Cleveland-class Light Cruiser, ‘USS Santa Fe’ pulls alongside Essex-class Aircraft Carrier, ‘USS Franklin’ as it lists towards its starboard side after suffering two direct hits from a pair of armour piercing bombs, dropped by a lone Japanese plane. Near Okinawa. 19th March, 1945.
Sea calm, 12-knot wind from about 060 true, sky overcast with occasional breaks, horizontal visibility excellent.
At approximately 0707hrs on 19th March, 1945, 'USS Franklin’ suffered two direct hits from a pair of 500lb bombs dropped by a lone Japanese Yokosuka D4Y 'Judy’ dive bomber.
The first of the two armour-piercing bombs penetrated down to the hanger deck, destroying aircraft and igniting fires across decks two and three. The Combat information Centre and Air Plot were also knocked out by this bomb. The Second bomb tore down through two decks, detonating bombs and ammunition and igniting fuel stored below the flight deck.
The 'USS Franklin’ was soon set ablaze, the 26,000 ton ship rocked by secondary explosions as aircraft both on and below deck burst into flames along with huge quantities of ammunition. The surviving crew sought refuge on the forward flight deck, many taking action in an attempt to fight the fires that were tearing through the ship.
The 'USS Santa Fe’ drew close alongside the stricken Carrier despite the massive explosions erupting from its deck and partook in fire-fighting as well as the rescue of hundreds of endangered crewmen.
It took three hours to get the fires on board 'USS Franklin’ under control but miraculously the ship remained afloat. It was towed by 'USS Pittsburgh’ to Ulithi from which it continued on to Pearl Harbour under her own power, escorted by 'USS Santa Fe’.
724 crewmen of the 'USS Franklin’ lost their lives in the single attack and 265 were wounded. The 'USS Franklin’ became the most heavily damaged Aircraft Carrier of the War and was decommissioned in 1947.