Lucky Lady: The World War II Heroics of the USS Santa Fe and Franklin

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Overview


On March 19, 1945, a Japanese bomber screamed toward the USS Franklin and dropped two 500-pound bombs through the ship's decks, killing hundreds of officers and enlisted men in just the first few moments, and thrusting the lives of nearly 3,000 other American seamen and aviators into mortal danger. As the Franklin listed dangerously near capsizing, the light cruiser USS Santa Fe, nicknamed the Lucky Lady, bellied up alongside her flaming hull and attempted the most daring rescue in U.S. naval history. Lucky Lady...
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Overview


On March 19, 1945, a Japanese bomber screamed toward the USS Franklin and dropped two 500-pound bombs through the ship's decks, killing hundreds of officers and enlisted men in just the first few moments, and thrusting the lives of nearly 3,000 other American seamen and aviators into mortal danger. As the Franklin listed dangerously near capsizing, the light cruiser USS Santa Fe, nicknamed the Lucky Lady, bellied up alongside her flaming hull and attempted the most daring rescue in U.S. naval history. Lucky Lady recreates the legendary World War II careers of the Franklin—the most decorated naval vessel of the war—and the Santa Fe—unparalleled in frontline service and avoiding casualties—through the eyes of the men on board. Perspectives range from the highest levels of rank and flying altitude to deep within the ships' bowels. Through the bloody years of the Pacific campaign—from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines to the waters just off the coast of Japan, and finally the decimated city of Nagasaki—the crewmembers encountered all the circumstances of war. Now in paperback, this book will be cherished by readers of military history as a fitting tribute with stirring echoes in our present time. Photographs are featured.
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Editorial Reviews

The Dallas Morning News
Steve Jackson masterfully tells the saga of these two ships and their crews in Lucky Lady.... His words eloquently describe the almost spiritual camaraderie among shipmates and explain how a ship of steel and steam can be a living thing to those who serve her.
The Colorado Springs Gazette
An intense, detailed account of the men aboard the ships, the ships themselves and the war that kept the men united.... Individually, the boys grow into men on the pages of Jackson's book; collectively, their growth reflects the maturing of a nation at war.
The Denver Post
Sometimes, a lock is the key.

When Colorado author Steve Jackson found a lock of honey-colored hair buried deep in an old box his father kept from World War II, an epic story unfolded before him. The hair was his mother's - before she was his mother, or even his father's bride - and the story was the story of a generation before it became known as the "greatest generation."

Jackson's new non-fiction book Lucky Lady - a departure from his best-selling true-crime books such as "Rough Trade" and "No Stone Unturned" - is the story of two ships, two crews, and at its heart, the relatively few years that changed his father's life. The result: a history of men at war with all the pathos of Ernie Pyle and the historic intuition of Stephen Ambrose. All told, Jackson's account is unsentimental when it might have been maudlin, and eloquent when it might have been academic.

A Midwestern farm boy from a broken family, Donald Jackson joined the U.S. Navy before the war. He was due to muster out in 1942, but then came Dec. 7, 1941. The radioman, wearing his sweetheart's ring around his neck with his dogtags, came aboard the cruiser USS Santa Fe in 1943.

Known as the Lucky Lady because she logged the war's longest tour - 221,750 miles with stops in such exotic hotspots as Wake Island, Tarawa, Saipan and Iwo Jima -- with only two casualties and insignificant damage, the Santa Fe became her crew's guardian angel and surrogate soul.

The USS Franklin was the United States' fifth Essex-class aircraft carrier and the fifth naval vessel to carry the name - the original was a fishing boat loaned to the Continental Army in 1775 and re-named for Ben Franklin. Although "Big Ben" bore the seemingly unlucky naval designation as CV-13, she'd become World War II's most decorated naval vessel.

The Franklin and Santa Fe crossed historic paths on March 19, 1945, when a lone Japanese plane dropped two bombs on Big Ben, penetrating both the ship's bowels and brain. Dead in the water without radio contact and very little power, the Franklin was burning fast and listing badly. Worse, much of its crew had been blown overboard, killed or wounded.

With 724 killed and 265 wounded, the Franklin's surviving 106 officers and 604 crewmen valiantly tried to save the ship. Jackson recounts the heroic efforts of many of them, including eventual Medal of Honor winners Lt. Cdr. Joseph T. O'Callahan, a chaplain who administered last rites, organized firefighters and rescuers, and helped flood munition magazines before they could explode; and Lt. (jg) Donald Gary, who discovered 300 men trapped in a charred mess hall and made several trips below to lead them to safety.

The Santa Fe's crew was no less heroic as it pulled alongside to pluck sailors from the sea and cram its decks and wardrooms with the Franklin's wounded.

But Lucky Lady isn't just the story of inanimate steel, fuel oil, and gunpowder that make warships. It's about the men - boys, really - who are the spirit and soul of these two ships.

Through them and many others, Jackson captures not only the battle histories of two legendary ships, but the bluejacket's life, from the captain's chair to the deepest, darkest corners of the bilge-soaked hold, from boot camp ("Do you like girls, sailor?") to burial at sea. All of it is retold here through the eyes of the men who faced death and survived.

It is good to be reminded of common men's grace under fire, and that each of them enters the world stage from a place far away. Jackson's old soldiers, already fading away, help him bring this splendid, moving history to readers who will never know them.
December 29, 2002

From The Critics
In an effort evocative of James Bradley's Flags of Our Fathers, Steve Jackson begins with the story of his father Donald, who served in the Santa Fe, and weaves it into those of his shipmates and the men of the Franklin. It is a tale rich in moods and memories of the late 1930s as well as the war years, and a highly readable tribute to Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation"--one of several such generations, the author points out.... Read it for the down-home, heart-tugging stories of the men who fought the war and the women who supported them on the home front." — August 2003
Publishers Weekly
The destinies of the cruiser Santa Fe and carrier Franklin dramatically intersected off the coast of Japan in March 1945, when the former, nicknamed the Lucky Lady, came to the rescue of the stricken latter. Jackson (No Stone Unturned) spends the first half of his account covering the ships' preparations and initial war experiences. He follows a few men through the narrative (many others are mentioned only once), and offers lively descriptions of shipboard life, but tells his tale episodically and not always chronologically, which undermines the story's flow. In chapter nine, Jackson begins to alternate between Santa Fe and Franklin, as they undertake joint operations, including the liberation of the Philippines, during the latter part of 1944. Both ships face kamikaze attacks; the Franklin was hit by a suicide aircraft. Thanks to a "magnificent piece of seamanship" by her captain, the Santa Fe avoided a torpedo and a suicide plane simultaneously; she also avoided a now infamous typhoon. Both ships took part in the greatest naval engagement of World War II, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and Jackson includes some dramatic accounts from downed aviators. On March 19th, 1945, when the Franklin was struck by two bombs from a Japanese dive-bomber, the Santa Fe stood by the Franklin and was instrumental in saving it from sinking. The heroic efforts of the crews of both ships to save the carrier, told through survivors' stories, is the most gripping part of the book. Unfortunately, the Franklin's captain wouldn't allow those who had left the ship during the attack-some of whom were blown off deck and into the water-to return to it; acrimony developed between those who had stayed on board and those who didn't. The epilogue gratuitously brings the "new kamikazes" of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to this well evoked corner of the War. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
After finding a lock of hair that his mother had given to his father before he joined the navy, Jackson (No Stone Unturned) decided to research the activities of his father's ship, the USS Santa Fe. Dubbed "Lucky Lady," the craft survived dive bombings, kamikaze attacks, and typhoons without losing a single crew member, earning 13 battle stars during her tour of duty. At the same time, Jackson tells the story of the aircraft carrier USS Franklin, which was one of the most decorated ships of World War II. The Santa Fe shared her good luck in an unparalleled rescue at sea: fewer than 50 miles from Japan, the Franklin had been severely damaged by a Japanese dive-bomber attack. While putting both ships in mortal danger, the Santa Fe came alongside it and rescued over 800 crew members. The Franklin, because of the Santa Fe's actions, was able to return to port under her own power. Lucky Lady is a biographical testament, told by everyone from captains to seamen, heralding the courage and valor of the crew members of the two ships. As good as any military technothriller; this is recommended for all libraries.-Terry Wirick, Erie Cty. Lib. Syst., PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An overlong, undercooked tale of hara-kiri and heroism on the high seas. In the last days of WWII, the Japanese naval command targeted the US aircraft carrier Franklin for destruction at whatever cost, although the planners of that attack surely must have known that the attempt would not stem their defeat. On March 19, 1945, a Japanese bomber eluded American air cover and crashed through the carrier’s flight deck, setting the ship’s stores of fuel and ammunition afire. While swarms of kamikaze planes assembled to finish off the stricken carrier, the captain of the light cruiser Santa Fe--on which Denver-based writer Jackson’s father served--steered his ship alongside the badly listing Franklin, tied on lines, and began the perilous task of rescuing hundreds of surviving sailors while its firefighters joined those aboard the Franklin to extinguish the blaze. The Franklin survived, though some of its evacuees would be treated as pariahs for leaving the ship when no order to abandon it had been issued. Jackson covers the dramatic incident and its aftermath well, though he has a tendency to write in a tired war-correspondentese: "Everywhere he looked there were heroes. And maybe more importantly, everywhere he looked there were guys just doing what needed to be done." "Still, there was nothing to do but roll with the punches and hit back." "I’m writing the old lady today, ‘Drop them skivvies, honey, I’m coming home.’ " Jackson devotes much space to portraits of the ordinary (very ordinary) joes who manned the ship--the farmboy from Missouri, the wisecracking big-city boy, the hot-dog pilot, "dark-haired and rakishly handsome, a cigarette dangling from his lips almost constantly." Theseportraits never extend beyond the expected and add up to a second-tier Ambrosian celebration of heroism under fire--a bravery that is genuine and does not beg assertion after assertion. For veterans and their kin, perhaps, though general readers would do better to turn to Doug Stanton’s In Harm’s Way (2001) for a satisfying ration of WWII naval combat. Agent: Michael Hamilberg
Kirkus Reviews
In the last days of WWII, the Japanese naval command targeted the US aircraft carrier Franklin for destruction at whatever cost, although the planners of that attack surely must have known that the attempt would not stem their defeat. On March 19, 1945, a Japanese bomber eluded American air cover and crashed through the carrier’s flight deck, setting the ship’s stores of fuel and ammunition afire. While swarms of kamikaze planes assembled to finish off the stricken carrier, the captain of the light cruiser Santa Fe--on which Denver-based writer Jackson’s father served--steered his ship alongside the badly listing Franklin, tied on lines, and began the perilous task of rescuing hundreds of surviving sailors while its firefighters joined those aboard the Franklin to extinguish the blaze. The Franklin survived, though some of its evacuees would be treated as pariahs for leaving the ship when no order to abandon it had been issued. Jackson covers the dramatic incident and its aftermath well, though he has a tendency to write in a tired war-correspondentese: "Everywhere he looked there were heroes. And maybe more importantly, everywhere he looked there were guys just doing what needed to be done." "Still, there was nothing to do but roll with the punches and hit back." "I’m writing the old lady today, ‘Drop them skivvies, honey, I’m coming home.’ " Jackson devotes much space to portraits of the ordinary (very ordinary) joes who manned the ship--the farmboy from Missouri, the wisecracking big-city boy, the hot-dog pilot, "dark-haired and rakishly handsome, a cigarette dangling from his lips almost constantly." Theseportraits never extend beyond the expected and add up to a second-tier Ambrosian celebration of heroism under fire--a bravery that is genuine and does not beg assertion after assertion. For veterans and their kin, perhaps, though general readers would do better to turn to Doug Stanton’s In Harm’s Way (2001) for a satisfying ration of WWII naval combat. Agent: Michael Hamilberg
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786713103
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 504
  • Sales rank: 630,967
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.16 (h) x 1.36 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword: The Lock of Hair ix
Prologue: A Terrible Resolve xv
Part I USS Santa Fe: Philadelphia to the Marianas - November 1942-January 1944
1. Survivors: Unfinished Business 3
2. Pearl Harbor 1943: "Man the Guns. Join the Navy." 18
3. The Battle of Sitkan Pip: A Terrible Responsibility 29
4. Bougainville to Tarawa: For a Bit of Coral 43
5. My Father: A Lucky Man 59
Part II USS Franklin: Newport News to Saipan - December 1943-August 1944
6. Big Ben, the Flattop: With Revenge in Mind 93
7. Aviators and Airedales: Air Group 13 114
8. Iwo Jima to Saipan: Fireworks and Flies 130
Land of the Rising Sun: Divine Winds 157
Part III The USS Franklin and Santa Fe: The Philippines - October-December 1944
9. The Winds of War 171
10. The Lucky Lady 191
11. A Taste of War 207
12. Upon His Country's Altar 218
13. The Battle of Leyte Gulf 229
14. Desperate Times, Desperate Measures 243
15. Kamikaze 252
16. Typhoon 271
17. The Farewell 287
Land of the Rising Sun: The Pilot 305
Part IV The USS Franklin and Santa Fe: Japan - March 19, 1945
18. The Calm Before the Storm 317
19. The Last Operation 340
20. The Valley of the Shadow of Death 358
21. A Risky Decision 380
22. Ship of Heroes 388
23. Orders, Sir? 397
24. The Flag's Still Flying! 417
Aftermath
25. The 704 Club 437
26. The Bomb and the Lock of Hair 461
A Final Note to Readers 485
Acknowledgments 490
Bibliography 495
Index 498
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2003

    I Was There

    I can talk about it now ,after all these years,I was fresh out of boot camp,when assigned to the U.S.S.Franklin CV-13. The events about the Big Ben,on that fatefull morning,are about as true as you can find them. It was written very good,an at last the truth has been told,as it happened. It is burnt into my memory. I was fortunate enough to help bring her back home , to the Brooklyn Navy Yard .For me it stirred up a lot of memories . Fred W. Masters u. s. s.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2002

    A Fascinating Read

    As the son of one of the men on the Santa Fe, I had the privilege of being allowed to read the original draft of Lucky Lady. My father told many stories about the war as I was growing up, but the author was able to draw out considerably more than I ever could have from my father, as well as from many others. This book is not all guns and bayonets, but goes into the lives of the crewmembers, and to some extent, the families waiting back home. It was fascinating following the transformation of the sailors, many only teenagers, as they fought for their lives, and how their lives were forever changed by the experience. Lucky Lady is written in a way that shows how the entire generation of people changed, not just the few selected for the book. Through the eyes of many different men on different ships, from engine rooms to airplanes, Lucky Lady makes the reader feel like a part of the crew. The rescue of and survival of the Franklin is the obvious highlight of this book, but that incident was one day of a multi-year experience. The reader shares the terror of being on a ship hit by a Kamikaze, and the sadness of watching the Marines land on an island. Even the victory of sinking a Japanese ship was not cause for celebration as the men on the surviving ships knew it could have as easily been Americans waiting to die in the water. Regardless of your age or interest, I think everyone will enjoy Lucky Lady.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2010

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