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

Published on
June 20, 2012
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Joseph A. Springer
Other Publication Information
Hardback, 352 pages, 35 B&W photos and several maps
Company: Zenith Press - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Zenith Press - Website: Visit Site

Almost anyone who has seen any documentary of the war in the Pacific has seen images of the very badly damaged aircraft carrier USS Franklin. This book is her story and tells the story of how the “Big Ben” became “the ship that would not die.”

The book begins with the shakedown cruise, where the crew becomes familiar with their new charge and her operations. The story then moves on to her first combat and continues on through the significant combat operations that “Big Ben” was a part of in the central and western Pacific. Throughout the book are many personal accounts of the sailors and aviators who crewed the carrier, which adds a great personal touch to the history told within.

All this leads up to the events of March 19, 1945, when Big Ben had sailed to within 55 miles of the Japanese mainland to launch her fighters against the home islands. During this time, an enemy plane dropped a 250kg bomb from a low-level attack. That bomb went through the deck and ignited fuel and ordinance that set off a chain reaction of explosions inside the ship. The ship was now ablaze and with a list to starboard. She suffered 798 dead and almost 500 wounded and it is here the book recounts how the remaining crew and other ships were able to offload and rescue the wounded, as well as put out the fires and restore power. The gripping story of how they saved their ship and returned her not only to Pearl Harbor but all the way back to New York for repairs under her own power was hard to put down.

I really enjoyed this book! The tale of triumph over tragedy is very inspiring. The personal accounts really bring the events home to the reader. The photos contain some nice shots that could serve as the basis for dioramas. While this book will mostly appeal to those interested in WWII history and naval battle history, I feel that there is something in it for all readers and it serves to honor the crew of “Big Ben” and is another inspiring look at the actions of the Greatest Generation. I recommend it to all.

The book is available from Zenith Press through their website above. Our thanks to Zenith Press for the review copy and to IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review this book.


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