SHIPS-IN-CLASS (26): SHORT-HULL GROUP: USS Essex (CV-9); USS Yorktown (CV-10); USS Intrepid (CV-11); USS Hornet (CV-12); USS Franklin (CV-13); USS Lexington (CV-16); USS Bunker Hill (CV-17); USS Wasp (CV-18); USS Bennington (CV-20); Bon Homme Richard (CV-31); Oriskany (CV-34) LONG-HULL GROUP: Ticonderoga (CV-14); Randolph (CV-15); USS Hancock (CV-19); USS Boxer (CV-21); USS Leyte (CV-32); USS Kearsarge (CV-33); USS Reprisal (CV-35); USS Antietam (CV-36); USS Princeton (CV-37); USS Shangri-La (CV-38); USS Lake Champlain (CV-39); USS Tarawa (CV-40); USS Valley Forge (CV-45); USS Iwo Jima (CV-46); USS Philippine Sea (CV-47)
While not the most numerous of aircraft carriers available to the United States Navy (USN) during the fighting of World War 2 (1939-1945), the Essex-class certainly played the most important role in USN surface fleet operations against the Empire of Japan. One of her type was USS Franklin (CV-13) which was ordered in 1940 but not laid down until December 7th, 1942. She was finally launched on October 14th, 1943 and officially commissioned for service on January 31st, 1944.
Built to the Essex-class standard, USS Franklin displaced 27,100 tons under standard load and up to 36,400 tons under full load. She was given a length of 872 feet with a beam of 93 feet and a draught of 34 feet. Power was from 8 x Boilers feeding 4 x Westinghouse geared-steam turbines developing 150,000 horsepower to 4 x Shafts. Maximum reachable speed was 33 knots and range was out to 20,000 nautical miles.
Aboard were 2,600 personnel. Armor protection ranged from 4 inches at the belt and 1.5 inches at the deck to 4 inches at the bulkheads and 2.5 over the vital stern components. Installed armament included 4 x 5" Dual-Purpose (DP) guns in twin-gunned turrets, 4 x 5" DP guns in single-gunned turrets and 46 x 40mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns in single-gunned mountings.
The aircraft complement numbered up to 100 of various types - fighters, torpedo and dive bombers. The flight deck was serviced by two centerline elevators and a single deck-edge elevator. As-built, the warship was powerful and fast and its firepower was made up mainly by her air wing. Defense would come from her conventional projectile weapons as well as the AA screen provided for by any accompanying warships of the fleet.
USS Franklin managed to draw the direct ire of the enemy throughout her early going as she participated in the assaults on the Bonin Islands and the Ryukyus. She took a direct hit from a crashing enemy bomber in October of 1944 while suffering a bomb hit two days later which killed three of her crew. USS Franklin's aircraft then claimed an IJN destroyer during the Battle of Surigao Straight on October 24th and moved on to assail the IJN Musashi in the Sibuyan Sea thereafter. At the Battle of Cape Engano, the light carrier IJN Chiyoda was stopped in her tracks by Franklin's warplanes and the aircraft carrier IJN Zuiho was sent under the waves.
It was during the Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 23rd - 26th, 1944) that she and her crew were dealt their first major blow as five Kamikaze strike planes made it beyond the AA screen. The terrible results included 56 killed and a further 60 wounded while about thirty-three of her warplanes destroyed where they sat.
This action forced USS Franklin back stateside to undergo repairs at Bremerton Navy Yard (Washington). The work lasted until February of 1945 to which point USS Franklin now sailed as part of Task Force 58 when attacking the Japanese homeland at Kyushu in March of that year. On March 19th, a pair of enemy bombers snuck through the American AA defense just as Franklin's warplanes were setting off for another run at targets. The enemy bombs struck first and wreaked their usual devastation on the carrier - the warship stood still as her engine and boiler areas became inaccessible for a time.
The initial blasts were contained though it was in the spill-over effect that followed that ended up killing hundreds of Franklin's crew. Flames spread to the loaded aircraft and ignited / detonated the various fuel stores, live ordnance and ammunition supplies in rapid succession, causing expanding damage and confusion. Dangerous fumes generated during the event were pulled into the ship's active ventilation system which added to the 724 total killed-in-action while (265 were also classified as wounded). Despite all this, there was never an acceptance to abandon the warship due to the many souls still caught in the lower decks. Many personnel, in fact, voluntarily remained with the ship during the chaos.
It was only through the sacrifice and bravery of her crew that USS Franklin survived the day and was managed to sail, ever so slowly, back to Pearl Harbor for an initial assessment. From there she was sent to the New York Navy Yard to undergo more extensive repair work that took her out of the remainder of the war. With the Japanese surrender of August 1945, World War 2 came to an official end.
With her services no longer in need in the post-war period, USS Franklin was not recommissioned again - she was placed in reserve in February 1947. In October 1952, she was reclassified from CV to CVA (Attack Aircraft Carrier) and then, in August 1953, reclassified once more from CVA to CVS (Anti-Submarine Warfare Support Carrier). In May of 1959 she became AVT (Aircraft Transport) and - despite long-held plans by the USN to modify her into something more fitting the Cold War - finally struck from the Naval Register on October 1st, 1964. She was sold for scrap in 1966.