USS Yorktown - USS Bunker Hill - USS Franklin Hit
by Willie Lagarde
When we were hit I didn’t feel, see or hear anything other than the usual cacophony of all the starboard guns firing. I was on the port side and didn’t know a bomb had hit the island structure until our Mark 51 director operator hollered the news down to us. It was an armor piercing bomb that glanced off the island structure and passed through several outer decks before exploding outside the hull between the 2nd and 3rd deck levels. Though it blew a hole in the hull and killed several men there wasn’t enough damage to slow us down. I do remember this happened at time when some of our carriers had been put out of action so it was important that we stay fully operational.
It was sometime in May 1945 when a friend and I went over to visit an ex shipmate on USS Bunker Hill. She was in Ulithi lagoon on her way back to the states after being heavily damaged by Kamikazes. We had noon chow with him and the compartments we went through to get to the mess deck had all burned and the smell of fire and ashes permeated the whole ship. The demeanor of all the sailors and marines in the crew was somber. No loud talking or grabass like you usually see in a chow line. It was obvious the men were feeling the loss of over three hundred of their shipmates.
USS Franklin wasn’t in our group and it was the only time in my memory ships from separate groups came within sight of each other. She was almost on the horizon but all of her hull was visible. It was one of those days when we were spending most of our time on battle stations. When she was first hit the towering column of black smoke that followed a
bomb hit was in evidence. But soon it was one explosion after another. We knew many men were dying in each one of them and were thinking, "my God will they ever stop?" None of us thought anyone on that ship could survive. Naturally it had an effect on everyone who witnessed the scene. We all knew that could be us. Franklin dropped out of her group and as we proceeded on she was soon out of sight but the column of smoke was visible long after. Later we were all surprised to learn she stayed afloat and while over seven hundred men were killed most of her crew survived.