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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
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History of USS Franklin

Benjamin Franklin (1706-90) was born in Boston but moved at an early age to Philadelphia where his countless talents and unlimited energies found expression in successful contributions as a statesman, diplomat, scientist, editor-author, and philosopher. During the Revolution he was appointed American Minister Plenipotentiary to the French Court enabling him to function also as the Navy's representative in Europe. He promoted the plan to bring the war to British shores, supporting Lambert Wickes' spectacular raids and enabling John Paul Jones to perform his daring feats by providing funds, attending to purchases and repairs, and determining questions of authority and discipline. His astute and visionary policies merit for him deserved recognition in the annals of the United States. (The first four ships of the name honor Benjamin Franklin; CV-13 perpetuates the names of these ships.)


I

(Schooner: tonnage 60; armament 6 guns)

The first Franklin, a schooner, was originally a Marblehead fishing vessel fitted out by order of Colonel Washington in 1775. She was part of the small fleet of schooners under the command of Commodore John Manly that captured numerous British vessels. She was returned to her owner in 1776.


II

(Brig: tonnage 155; length 72'4"; beam 22'4"; complement 16; armament 8 guns)

The second Franklin, built at Philadelphia in 1795, was captured by Tripolitan corsairs in 1802, and was sold to the commercial agent of the Bet of Tunis. She was purchased on 27 April 1805 by Captain James Barron at Trieste.

In June 1805 Franklin was ordered to Syracuse, Sicily, where she was placed in charge of Lieutenant Jacob Jones to accommodate officers seized from the frigate Philadelphia, and recently released from Tripolitan prison. From July to September she served as storeship for the Mediterranean Squadron and on the 24th departed for the United States with General William Eaton, U.S. Navy Agent to the Barbary Powers, embarked.

Following an overhaul at Washington Navy Yard she voyaged to New Orleans with crew and supplies for that station. Again in December 1806 she carried a company of Marines and munitions for the New Orleans station. There she was turned over to the Navy Agent for disposal and 21 March 1807 was sold.


III

(Ship-of-the-Line; tonnage 2,257; length 190'10"; beam 54'8"; draft 26'6"; armament 74 guns)

The third Franklin, a ship-of-the-line, built in 1815 under the supervision of Samuel Humpherys, was the first vessel to be laid down at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Franklin sailed on her first cruised on 14 October 1817, when under the command of Master Commandant H.E. Ballard she proceeded from Philadelphia to the Mediterranean. She carried the Hon. Richard Rush, U.S. Minister to England, to his post. Subsequently she was designated flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron, cruising on that station until March 1820. She returned to New York on 24 April 1820.

From 11 October 1821 until 29 August 1824 she served as flagship on the Pacific Station. Franklin was laid up in ordinary until the summer of 1843 when she was ordered to Boston as a receiving ship. She continued in this capacity until 1852 at which time she was taken to Portsmouth, N.H., and broken up.


IV

Screw Frigate: displacement 5,170; length 265'; beam 53'8"; draft 17'; armament 1 11", 34 9", 4 100 pounder muzzle-loading rifle)

The fourth Franklin, a screw frigate, was laid down at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in 1854, and built in part of materials salvaged from the razed ship-of-the-line. For a time housed over, she was launched on 17 September 1864; commissioned on 3 June 1867 at Boston; and on 28 June sailed for New York as flagship of Admiral Farragut who assumed command of the European Squadron. Relieved by Ticonderoga she arrived back in New York on 10 November 1868.

Her second European cruise, beginning on 28 January 1869, was as flagship for Rear Admiral W. Radfrod. She served with European Squadron until 30 September 1871 when she sailed for the United States. On 13 November 1871 she was decommissioned at Boston.

Recommissioned on 15 December 1873, she sailed on the North Atlantic Station. On 11 April 1874 she stood out to sea to join the European Squadron as flagship until 14 September 1876.

Franklin was placed out of commission at Norfolk on 2 March 1877 and recommissioned the same day as Receiving Ship for the Norfolk Station, continuing in this service until 14 October 1915 which marked her final decommissioning. She was stricken from the Navy Register on 26 October 1915 and sold.


V

(Aircraft Carrier CV-13; displacement 27,100; length 872'; beam 93'; extreme width of flight deck 147'6"; draft 28'7"; speed 33 knots; complement 3,448; armament 12 5"; class Essex)

The fifth Franklin (CV-13) was launched by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Newport News Va., on 14 October 1943; sponsored by Lieutenant Commander Mildred A. McAfee, USNR, Director of the WAVES; and commissioned on 31 January 1944, with Captain James M. Shoemaker in command.

Franklin cruised to Trinidad for shakedown and soon thereafter departed in TG 27.7 for San Diego to engage in intensive training exercises preliminary to combat duty. In June she sailed via Pearl Harbor for Eniwetock where she joined TG 58.2.

On the last day of June 1944 she sortied for carrier strikes on the Bonnis 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 4 July 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 6 July 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 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 28 July en route to Saipan and the following day shifted to TG 58.1.

Although high seas prevented taking on needed bombs and rockets, Franklin steamed for another raid against the Bonins. The 4th of August 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 9 to 28 August ensued at Eniwetok before she departed in company with carries Enterprise (CV-6), Belleau Wood (CVL-24) and San Jacinto (CVL-30) for neutralization and diversionary attacks against the Bonins. From 31 August to 2 September spirited and productive strikes from Franklin inflicted much ground damage, sank two cargo ships, bagged numerous enemy planes in fight, and accomplished photographic survey.

On 4 September she unloaded supplies at Saipan and steamed in TG 38.4 for an attack against Yap (3-6 September) which included direct air coverage of the Peleiu invasion on the 15th. The group took on supplies at Manus Island from 21-25 September.

Franklin as flagship of TG 38.4 returned to the Papau area where she launched daily patrols and night fighters. On 9 October she rendezvous 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 planes crashed Franklin's deck abaft the island structure, slid across the deck and 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 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 3 and wounding 22. The tenacious carrier continued her daily operations hitting hard at Manila Bay on 19 October when her planes sank a number of ships, damaged many, destroyed a floating dry-dock, and bagged 11 planes.

During the initial landings on Leyte (20 October) 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 24 October 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 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 27 October, her planes concentrating on a heavy cruiser and two destroyers south of Mindoro. She was underway about 1,000 miles off Samar on 30 October when enemy bombers appeared, bent on a suicide mission. Three doggedly pursued Franklin, the first plummeting off her starboard side; the second hitting the fight deck and crashing through and wounding 60; the third discharging another near miss at Franklin before diving into the flight deck of Belleau Wood.

Both carriers retired to Ulthi for temporary repairs and Franklin proceeded to Puget Sound Navy Yard arriving 28 November 1944 for battle damage overhaul.

She departed Bremerton on 2 February 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 15 March she rendezvoused with TF 58 units and 3 days later launched sweeps and striked against Kagoshima and Izumi on southern Kyushu.

Before dawn on 19 March 1945 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 semiarmor piercing bombs. 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 recipients, 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 Pittsburgh 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. Following the end of the war, Franklin was opened to the public for Navy Day celebrations and on 17 February 1947 was placed out of commission at Bayonne, N.J. On 15 May 1949 she was reclassified AVT-8.

Franklin received four battle starts for World War II service.


8 August 2001