October 30, 1944 – USS Franklin was struck by a special attack aircraft, causing serious damage. The USS Franklin (CV/CVA/CVS-13, AVT-8), nicknamed “Big Ben,” was one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during World War II for the United States Navy, and the fifth US Navy ship to bear the name. Commissioned in January 1944 Although Franklin was technically named after American founding father Benjamin Franklin, this Essex-class carrier was in actuality named for the heritage for the first USS Franklin, a six-gun schooner that served during the American Revolutionary War. On 30 Oct, off Samar, Philippine Islands, she was targeted by six Japanese aircraft. Because the Japanese formation was so small, coupled with an untimely radar malfunction, the Japanese aircraft were able to get close. At 1425, three A6M Zero fighters and three D4Y Suisei dive bombers dove at the group from an altitude of 3,000 feet. In the confusion, many officers aboard Franklin thought they might be friendly and refrained from giving the order to fire, especially that only a few days prior they had almost shot down friendly aircraft during a mis-identification episode. But this time, a few gunners were able to make confident identification. Ensign Byron Robinson recalled standing beside a US Marine manned 40-mm gun commanded by Lieutenant Skorich. Skorich requested permission to fire, but it was denied. “No, identified friendly”, the bridge responded. “Identified friendly, hell! I can see the meatballs!” Throwing down his headset, he yelled “open fire” to his men against orders. Lou Casserino, who manned another gun, did the same. “In combat, you shoot first and ask questions later”, Casserino said. The few seconds delay proved to be fatal, however. Two of the A6M Zero fighters dove straight for Franklin. The first was hit by many 20-mm and 40-mm anti-aircraft rounds and exploded to thousands of pieces. The second was also hit, but the pilot was able to stay on course despite the engine fire, eventually crashing directly onto the flight deck. “Shit flew all over the place”, recalled gunner Bob Tice. The aircraft went through the flight deck into the gallery deck. The special attack was followed by another dive by the third A6M Zero, but in the last minute, the pilot of the third aircraft decided Franklin had already suffered serious damage, and chose the nearby carrier Belleau Wood instead; he was able to crash into Belleau Wood’s fantail, killing 92 men and destroying 12 aircraft. Fires and gas fume explosions damaged Franklin further, while the 2,344 tons of water used for firefighting flooded compartments belowdecks, including Number 7 and 8 boilers rooms, giving her a three-degree list to starboard. When the fire was extinguished at 1635, the crew counted 56 men killed and 30 wounded. Franklin’s crew found the charred remains in the wreckage of the A6M Zero fighter; in one of the odd but yet sadly frequent scenes, some of Franklin’s sailors pulled out the pilot’s teeth to keep as souvenirs.