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Inferno    by Joseph A. Springer order for
by Joseph A. Springer
Order:  USA  Can
Zenith Press, 2011 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

It took Joseph Springer three years to interview 150 sailors, marines and air group personnel who served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Franklin. Along with the thousands of pages of action reports he studied, the author used those first hand accounts to put together this book.

The USS Franklin legend is actually two stories. 'The first is the saga of striking the enemy during the island campaigns in the central Pacific,' writes Springer. 'The second is of her crew's amazing and desperate struggle for survival off the waters of Japan.'

Dubbed Big Ben, the USS Franklin, because of what happened one day 55 miles off the coast of Japan, is also known as the ship that wouldn't die. On March 19th, 1945, the Franklin was hit by a single 250kg bomb dropped from a Japanese airplane that pierced her flight deck, setting off a chain reaction of exploding ordnance and aviation fuel.

In the resulting mayhem over 1,000 men were killed or wounded and it appeared the heavily listing ship was headed to the bottom of the sea. What happened next was one of those special stories of naval valor that characterized the fight in the Pacific during World War II. Because of the gallant efforts of her crew and other naval vessels, the carrier was saved.

Ultimately, the ship's crew would be the most decorated crew in U.S. naval history with twenty of them honored with the Navy Cross. Although she was heavily damaged, the most heavily damaged Midway-class carrier in the war, the Franklin was repaired. She was reclassified as an anti-submarine warfare carrier and then an auxiliary aircraft transport and served for a number of years before being declared unfit for service and sold for scrap.

In the aftermath of the USS Franklin's near sinking, charges were leveled against the crew for desertion of the ship. These charges are also addressed by the author.

Over thirty black and white photos accompany the text of this history that tells the complete story of the USS Franklin and the eventual controversy that surrounded the carrier. It is a story anyone interested in naval history, the Second World War, or the exploits of the fleet's aircraft carriers during the war will want to read.

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