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Warfare History Network » USS Franklin and Father O’Callahan

Aboard the USS Franklin, Father O’Callahan provided comfort and courage during her darkest hour.
Aboard the USS Franklin, Father O’Callahan provided comfort and courage during her darkest hour.

Aboard the united statesFranklin, Father O’Callahan offered consolation and braveness throughout her darkest hour.

by Michael D. Hull

On March three, 1945, the 27,100-ton plane service USS Franklin churned out of Pearl Harbor and headed westward for the conflict zone. She was accompanied by the battlecruiser USSGuam. On the nice U.S. naval base of Ulithi, the Franklin’s Process Group 58.2 merged with three different forces to type Process Pressure 58. Its mission was to launch the primary service strike towards the Japanese Residence Islands because the Doolittle raid of April 1942.

The armada steamed northward, stretching for 50 miles throughout the Pacific Ocean. On the night time of March 17, the fleet closed to a mere hundred miles from the Japanese coast. An hour earlier than daybreak the next morning, the flattops launched their fighters and dive-bombers towards airfields on Kyushu.

People Draw First Blood

The raids continued all day lengthy, and the Franklin’s air group alone downed 18 enemy plane and destroyed many others on the bottom. The Japanese reacted with attribute fanaticism, and a dozen suicide planes have been shot down virtually within reach of the American activity drive.

The fateful day of March 19, 1945, dawned coolly because the Franklin swung into the wind to launch her first flight—a fighter group armed with particular heavy rockets to assault enemy naval models at Kure.

At 6:55 am that St. Joseph’s Day, one other flight swept off the deck, sure for a strike at Kobe. A thousand yards away, the service USS Hancock was sending up her first planes of the day. Forward and astern of the Franklin have been the sunshine carriers Bataan and San Jacinto.

A Quiet Breakfast Rudely Interrupted

Thirty extra Helldivers warmed up on the Franklin’s flight deck, whereas within the wardroom a couple of officers have been consuming breakfast. Amongst them was mild, scholarly Lt. Cmdr. Joseph T. O’Callahan of Massachusetts, the ship’s Roman Catholic chaplain.

All of a sudden, at 7:07 am, a Japanese Yokosuka D4Y Judy bomber flashed out of a cloudbank and hurtled down towards the Franklin at 360 miles an hour. The service’s 5-inch and 40mm weapons opened up on the aircraft because it launched two 500-pound armor-piercing bombs, pulled up, and turned away solely 50 ft above the flight deck.

The primary bomb slammed into the ahead hangar deck, ripping a terrific gap within the three-inch armor plate and setting hearth to fueled and armed planes. The second bomb smashed via two after-decks and exploded on the third deck close to the petty officers’ quarters.

The Franklin Turns into an Inferno

The flattop reeled as a column of black smoke poured from the ahead elevator nicely and a sheet of flame shot up from the ahead starboard fringe of the hangar deck. Smoke and flame engulfed the planes on the flight and hangar decks, and violent explosions started to convulse the service.

Prepared-ammunition lockers full of rockets and shells detonated, and smoke billowed into the engine rooms under. Scores of males perished on the flight, hangar, and gallery decks. The proud Franklin was an inferno.

Chaplain O’Callahan swiftly left his unfinished breakfast and made his approach by way of the shambles of smoke, flames, and torn metal to do what he might to consolation the wounded and regular the able-bodied. He appeared to be all over the place—serving to, cajoling, inspiring. His quiet braveness heartened all who got here in touch with him, and the large white cross on his helmet turned a beacon of hope for the dazed crew of the stricken ship.

“Take a look at the previous man [Captain Leslie E. Gehres on the bridge] up there,” O’Callahan informed the sailors. “Don’t let him down.”

A Life Devoted to Serving God and Man

Throughout his few days aboard the Franklin, Chaplain O’Callahan had made many pals amongst crewmen of all faiths. To the Protestant sailors, he was “Padre Joe.” To the Jews, he was “Rabbi Tim.”

Born within the Roxbury part of Boston on Might 14, 1905, Joseph Timothy O’Callahan attended St. Mary’s Parochial Faculty in Cambridge, after which went on to Boston School Excessive Faculty. He was a strong scholar within the school preparatory course. He wrote for the category journal, acted within the dramatic society, and ran on the relay workforce.

Deciding on a profession within the service of God and man, younger Joseph entered the Society of Jesus on the St. Andrew-on-Hudson Novitiate in Poughkeepsie, NY, in July 1922. Two years later, he pronounced his first vows as a Jesuit. After finishing philosophical research at Weston School, he joined the Boston School physics division as a educating member in 1929.

Then it was again to Weston School in 1931 to start formal theology research. He was ordained on June 20, 1934. After tertianship at St. Robert’s Corridor in Pomfret Middle, Conn., and a yr of particular research at Georgetown College, O’Callahan was appointed to show cosmology to his brother Jesuits at Weston School. In 1938, he was transferred to Holy Cross School in Worcester, Mass., to show arithmetic and physics.

By 1940, the priest-scholar who liked each arithmetic and poetry was head of the maths division and had based a math library. His college students admired their energetic, pleasant, and typically fiery teacher.

His Nation Referred to as him to Service

However a lot of the world was by now at conflict, and Joseph O’Callahan grew stressed. He utilized for a fee as a Navy chaplain.

His colleagues tried to dissuade him. They felt his skills might serve the warfare effort greatest at Holy Cross, quickly to have one of many main Naval ROTC models within the nation. However logical argument was no match for O’Callahan’s quiet willpower, and on August 7, 1940, he was commissioned a lieutenant within the Navy Chaplain Corps.

His first task was educating calculus on the Pensacola, Fla., Naval Air Station. However he yearned for sea obligation, ideally aboard a service. After 18 months of shore obligation, Chaplain O’Callahan went to sea. In April 1942 he reported aboard the service USS Ranger.

The Ranger made few headlines however noticed loads of motion from the Arctic to the Equator. She performed a number one half within the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, and in an October 1943 raid on German delivery in Norwegian waters.

Chief Morale Officer

Aboard the USS Franklin, Father O’Callahan provided comfort and courage during her darkest hour.With the rank of lieutenant commander, O’Callahan served because the Ranger’s chief morale officer. He made many buddies, and at his funeral 20 years later officers and males from the service introduced a crucifix in reminiscence of their padre.

After two and a half years aboard the Ranger, O’Callahan was reassigned to shore obligation—at naval air stations at Alameda, Calif., and Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He was capable of chill out after the trials of fight and spent his free evenings studying poetry.

However he additionally had time to fret. His youngest sister, Alice, now Sister Rose Marie, a Maryknoll nun, was imprisoned in a Japanese detention camp. For 3 years the household had not heard a phrase about her. Chaplain O’Callahan prayed that he can be assigned to the Philippines in order that he might study the destiny of his sister.

Chaplain O’Callahan Units Sail on Massive Ben

The Navy had one thing else in retailer for him, nevertheless. He was ordered again to sea. At Pearl Harbor on the afternoon of March 2, 1945, amid piles of potatoes and ammunition, Chaplain O’Callahan reported for obligation aboard the service USS Franklin (CV-13).

Recognized affectionately by her crew because the “Huge Ben,” the Essex-class service was the fifth American warship to bear the identify. The service’s keel had been laid at Newport Information, Va., on July 12, 1942, and she or he had been accomplished on January 31, 1944. When O’Callahan went aboard her, she had already seen a lot motion and had virtually been sunk.

As a part of Process Group 58.2 within the Pacific Theater, the Franklin had despatched her planes towards Japanese bases within the Bonin Islands, Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima, Ha Ha Jima, Guam, Palau, Yap, Peleliu, and Luzon. She had had a number of shut calls, saved solely by the expert seamanship of her commanding officer, Captain James M. Shoemaker, and her crew.

Japanese Navy Threatens and Seventh Fleet Responds

Because the flagship of Activity Group 38.four, the Huge Ben was current with the mighty Seventh Fleet on October 21, 1944, when troops of the U.S. Sixth Military poured ashore at Leyte. Three Japanese fleets threatened the People at Leyte, and Activity Group 38.four wheeled westward to interact the enemy.

The Japanese tremendous battleships Musashi and Yamato staggered beneath bombs from Franklin’s planes. Two enemy cruisers have been exhausting hit, one was left lifeless within the water, and one other blew up. Off the doorway to Leyte Gulf, fighters from the Franklin sank the massive enemy service Zuiho.

Early on the afternoon of October 29, 1944, a small group of well-camouflaged Japanese suicide planes approached the Franklin’s drive. Cruisers and destroyers closed in tightly across the Massive Ben and the carriers Enterprise, Belleau Wooden, and San Jacinto. Each 5-inch gun within the formation opened up.

Massive Ben Takes Direct Hit however Limps House

The enemy pilots pressed house their assaults. A suicide aircraft crashed into the after-end of the Franklin’s island, and an incredible explosion rocked the flattop. Flames and smoke smothered the hangar and flight decks. Two dozen males died within the blast, and lots of gunners have been scorched by flames and blinded by fumes. Injury-control events fought the fires, and 20 minutes later one other nice blast shook the Massive Ben. She listed to starboard.

The ship had misplaced 57 males and suffered extreme injury, however she stayed afloat and gained a good keel after hours of effort by her crew. She retired to Ulithi, the place Captain Shoemaker was relieved by Captain Gehres. After temporary repairs in Pearl Harbor, the flattop was ordered to the Bremerton, Wash., Navy Yard for an overhaul.

The repairs have been accomplished in January 1945, and the Franklin took on a brand new air group at Alameda earlier than steaming again to Pearl Harbor.

Aboard the USS Franklin, Father O’Callahan provided comfort and courage during her darkest hour.

The Darkest Hour

Now, on the morning of March 19, 1945, the inferno aboard the Huge Ben intensified as 40,000 gallons of aviation gasoline on the aft hangar deck fed the fires. Hundred-foot-high flames shot up previous the service’s island, and a column of smoke rose a mile above the clouds.

Heedless of hazard, the destroyer USS Miller eased alongside the stricken flattop and educated her hoses on the fires. At eight:30 am, solely the Franklin’s two after-fire rooms and the after-engine room have been nonetheless operative, however the warmth and smoke turned insufferable they usually needed to be evacuated.

Dozens of sailors had been blown overboard by the pressure of the explosions, and others had jumped into the ocean to flee the flames. Many sailors under decks have been trapped, they usually struggled to make their approach topside. Everybody within the ship’s hospital ward—docs, corpsmen, and sufferers—died after a futile wrestle towards hearth and suffocation.

Braveness Amid the Flames

Though wounded himself by shrapnel, Chaplain O’Callahan dashed concerning the slanting flight deck, administering final rites to dying sailors and comforting the wounded. He led officers and males into the flames, carrying stay bombs and shells to the sting of the deck for jettisoning. O’Callahan personally recruited a damage-control get together and led it into one of many essential ammunition magazines to moist it down and stop it from exploding. Again on deck, he grabbed a hose to dampen reside bombs that have been rolling dangerously about.

Captain Gehres later referred to as O’Callahan “the bravest man I ever noticed.” The chaplain retorted, “Any priest in like circumstances ought to do, and would do, what I did.” He dismissed later publicity as “exaggerated.”

The cruiser USS Santa Fe moved alongside, all hoses pouring water on the Franklin’s burning decks. The service listed decrease and decrease. Steam ceased to move from the boilers, and she or he misplaced steering management at 9:30 am. She lay lifeless within the water a mere 50 to 60 miles from Japan, the closest any American floor ship had approached to date in the course of the conflict.

The Ship That Wouldn’t Die

The Santa Fe took off the service’s wounded, and destroyers circled round choosing up survivors. After one abortive attempt, the cruiser USS Pittsburgh managed to attach her tow line with the crippled flattop and begin hauling her southward at a velocity of three and a half knots.

Firemen slowly labored their means again to the engineering areas, and by 7 pm that St. Joseph’s Day a lot of the fires under decks have been beneath management. For the second time, the united statesFranklin had refused to sink regardless of extreme injury. She would henceforth be generally known as “the ship that wouldn’t die.”

That night time, the Japanese have been out in pressure dropping flares on the horizon of their seek for the Franklin, however their efforts to complete her off have been foiled. As an alternative, they encountered American activity teams, and a livid encounter raged via the night time simply 10 miles away from the limping flattop.

Japanese Decided to End off the Franklin

Shortly earlier than daybreak on March 20, the engineers labored over their engines looking for a approach to rise up extra steam. Nonetheless underneath tow, the ship was shifting at a mere six knots and was nonetheless solely 85 miles from Japan. Yankee ingenuity gained out, and by 10 am the Huge Ben was churning ahead underneath her personal energy at 14 knots. Her escorts have been the battlecruisersGuam and Alaska and a pair of destroyers. The little group steamed slowly southward, however the enemy had not given up in its willpower to complete off the Franklin. That afternoon, Japanese planes bore down on the 5 ships.

Aboard the USS Franklin, Father O’Callahan provided comfort and courage during her darkest hour.

The cruisers drew in near defend the service, for an additional hit might ship her to the underside. One enemy aircraft swept in near unfastened a bomb on the service, however her few remaining antiaircraft mounts opened hearth with such velocity and accuracy that the astonished Japanese pilot was pressured to swerve away. His bomb fell harmlessly into the ocean 100 ft from the ship.

Repeatedly, the Japanese despatched bombers in a determined effort to succeed in the Franklin, however every time they have been chased off by fighters from a process group 30 miles away.

“God Gained’t Let Me Go Till He’s Prepared!”

In the meantime, Chaplain O’Callahan stayed at his publish for 3 wearying days and nights. Strafing Japanese fighters did not shake him. When his skipper yelled, “Why don’t you duck?” the chaplain shouted again with a smile, “God gained’t let me go till He’s prepared!”

The service continued to select up velocity, and by sundown on March 20, she was steaming at greater than 20 knots. By daybreak the next day, she was 300 miles from Japan. That night, she rejoined Process Group 58.2, which was retiring to Ulithi.

On March 24, the Massive Ben dismissed the screening destroyers Miller, Marshall, and Hunt to take her place within the column of ships steaming into Ulithi Lagoon. Two days later, accompanied by a pair of destroyer escorts, the Franklin and Santa Fe set course for Pearl Harbor. They arrived on April three, 1945.

Solemnity and Humor Greet the Wounded Franklin

It was an emotional occasion when the battered, blackened service inched into Pearl Harbor. Hardened Navy veterans wept brazenly on the sight. However there was a contact of wry humor, too, as a nondescript band made up of tin pans, an accordion, and two horns, and arranged by Father O’Callahan, performed and sang, “Oh, the previous Huge Ben, she ain’t what she was.”

Throughout a five-day keep at Pearl Harbor, the doughty chaplain set about organizing “a most unique membership,” the 704 Membership. This comprised the 704 survivors of the March 19 bombing who stayed aboard the Franklin and would sail her house.

On April 9, the service began her engines, lifted her anchors, and acquired underway eastward from Pearl Harbor. Every week later, she inched by way of the Panama Canal, and on April 28, 1945, she arrived off Gravesend Bay, NY. Two days later, she eased into the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the place she was to bear in depth repairs.

Unsurpassed Survival and 388 Decorations For Franklin Crew

After a cruel battering by bombs, fires, and explosions, and an unimaginable 13,000-mile voyage that was a testomony to the seamanship and fortitude of her crew, the previous Huge Ben was house. Her survival was unsurpassed in U.S. Navy annals. As Captain Gehres stated merely, “A ship that won’t be sunk, can’t be sunk.”

A minimum of 388 decorations have been bestowed on the crew of the Franklin. It was the best variety of medals ever awarded to the personnel of a single ship in American historical past.

In the meantime, the crew went on rehabilitation depart as Navy Yard crews went to work on the hulk, toiling day and night time to chop away complete sections of blasted deck. She was nonetheless present process repairs when the struggle ended.

Heroic Chaplain Receives Medal of Honor

Chaplain O’Callahan was assigned briefly to the Workplace of Public Info on the Navy Division, after which the Newport, RI, Naval Coaching Station. He returned to his alma mater, Georgetown College, as graduation speaker on June 17. He acquired an honorary physician of science diploma and advised the graduates, “Take life significantly, which suggests on your happiness that you simply stay your life as God would have you ever lead it.”

In October 1945, the chaplain reported for precommissioning obligation aboard a brand-new service, the 45,000-ton USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. His proudest second got here on January 23, 1946, when he stood within the White Home whereas President Harry S Truman positioned the pale blue ribbon of the Medal of Honor round his neck for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity.” O’Callahan’s mom watched. He was the primary Roman Catholic chaplain to be awarded the nation’s highest ornament for heroism. He additionally acquired the Purple Coronary heart and 5 marketing campaign ribbons.

In June 1946, O’Callahan was appointed escort chaplain to accompany the physique of Filipino President Manuel Quezon to Manila aboard a U.S. Navy vessel. On November 12, 1946, he was launched from service with the rank of captain.

Aboard the USS Franklin, Father O’Callahan provided comfort and courage during her darkest hour.

Franklin Decommissioned and O’Callahan Returns to Academia

The Franklin, in the meantime, was decommissioned on February 17, 1947. She had earned 4 battle stars on the Asiatic Pacific service ribbon.

O’Callahan went again to Holy Cross to show philosophy and locked his Medal of Honor within the Dinand Library protected. The warfare had taken a toll on him, and he would by no means once more take pleasure in good well being.

In December 1949, he suffered his first stroke. His proper arm was paralyzed, however he exercised day by day to revive the limb to usefulness. It was a troublesome struggle, however every summer time he would put together meticulously for the autumn courses, hoping that by September he can be robust sufficient to return to the classroom. He began writing what can be a best-selling memoir, I Was Chaplain on the Franklin, and a private letter from President Truman spurred him on.

O’Callahan’s biggest supply of power was day by day Mass. He acquired permission to supply his Mass sitting down, for on some days he needed to actually drag himself to the altar. His well being continued to fail, and on some days he was capable of compose solely a brief paragraph for his guide.

Father O’Callahan Remembered With Ship Dedication

Transferred to a room at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester, Father O’Callahan took a flip for the more severe on the afternoon of March 18, 1964. At 10:40 that night time, whereas 5 Jesuit brother clergymen and two Sisters of Windfall prayed, the chaplain of the Franklin died. Three days later within the little cemetery at Holy Cross, he was buried in a easy Jesuit ceremony. A Navy bugler sounded faucets over the grave whereas the Navy chief of chaplains, three Catholic bishops, and O’Callahan’s 90-year-old mom listened.

Together with the ship that may not die, Chaplain O’Callahan was now a part of U.S. Navy historical past.

In July 1968, Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston officiated on the commissioning of a destroyer escort named for Father Joe on the Boston Navy Yard, saying he was “an inspiration for all future time.” The ship was christened by the chaplain’s youngest sister, Alice, then Sister Rose Marie. She was the primary nun to christen a U.S. warship.

Chaplain’s Braveness Serves as Inspiration and Steerage to Future Sailors

Father Joe additionally was memorialized on the Chaplains Memorial in Valley Forge, Pa.; his helmet, rosary, and miraculous medal are on show in the united statesFranklin CV-13 Museum aboard the service USS Yorktown in Charleston, SC; and a stained-glass window honors him within the vestry of the Nationwide Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

The epic of the united statesFranklin impressed each the Navy and the general public. The Navy used the story to supply a coaching movie to show recruits about obligation, firefighting, and survival, and a shade documentary, Saga of the Franklin, was made.

Hollywood Swings and Misses on Telling his Story

In 1956, Columbia Footage launched Battle Stations, a semifictional account of the Franklin. John Lund starred as Chaplain McIntyre, loosely based mostly on Chaplain O’Callahan, and the movie costarred William Bendix, Richard Boone, and Keefe Brasselle. Lewis Seiler directed. The movie acquired poor critiques. Critics stated that it was riddled with stereotypical characters and that the script contained each service film cliché conceivable.

An NBC-TV particular documentary, The Ship That Wouldn’t Die, was telecast in April 1969. It featured interviews with a number of crewmen, and was narrated by Gene Kelly.