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Apr 16

Visit to USS Franklin

KEN REIGHTLER’S VISIT TO THE USS. FRANKLIN

 

This Reightler’s Ramblings will concern my official visit to the USS Franklin(CV-13) at Pearl Harbor.

I have told this story numbers of times but I’m sure there are members from the 1944-45 crew who do not know about it.This happened

sometime in late March, early April 1945 while tied up at the same pier as the USS Franklin. I was an AM2/c assigned to the Aviation Oxygen shop V2M Division.

 

I was not the PO in charge but he was never around. The word was passed for me to report to the shop and upon arrival I found my Emergency Equipment Officer, LTjg John Druffel(sp)and Captain Barner. This shook me a little as nobody really paid any attention to this shop which was on a half-deck on the fantail port side. We were tasked with filling the aircraft bottles using special pumps to attain the higher pressure required. I was assigned to the flight deck to replace depleted bottles in the aircraft and replace defective Oxygen breathing equipment.

 

Captain Barner inspected the shop and equipment and was greatly concerned about the amount of Oxygen in that area.He orderd Mr.Druffel(sp)

to compose a letter for his signature authorizing me to go aboard the USS Franklin and inspect this same shop area. Captain Barner admonished me to wear clean dress whites, reminded me I would be an example of the crew of the USS Shangri-La.  I needed no further instructions

 

Proceeding as directed, feeling very aware of what I faced as we had all witnessed the condition of the Franklin when she pulled in. The obvious damage, the rusting streaks from the salt water used to fight the fires,the damaged or missing equipment. I went up the pier,dress whites, letter and all. A Junior Officer and Petty Officer were at the after brow. Both eyed me with suspicion but accepted the letter with Captain Barner’s signature requesting I be granted access to the ship. Surprisingly the Officer ordered me to go aboard,told me I would not have an escort.Going up the brow and saluting as required I wondered just what I would see.

 

They were removing the ship’s ammuntion arranging it in neat order on the foreward Hangar Deck.  Looking up the deck I saw where each aircraft had been tied down as there was a large indentation in the armor plated deck. The indentations showed where each bomb went off.The bulkheads were riddled from exploding ammunition and rockets each plane carried. I looked into a deck hatch leading to the second deck. Water was about two feet deep in a living compartment. I didn’t go down.

 

It was strange to see so much daylight streaming through areas where there should not have been light. It looked like lace in the bright Hawaiian sun. In some areas the damage was easy to see and impressed me, to say the least. I moved on to the fantail and saw the ladders leading up to my shop were buckled and twisted showing how much heat had been there.Screwing up my whites with rust and who knows what I finally made the landing outside the O2 shop.The hatch was warped and frozen but I could force my head in far enough to see that the foreward and after bulkhead were almost together. Boy, all those bottles had let go when the safety lead melted. I can imagine a flaming inferno with the hottest of fires peaked by all the oxygen. I made some notes, then decided to go up to the Aviation Maintenance spaces above.

 

When I finally made it up there. It showed only minor obvious damage. These spaces ran athwartship with a hatch in the middle. Across the coaming was a mattress keeping me from entering the other space. I moved the mattress and in doing so the folded portion opened up revealing human entrails. I could not believe this would not have been cleaned up but I got the hell out of there before I tossed my cookies. I decided I had seen enough and made my way down the rusted, melted ladders and departed. I have often wished that I had explored further,

 

I wrote up what I had seen and kept my thoghts to myself. I could not feel specially glad that I had gone on board that stricken ship but considered it somewhat of a privlege.I only prayed that the same fate did not await the Shangri-La.

 

Ken “Red” Reightler,Sr.