USS Franklin Tragedy

Sea Stories

“Early one morning, I was just getting off of watch and the rest of the crew was up getting ready to go to chow. Right before I was to leave we got a bogey contact about 30 miles out that was coming towards the fleet. It was really no big deal at first as we were always having something like that. I was climbing the ladder down when the antiaircraft bugle went off. I rushed to my battle station on the bow, uncovered my gun, put a magazine in it, had it cocked and ready to fire, but I couldn’t fire because the USS FRANKLIN was dead ahead of us.

This plane came in dead ahead of the FRANKLIN and I watched the whole thing. He came right on down over the carrier whose flight deck was loaded with planes and dropped two bombs. They just absolutely annihilated everything. After dropping the two bombs he kept heading straight ahead which was at us and he came up right over our radar. Some of the guys who were on sky control said he came so close they could have stuck a broom right up in his prop. Then he went right down over the water and started ‘hedge-hopping’ his way out of the fleet. Of course once one’s in a fleet he is pretty much on a suicide mission and he was shot down by one of our combat air patrols.

At about this time the FRANKLIN had pulled out of its line in front of us, on fire and things going off, guys in the water. I never saw so many sailors in the water, some dead, some alive and hollering and we started throwing everything we could get our hands on: life jackets and rafts, shark repellents. This went on for long time and we felt sure the ship was gone but the captain took a lot of his crew off and took that thing back, smoking, to Pearl Harbor. We were docked along side of it or right close to it. I went aboard and I don’t think there was a thing aboard that ship that wasn’t burned. It was just a skeleton and amazing that it made it out.”

-Robert L. Palomaris


“It was early; it was the 4:00 to 8:00am watch. I picked up a bogey to the west of us, somewhere around forty miles. I reported it to our Combat Information Officer, who reported it to the flagship, which was one of the carriers. When you are operating an air search radar and you get a report like this, you hear it on the radio, so everyone up in Combat Information Center can hear it. Apparently no other ship could pick it up. I had a good track.


We continued to track it and no one else was picking it up. We kept reporting this bogey to the flagship and yet no one ordered the fleet to go to air defense. Finally, one of the destroyers visually sighted the aircraft and reported it as a Japanese plane. Of course, then we went to air defense. The plane was quite close to the formation by then.

I walked out on the Signal Bridge and just as I did, I could see the Japanese plane making a run right down on the FRANKLIN. The plane dropped a bomb on the forward part of the flight deck and then the after part of the flight deck. FRANKLIN had just recovered aircraft that morning and was still refueling some so that aviation gasoline started burning, exploding and, along with other types of material, created a wall of fire. She was about a thousand yards off our forward bow at that time.

Many of the fellows either were blown in the water or they jumped off the deck to get out of the fire. We had to make a sharp turn to avoid running through them. We began throwing life jackets and life rafts and things to them in the water. She burned and exploded all day long and even up through the night.”

-Everett R. Beaver