Description: History of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.
The USS Franklin (CV-13) was ordered for the U.S. Navy during World War II. Her keel was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company on December 7, 1942. She was launched on October 14, 1943 and commissioned on January 31, 1944 under the command of Captain James M. Shoemaker.
Shortly after commissioning, USS Franklin trained with Task Group 27.7 in San Diego before heading to Eniwetok via Pearl Harbor to join Task Group 58.2 in June 1944. She launched air strikes on the Bonin Islands and the Mariana Islands. The carrier moved on to strike at Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima, and Haha Jima on July 4, then Guam and Rota two days later.
At the end of July, the USS Franklin supported the troop landings at Guam and Rota. After replenishing at Saipan, she took part in air strikes and photographic reconnaissance at the Palaus with Task Force 58. She then joined Task Group 58.1 to launch strikes against the Bonins, Chichi Jima, and Ototo Jima in August. The carrier headed to Eniwetok from August 9-28, where she underwent upkeep while her crew was allowed some recreation time.
From the end of August to the beginning of September, USS Franklin joined the carrier group for neutralization and diversionary raids on the Bonin Islands. She joined with Task Group 38.1 in September for the attack against Yap and the invasion of Peleliu. She became the flagship of Task Group 38.4, operating in the Palaus through the beginning of October.
USS Franklin then moved on to conduct preliminary strikes to support the upcoming occupation of Leyte on October 9. An enemy plane crashed into her deck on October 13. She headed to Luzon, where she was attacked against by enemy planes on October 16. A bomb managed to hit her, killing three men and injuring 22 others. She maintained her position, though, attacking Manila Bay on October 19.
The USS Franklin covered troop landings at Leyte on October 20. She took part in the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, four days later. The aircraft carrier helped to sink the Japanese battleship Musashi, the Japanese destroyer Wakaba, and damage battleships Fuso and Yamashiro. She then became involved in the Battle of Cape Engaño the following day, sinking one ship and damaging another.
On October 30, 1944, USS Franklin was the victim of a kamikaze attack. Three kamikazes struck her – the first skimming off her starboard side, the second hitting the flight deck and crashing down through the gallery deck, and the third a near miss that skimmed off into the flight deck of the USS Belleau Wood. The attacks killed 56 men and injured 60 others. The aircraft carrier headed to Ulithi for temporary repairs before sailing to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for permanent repairs in November.
When the USS Franklin rejoined the battle in the Pacific in February 1945, she joined Task Group 58.2 to strike at the Japanese home islands in support of the landings at Okinawa. She joined other Task Force 58 units to strike Kagoshima and Izumi on March 18.
USS Franklin launched strikes against Honshu and Kobe Harbor on March 19. She was struck by two 250 kg bombs that knocked out the Combat Information Center, took out radio communications, and set off a series of fires and explosions. The aircraft carrier was dead in the water; 724 men were killed and 265 were injured. Several of the crew members stayed on board to fight the fires and save the ship, some of whom were awarded the Medal of Honor for their efforts: Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O’Callahan and Lieutenant Junior Grade Donald A. Gary. She was towed to Pearl Harbor via Ulithi by the USS Pittsburgh for temporary repairs. The carrier was able to sail to Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs on April 28.
After World War II ended, the USS Franklin was opened to the public for Navy Day celebrations. She was decommissioned on February 17, 1947. The carrier was redesignated as an attack aircraft carrier, CVA-13, on October 1, 1952. She was redesignated again as an antisubmarine warfare support carrier, CVS-13, on August 8, 1953. She was finally redesignated as an aircraft transport, AVT-8, on May 15, 1959, but she never went back to sea. The aircraft carrier was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on October 1, 1964 and sold for scrap on July 27, 1966. The USS Franklin earned four battle stars for her service in World War II.
Like all other ships from the World War II era, the USS Franklin was built using many asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos was prized for its resistance to heat, fire, water, and corrosion, so it was used in virtually every area of the ship and in the aircraft she carried. Anyone who worked in or around the USS Franklin was put at risk of developing life-threatening asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma or lung cancer.
USS Franklin workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Anyone who worked on or around the USS Franklin, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.