and tore through two decks, fanning fires which detonated 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 was enveloped by fire.
The USS Santa Fe lies alongside the heavily listing USS Franklin to provide assistance after the aircraft carrier had been hit and set afire by a single Japanese dive bomber, during the Okinawa invasion, on March 19, 1945, off the coast of Honshu, Japan. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)
Franklin's remaining crew valiantly battled to save their ship. They were aided by USS Santa Fe (CL-60) which took off wounded and nonessential personnel. After several hours of fighting fires, the situation was stabilized and the carrier was taken under tow by USS Pittsburgh (CA-72).
Many of the crew were either blown overboard, driven off by fire, or killed or wounded. Remaining were 106 officers and 604 enlisted, who by sheer valor and tenacity, saved the ship. Casualties totaled 724 killed and 265 wounded.
Crewmen aboard the burning USS Franklin are seen standing in the second deck while awaiting rescue, after the carrier had been hit and set afire by a Japanese dive bomber, on March 19, 1945, off the coast of Honshu, Japan. (AP Photo)
The USS Franklin lies dead in the water with a heavy list to portside, after the aircraft carrier had been hit and set afire by a Japanese dive bomber during the Okinawa invasion, on March 19, 1945, off the coast of Honshu, Japan. (AP Photo)
The Franklin remained afloat. After being towed by the USS Pittsburgh, it proceeded to Pearl Harbor for repairs. Franklin, the most heavily damaged aircraft carrier during the war, remained afloat and after a tow from USS Pittsburgh, proceeded under her own power to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
Miracle of the USS Franklin - 1 of 3 (1945)
Miracle of the USS Franklin - 2 of 3 (1945)
Miracle of the USS Franklin - 3 of 3 (1945)
Main image: View on the flight deck, looking forward, while the carrier was in New York Harbor, circa 28 April 1945. She had just returned from the Pacific for repair of battle damage received off Japan on 19 March 1945. Note damage to her flight deck, large U.S. ensign flying from her island, and the Manhattan skyline in the background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-K-4760). Scott Dyben