By Chuck Lyons The USS Franklin was not a lucky ship. In March 1945, off the Japanese mainland, the Essex-class aircraft carrier was hit by two 550-pound bombs that struck her flight deck and penetrated into the hangar deck. Less than six months earlier, a kamikaze had hit her off Leyte in the Philippines, killing or wounding 120 members of her crew. The second attack ignited the fuel tanks of 31 armed and fueled aircraft awaiting launch, as well as “Tiny Tim” air-to-surface rockets and other ordnance aboard the ship. Fires raged. Rockets whistled across the deck, and machine-gun ammunition clattered. In minutes, the Franklin was dead in the water with massive casualties, a 13-degree starboard list, and without any radio communications. Many of her damage control team members were dead and some of her water lines, needed to fight the fires, were severed. Flaming and wreathed in choking smoke, she was 52 miles from the Japanese mainland and drifting closer. The Franklin Would Endure “I saw guys flying through the air [and] saw men running around on fire, just flaming torches,” a seaman on a nearby destroyer reported. Like most of the men who could see the Franklin, he though she was doomed. But the USS Franklin would survive. Not only would she survive, but dubbed “the ship that wouldn’t die,” she would steam 12,000 miles under her own power first to the Caroline Islands, then across the Pacific to Pearl Harbor, and then through the Panama Canal to the Atla
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My Husband, James Leon Bailey, was on the ship at that time. He wasn’t even 20.