Early Life and Joining the Navy

USS Franklin (CV-13)

Bomb Hit on 19 March 1945

After the First Explosion

Father O'Callahan and Abandoning Ship

Picked Up by USS Santa Fe (CL-60)

Service After the USS Franklin (CV-13)

Everything was Secret

A Horrific Experience


Raymond Bailey was born and raised in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Jobs at the time only paid about one dollar per day. Bailey would collect pop bottles to turn in so he could have enough money to go to the movies. For a time Bailey worked as a cook at a Greyhound Bus station when he was 16 years old. He also worked for a couple other restaurants. Bailey tried to sneak into the Navy but they caught him. He tried again and again until his dad finally signed the papers for him. This was just before he turned 17. He finished high school and took one year of college courses. Right after the war ended he was married. He and his wife had two children. Every time he thought he was going to get out of the Navy he would look at his friends who were plumbers and electricians and they were all out of work so he stayed in and made the Navy his career. He retired as a 1st Class Photographer [Annotator's Note: Photographer's Mate 1st Class (PhoM1c)] after 20 years of credited service. Bailey was in high school when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Being a kid, he did not realize the severity of it. Bailey joined the Navy because if he died, he would die clean. He also always liked the sea. His father thought he would do better in the Navy than if he stuck around the house. Boot camp was a lot of fun. There were 130 guys in his boot camp company. The training lasted about nine weeks. It was cold and snowing when he went through boot training in Great Lakes [Annotator's Note: Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois]. After boot camp he got nine days of vacation then went to Shoemaker, California. From there he went to Bremerton, Washington where the ship [Annotator's Note: the USS Franklin (CV-13)] was being repaired after being hit in March 1944. Today there are a lot of volunteer jobs in the Navy but back then they went where they were told. Bailey's first impression of the ship was that it was the biggest piece of junk he had ever seen. He was surprised that it even floated. Bailey was seasick for about a week after he reported aboard the Franklin. The Franklin was a big carrier. Bailey served aboard three carriers during his career. During World War 2 he served aboard the USS Franklin, during the Korean War he served aboard the Valley Forge [Annotator's Note: USS Valley Forge (CV-45], then later served aboard the Intrepid [Annotator's Note: USS Intrepid (CV-11)] on detached duty with a photo jet unit mapping Europe.


[Annotator's Note: Raymond Bailey served in the Navy as a 20mm antiaircraft gunner aboard the aircraft carrier USS Franklin (CV-13).] The ship was made up of mainly people in their twenties. The average age of the flight deck crew was 19. That is a lot of responsibility. Bailey was a gunner so his only concern was where he shot. He was on a 20 millimeter which could put out a lot of rounds but was a very short range weapon. Life aboard the carrier was constantly working. Bailey usually only got about four hours of sleep per night. Bailey did not care for the captain of the Franklin, Gehres [Annotator's Note: Captain Leslie E. Gehres]. He had heard good things about the ship's first captain, Shoemaker [Annotator's Note: Captain James M. Shoemaker], but he did not know him. Bailey heard from a friend who served as a phone talker on the bridge with Captain Gehres that he had to stand at attention the entire four hours he was on watch there. There were 3,400 people aboard the ship including the Airdales [Annotator's Note: slang term for a naval aviator]. Aboard ship they stayed with their divisions. For Bailey, the day started with having breakfast then cleaning details. He worked in the mess hall when he was not on his gun. At sun up and sun down they had general quarters. He was always busy.


The first and only time Raymond Bailey ever came under attack was on 19 March 1945. They were 50 miles off the coast of Japan. The ship was secured and went to normal cruising. Bailey was in the mess hall washing dishes when he heard a hell of an explosion. The man in front of him was hit in the stomach with shrapnel. Tables and other items were thrown through the air. They managed to get everyone calmed down then Bailey made his way up to the forecastle. They started throwing metal and bodies over the side. Someone told Bailey that they were supposed to abandon ship. There were no communications so nobody knew what to do. One of Bailey's friends, who was as old as his grandfather, was helping him throw metal over the side of the ship. He asked Bailey what he wanted to do. The ship was listing so Bailey suggested that they go over the high side. He figured that they could slide down the ship into the water. This took place around noon. The ship had been hit around seven that morning. Bailey hesitated a moment but something ended up knocking him and his friend, Cowart, into the water. Bailey, Cowart and other sailors were picked up by the Santa Fe [Annotator's Note: USS Santa Fe (CL-60)]. They were sent to the chow line and sailors aboard the Santa Fe cut up towels and gave them soap to get the flash cream off of them. After cleaning up they went up on the weather deck and watched them throw dead bodies over the side of the ship. When they got back to Ulithi they were put aboard a troopship that took them to Honolulu. The captain blamed everything that went wrong on the crew. The Franklin [Annotator's Note: USS Franklin (CV-13)] did not see service again during the war. There were 724 men who died that day. They had been at general quarters all night long. The weather was very cold. After the sun came up they assumed that here would not be an attack so the skipper had the men secure the ship and go to normal cruising. When the plane came in there were a few guys at their guns but no one actually manning them. They were between 50 and 60 miles off the coast of Japan when they were hit. They were the closest a ship had gotten to the coast during the war but they did not know it. They were not told anything and everything was censored. After the ship was hit Bailey wrote a letter to his father about it in which he voiced his opinion very clearly. His father wrote back and stated that he must have been hot when he wrote that letter because when it arrived the entire body of it had been cut out by the censors.


Raymond Bailey was on the mess deck washing cups when he felt the first shudder caused by the bomb hit [Annotator's Note: on the USS Franklin (CV-13) on 19 March 2945]. The following explosions were caused by ordnance, gasoline and oil burning. The forward elevator was blown out of the deck. That was where Bailey was working when he went over the side. The captain called everyone who jumped or was blown over the side a deserter. After the bomb detonated there was a lot of panic. Later, when they were on the troopship [Annotator's Note: many of the survivors of the USS Franklin (CV-13) were taken by troopship from Ulithi to Honolulu] a bunch of Franklin guys were in the mess hall eating when a destroyer escort dropped a depth charge on a possible submarine contact. It scared the guys in the mess hall. The mess deck where Bailey was when the bomb hit was just below the hanger deck. The guy standing in front of Bailey was hit in the stomach by shrapnel. They got his clothes off and covered the wounds with sulpha powder. Then they carried him to a temporary sick bay that was set up in the officers' quarters. After the explosion they got up into the officers section. For a while that was as far as they could go. The deck was hot so Bailey took his kapok off and sat on it. There was no power so they just sat there in the dark. There were a couple of aviators in the room with him and they ripped the tablecloths up and held them over their faces to block all of the smoke that was filling the room. After about 20 minutes someone was able to open the hatch find a way to get them past the fire and up on deck. When they got up on the forecastle one of the officers asked them to go back and fight fires. Bailey headed back to go help. While he was sliding down one of the ladders he saw that there was a sailor who was burned to the ladder below him. He could not stop and slid right into the man, knocking him off the ladder and onto the deck below. The man was so badly burned that Bailey could not tell what nationality he was. Bailey had cut holes in his shoes to let air get to his feet and wound up with blood in his shoes from hitting the guy on the ladder. When he got off the ladder he went to work on the hangar deck. He and his buddy were throwing metal off the ship. At the time the aft end of the ship was still burning furiously. The hangar deck was blown out and looked like a junk yard. Explosions kept going off all day long. One of the plane gassers was pumping fuel into a lane when the explosion occured. The hose was blown out of his hands and was flopping around on the deck spraying fuel everywhere.


Raymond Bailey was not a Catholic but he went to Father O'Callahan's services [Annotator's Note: Captain Joseph T. O'Callahan was a chaplain aboard the USS Franklin (CV-13) when it was hit bit two bombs on 19 March 1945. Father O'Callahan was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on the day the ship was hit.]. O'Callahan was a very pleasant individual. Bailey has visited his grave at the college [Annotator's Note: O'Callahan is buried in the Jesuit cemetery on the campus of College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts]. O'Callahan was claustrophobic and Bailey is surprised he was able to get into some of the tight spaces he got into while fighting fires. O'Callahan also went into the officers' quarters and retrieved all of the alcohol he could find. He offered Bailey a drink and Bailey accepted. O'Callahan continued offering shots of booze to everyone he encountered in the forward part of the ship. Bailey was on the hanger deck with his friend Cowart when they heard the order to abandon ship. Since people were putting on whatever clothes they could find they did not know if the man who gave the order to them was actually an officer or not. They had gotten the order around noon. They had heard the order to abandon ship earlier but with the situation as confused as it was they did not know if it was real. While on the hanger deck Bailey was throwing metal over the side. Before that he had been on the flight deck passing wounded men on stretchers across a large wooden plank to the top of the five inch gun on the Santa Fe [Annotator's Note: USS Santa Fe (CL-60)]. When Bailey later got over there they had turned half of the mess hall into a sick bay. He did that for a while before he ended up on the hanger deck. The wounded Bailey was passing over had shrapnel wounds and severe burns. The photographer who took many of the pictures of the fires on the ship [Annotator's Note: of the USS Franklin (CV-13)] is still alive. His name is Bullock. He does fishing stories now. At the time they were not given credit for their photo work. The images were just identified as Official Navy Photographs. Bailey also took pictures of Joe Lois and of the movie stars who worked with them. There were a lot of dead everywhere. They could not go anywhere without seeing the dead. One of the dead was a Boatswains Mate 1st Class with 12 years of service who drowned in one of the heads who was not found until the ship got to New York. Bailey and Cowart were right on the edge of the ship itself holding on to the guard rails. The next thing he knew they were in the water. They were picked up by the Santa Fe shortly after they went into the water. Other men were in the water for three or four hours. Bailey does not know how they did not get hypothermia.


After going aboard they were given some soap and a half a towel [Annotator's Note: Raymond Bailey and many of the other survivors of the USS Franklin (CV-13) were picked up by the light cruiser USS Santa Fe (CL-60)]. They had no money on them. Bailey had money in his locker but not with him. Cowart had a five dollar bill pinned to the inside of his dungaree pocket. Cowart suggested that they go to the gedunk [Annotator's Note: slang term for a store on a ship where snacks and other items can be purchased]. They went and bought some peanuts then went to the mess hall. In the mess hall Bailey had two table spoons of peanut butter for lunch. Bailey had not seen any peanut butter for three months. He did eat a lot of Spam. All he had to eat for a week was Spam. There were over 800 men aboard the ship when it was brought back. Those who were not aboard had been considered deserters. While Bailey was aboard he could clearly see the Franklin. The guys from the ship manned the rails and watched as bodies and body parts were thrown over the side of the Franklin. A book written later claimed that the ship was locked down after being hit and that none of the bodies were removed until after the ship reached Pearl Harbor but that is not true. There were bodies and body parts all over the place. One guy was standing on a catwalk and the explosion threw him straight up in the air into the perforated steel catwalk above him. His head stuck to the catwalk and his body hung there swinging in the wind until someone got a fire hose and washed him down. Where Bailey went over the side of the ship there was a 40 millimeter gun mount that had either clothing or body parts blown into the recoil springs. Bailey was interviewed aboard the Hornet [Annotator's Note: USS Hornet (CV-12)]. Since the Hornet was identical to the Franklin they did a walk through. The Franklin was listing until the list was counter balanced. The heavy cruiser Pittsburgh [Annotator's Note: USS Pittsburgh (CA-72)] hooked up to it with a heavy cable. The black sailors aboard the ship used a jack to get the cable set then the Pittsburgh towed the Franklin for about a day and a half until the boilers got back up. During the trip back the Japanese continued to try to finish it off but they were able to get the ship back alright. While the ship was being towed a bomb from a Japanese plane nearly hit the ship. The engineering officer, an enlisted man who made it all the way up to commander, was able to get the engines started back up. His name was Don Gary [Annotator's Note: Donald A. Gary]. Gary was awarded the Medal of Honor. There is a famous photograph of Father O'Callahan giving last rites to a man named Blanchard [Annotator's Note: Yeoman 2nd Class Robert C. Blanchard] who survived the war. There is also video footage of O'Callahan giving Blanchard last rites.


[Annotator's Note: Raymond Bailey served in the Navy as an aircraft mechanic aboard the USS Franklin (CV-13). He survived the 19 March 1945 bomb hit on the ship and was picked up by the light cruiser USS Santa Fe (CL-60).] The Franklin was towed by the Pittsburgh [Annotator's Note: USS Pittsburgh (CA-72)] until she could make way on her own. The Pittsburgh stayed with the Franklin the entire way. During the trip back, Bailey had the job of swabbing up water on the deck. Every time the ship rolled water would splash through the hole in the side of the ship. When the USS Santa Fe (CL-60) pulled up alongside the Franklin, several of its radio antennas were broken off and a large gash was opened in the side of the ship. They steamed back to Ulithi where some engineers and boatswain's mates went back aboard the ship [Annotator's Note: aboard the USS Franklin (CV-13)]. From Ulithi they went to Pearl where Bailey and the others were put in a camp next to Pearl City. A to E [Annotator's Note: sailors whose last names started with the letters A through E] went to Kaneohe Bay which is where the Japanese attacked. The last Medal of Honor recipient from Pearl Harbor, John Finn, lives near Bailey. He spoke at one of their reunions. They were stuck at Pearl until the end of the war. They had not had any survival leave and should have been some of the first to go. Bailey's CO [Annotator's Note: commanding officer] cut orders for them to go home. After he got back to the United States, Bailey was assigned to a submarine tender. That is when he got into photography. He was sent to Guam and reported aboard the tender but was only there for about six days when the ship returned to San Diego. That is where Bailey met his wife. After three years on the tender he was assigned as staff photographer to Admiral Jones and Admiral Old in Great Lakes. After three and a half years he went to Korea then returned to the United States. From there he was assigned to a photo jet squadron in Jacksonville. He did not like that duty. These were jet fighters with the noses cut off and ten cameras installed. Bailey was given the option of choosing his duty station if he reenlisted. He reenlisted and chose to go to Key West. He had fun there with the experimental unit. They flew air ships and helicopters. When his tour there was up, Bailey decided to go to photo school since he did not want to go to sea. He stayed in Florida for a year for a school that should have taken six months. When that year was up he was assigned to a helicopter unit [Annotator's Note: in San Diego, California]. That was his last tour of duty.

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