Education Update: 8 Bells Lecture on USS FRANKLIN (CV 13)

---John Kennedy, Director of Museum Education and Public Outreach

On 19 March 1945, just off the Japanese mainland, two semi-armor piercing bombs struck the USS Franklin (CV 13). One struck the flight deck centerline and penetrated to the hangar deck. The second hit aft and descended two decks. Explosions and fire followed.

The officer in charge of cataloging bodies and personal effects, Dr. Sam Sherman, the air group medical officer, counted 832 bodies for burial. Without the heroic efforts of the survivors, this number would have been higher and the ship would have been lost. Two men were awarded the Medal of Honor for their part, Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O’Callahan, USNR (ChC), a Jesuit priest and ship’s chaplain, and Lt (j.g.) Don Gary.

The author (left) poses with LCDR William Nott.
“Jack” Satterfield has authored a new book, Saving Big Ben: The USS Franklin and Father Joseph T. O’Callahan, to recount the events on Franklin and to tell the story of Father O’Callahan, the first chaplain to win the Medal of Honor. Satterfield discussed his research, his book, and then answered questions about both the incident and the life of Father O’Callahan at the latest 8 Bells Lecture held on 19 January at the Naval War College Museum.

In addition to the excellent lecture, the audience was treated to an eye-witness account given by LCDR William Nott, USN (ret.), who served on board USS Franklin as a Machinist Mate (MM2) from “her commissioning to her layup in the Brooklyn Navy Yard." He was able to confirm and add to the descriptions in the book, describing the events leading up to the attack and the personalities of the various key figures involved. As a side note, LCDR Nott had a copy of the book written by Father O’Callahan in which he is mentioned by name as one of the heroes that day who was instrumental in saving the ship.

February will have three 8 Bells Lectures. On 9 February, George Daughan will present 1812: The Navy’s War. Bruce Parker presents his book The Tide Predictions for D-Day on 16 February. Lastly, on 23 February, Fredrik Stanton will discuss his book, Great Negotiations: Agreements that Changed the Modern World. If you are interested in any or all of these lectures, please contact the Naval War College Museum at 841-2101 for reservations or more information.


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