Inferno: The Epic Life and Death Struggle of the USS Franklin in World War II

Inferno: The Epic Life and Death Struggle of the USS Franklin in World War II

by Joseph A. Springer

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Known throughout the fleet as “Big Ben,” the USS Franklin was christened for the legacy of the four prior U.S. Navy ships named after Benjamin Franklin. The Franklin was one of twenty-four Essex-class fast carriers built during World War II, forming the backbone of the U.S. Navy’s war against Japan.

On March 19, 1945, during a planned aircraft launch against Honshu, the Japanese mainland, the Franklin was struck with a 250kg bomb from an enemy aircraft, setting off a chain reaction of exploding ordnance and aviation fuel.

The aircraft carrier, now on fire, listing heavily to starboard, and with over one thousand casualties, appeared to be mortally wounded. Inferno tells the heroic tale of the efforts that saved “Big Ben.” It is a tremendous story of endurance and seamanship told in harrowing detail in the survivors’ own words. Inferno makes for gripping reading.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781610597494
Publisher: Zenith Press
Publication date: 09/12/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 374,844
File size: 25 MB
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About the Author

Joseph A. Springer retired from the United States Air Force after twenty-two years as an Aircraft Weapons Specialist. He now specializes in military oral history, having interviewed more than one thousand combat veterans over the last thirty-five years. Joe’s first book, Black Devil Brigade, tells the oral history of the First Special Service Force in World War II. Joe and his wife, Susan, reside in West Central Illinois.

Table of Contents

Preface     9
Acknowledgments     13
Author's Note     15
Introduction     17
Part 1     31
Shakedown     33
Fast on Their Feet     67
The Long Count     109
Steel Rain     129
The Drawing of the Blade     151
Part 2     167
Gathering Gray     169
Seared Hearts     189
Adrift     251
The Last Full Measure     283
The Long Journey Home     307
Epilogue     315
Appendices     323
Bibliography     339
Glossary     345
Index     347

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Naval History, December 2007 (circ.: 60,000)

“Joseph Springer brings to life one of the most exciting stories of World War II as seen and told from the perspective of officers and Sailors who served on board the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Franklin. The author has crafted a well-researched and easy-to-read oral history that not only pays tribute to the men who sailed in the Franklin but to the legacy of naval service and its values of honor, courage, and commitment … This book is a fitting tribute to the crew members of the Franklin and all the Sailors who fought during World War II.”


World War II Database, November 2007 (vpm: 30,000)

“I was immediately impressed by Springer's writing style, which was straight-forward but was done without sacrificing detail. He professed that his interest in the history of USS Franklin had been nearly life-long, and it showed. The book delivered in clear detail everything encompassing the ship's history, configuration throughout the war, and the environments she had been in. Springer also succeeded in providing just enough information about the Pacific War so to shine light on why Franklin engaged in actions that she did … With this book, the men of Franklin, along with their courage in the face of disaster and their accomplishment of bringing the devastated ship back home on her own power, were made known.

I highly recommend Inferno, a history told with harrowing and gripping detail.”

Midwest Book Review, November 2007

“A gripping true story of bravery and sacrifice, featuring the words of men who served aboard ‘Big Ben’ as well as a handful of black and white photographs. A welcome addition to naval and World War II history shelves.”

Midwest Book Review, December 2007

“A gripping true story of bravery and sacrifice, featuring the words of the men who served aboard ‘Big Ben’ as well as a handful of black and white photographs. A welcome addition to naval and World War II history shelves.”

Customer Reviews

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Inferno: The Epic Life and Death Struggle of the USS Franklin in World War II 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
ricksippel More than 1 year ago Dad's story, and all those men like him. Dad always said that you couldn't explain or put into words, the actions and events he endured at sea, during the course of WWII. Luckily, I grew up hearing all those stories; and it's great to get to hear all the other vet's "telling it like it was" (to use a tired, but nonetheless true, cliche). Most folks can't put the book down; as the anecdotal renderings of each man's experience is absolutely gripping! Mr. Springer truely captured my father's personality throughout my Dad's sections in the book. I'm sure there are many other family members of those CV-13 survivors that feel equally proud of the actions of their dads, brothers, and grandads. Hats off to you Mr. Springer, a great book. I can hardly wait for the movie!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I originally purchased as a gift for my father and started to peruse and found myself emotionally involved. It is an eyewitness account of comaraderie and unspeakable horror. It makes me sad to read of men and their first hand account of a time of great anguish yet it held an underlying feeling of pride in their ahip and in themselves. It saddens me to think that we have lost this type of man that came from that generation. If you are familiar with the USS Franklin or WWII I recommend this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A well written book. It shows the dangers and terrors of being on an aircraft carrier full of explosives and avgas that was hit by the enem during the naval war with Japan. It helped me to understand what my father went through on this ship and why he was reluctant to talk about it. This is a good way for anyone to see what "the greatest generation" lived through in the US Navy in the pacific.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From an avid military history reader and former Marine... This is a fantastic read for anyone interested in better understanding what WWII at sea felt like to sailors. The destruction of the bomb strike, fires and individual survival stories is stunnning. A great education on fast carrier operations, and the high risks of war at sea.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My Dad, Omer Dee Simms, speaks to me one last time through the eloquent words of Mr. George Black. Thank you,sir. And thank you Mr. Springer for the great book. Richard Don Simms
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I said yes the long reveiw was helpfull... only beacuse its long :D
Guest More than 1 year ago
You watched The War from Ken Burns which purportedly was an oral history depicting WWII from the soldier-level point of view. It was a fine attempt but fell short of the goal in comparison to Joseph A. Springer's Inferno as he takes us on board the USS Franklin (a.k.a Big Ben) and into battle with the sailors and airmen who fought for our freedom. The reader benefits from a reduction in scope from global conflict to one in which a sailor blown overboard cannot see beyond the next ocean swell. From this perspective, one can begin to understand the war in a personal way. A well-crafted book, we are taken 'from the keel, up' as Inferno begins with Big Ben's specifications and construction as well as crew training and shake down. After laying the proper groundwork, the book quickly moves the reader into naval operations as a fast fleet carrier, dealing death and destruction along a vast swath of the South Pacific including many famous battlegrounds Iwo Jima, Peleliu, Luzon, Manila, Leyte, and Honshu. In carefully organized interviews, we are taken into the cockpits and gun turrets of dive-bombers, torpedo planes and fighter aircraft in the words of the men who were actually there. Riveting action reports, aircrew survival stories and eyewitness bomb damage assessments make it seem as if we are inside the minds of the frightened, but brave young men risking their lives to do their duty. Inferno notes that aircraft carriers were high-value targets commanding the special attention of Japanese aviators who flew through the Battle Group to zero in on flattops. Big Ben's size and importance led to one of the the Navy's first encounters with Japan's Divine Wind - their suicide Kamikaze attack planes - where they delivered a severe blow to the Franklin off of the Philippines in October 1944. This first successful attack by the Kamikaze forced Big Ben back to Bremerton, WA for repairs. Call it fate or bad luck, but this was not to be the last time that she would taste the sting of battle and catastrophic damage. A few short months later in March 1945, she would experience the near-fatal bomb attack off of Honshu that would define her crews' courage and valor as they saved the ship and brought her back to New York where she was nearly rebuilt - but never the same. The book strives to restore honor to the entire crew as the vindictive actions of a misguided captain attempted to segregate the crew into the Big Ben 704 Club - those sailors and airmen that remained on board during the entire ordeal - and those who did not even if they were blown overboard by exploding ordnance, forced off due to flames and heat, removed to a rescue vessel as a result of injury or simply because they were ordered to abandon ship. Springer's Inferno makes it clear that All Hands of the U.S.S. Franklin, and those on the rescue vessels, were the real heroes of this heart-rending struggle. First class photos, maps, illustrations and an information-packed Addendum lend clarity to the story and help to hold the many details together in a concise and compelling manner. If you are ready for a hard-to-put-down book, Inferno: The Epic Life and Death Struggle of the USS Franklin in WWII should be on your Christmas list.