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Father O'Callahan


Blanchard was born in Yonkers, New York. He moved around quite a bit as an employee of General Motors.He came from a navy family. His father was a Lieutenant Commander and his brother was also in the navy. Blanchard knew he would be drafted so he enlisted in the navy. He took boot camp at Sampson, New York, then was sent to the west coast.He reported aboard an aircraft carrier, the Franklin [Annotator's Note: USS Franklin, CV-13] in Bremerton, Washington. Coincidentally, his father was the head of naval operations at Bremerton and he was able to live at home.The Franklin was a big ship. Going through the ship was an ordeal for him at first until he learned the ins and out of the ship. He was stationed in the gunnery division. His main job was in the gunnery office.He didn't think he would like sea duty but did. At the time he was a Yeoman 2nd Class.From Bremerton they steamed to Pearl Harbor then out into the Pacific. It was a very scenic ride.


The ship [Annotator's Note: the aircraft carrier USS Franklin (CV-13)] wasn't at Pearl Harbor for long before heading out into the Pacific. The trip was quite an adventure for Blanchard. The Pacific is such a vast area and this was his first sea duty.Blanchard's job had him in the gunnery office until late afternoon. When he was off duty he liked to go topside and walk the flight deck. He enjoyed the Franklin and thought she was a good ship.They were bombed on March 19th [Annotator's Note: 19 March 1945]. Many believe that she was hit by a kamikaze but she was actually hit by bombs.Blanchard couldn't see anything when the ship was hit. There was a lot of noise and smoke so he had to make his way out onto deck.His battle station was as a lookout on the island. Prior to the ship being hit the captain had lowered the alert status. That is why he was below deck. After the explosion the smoke was intense. He had to pass through an air vent to the hangar deck then out onto the flight deck. It was a chore to get around.There were bodies on the flight deck and in the hangar deck.Blanchard had inhaled a lot of smoke on the way out. When he reached the fresh air and took in a breath he passed out. O'Callahan [Annotator's Note: Medal of Honor recipient US Navy Captain Joseph T. O'Callahan] thought he was dying and knelt over him. He could hardly speak but O'Callahan helped him and got him to talk.


It took Blanchard quite a while to get topside. There was a lot of smoke. The men had to move to get away from it all. The smoke was dense making it hard to see and breathe.Ray Bailey was one of the sailors leading the men out from below decks. He liked Bailey and thought he was a pleasant guy. It was easy for Blanchard to follow Bailey because he knew him.The toughest thing to do was to get to the flight deck. After getting up there everything was ok. When Blanchard got to the flight deck everything was clear. He was ok. There were men running all over the place. It was chaos.There wasn't much fire where he was. The fires were down in the hangar deck.When Blanchard got to the flight deck he went down right away. He had inhaled too much smoke. During his movement from the gunnery office to the flight deck the only thing going through his mind was getting out of there.He passed out on the flight deck from the smoke. When he came to he looked up and saw O'Callahan [Annotator's Note: Medal of Honor recipient US Navy Captain Joseph T. O'Callahan] praying over him. When he came to, O'Callahan spoke to him and calmed him down. O'Callahan was asking him how he was feeling.Blanchard didn't move while O'Callahan was giving the blessing. While laying on the deck someone had placed a parachute under his head.Prior to this he had seen O'Callahan but had never spoken to him until that time.


O'Callahan [Annotator's Note: Medal of Honor recipient US Navy Captain Joseph T. O'Callahan] was all over the place. He went around the whole ship taking care of everybody.O'Callahan was a Jesuit priest. He was a real nice guy and a very decent guy who was easy to talk to and had the type of personality that made you take to him. O'Callahan was the chaplain. Blanchard liked him.Blanchard stayed in touch with O'Callahan after the war.O'Callahan received the Medal of Honor for what he did aboard ship that day.Blanchard met Commander Gary [Annotator's Note: US Navy Commander Donald A. Gary] after O'Callahan had left him. Commander Gary also received the Medal of Honor.The captain, Capt. Gehres [Annotator's Note: US Navy Rear Admiral Leslie E. Gehres] was very forceful and was very "Navy."The captain thought of bringing court marshal charges against some of the crew after the attack. He was a very forceful man.Blanchard stayed on deck for quite a while until he was picked up and transferred to the Santa Fe [Annotator's Note: USS Santa Fe, CL-60]. He spent five days aboard the Santa Fe.He had a hard time breathing and was given oxygen.The gas mask in the photo of Blanchard being blessed by O'Callahan was O'Callahan's. He had removed it to give the blessing to Blanchard.After five days aboard the Santa Fe he went to Ulithi then on to Honolulu. He remained in Honolulu for a while recovering from the bombing.


Blanchard was still feeling the effects of the smoke inhalation when he was in Honolulu. He dealt with this injury for a while.At the end of the war he was in Brooklyn, New York.He had fallen on the deck. When he came to O'Callahan [Annotator's Note: Medal of Honor recipient US Navy Captain Joseph T. O'Callahan] was kneeling over him giving him a blessing. Blanchard was looking up at O'Callahan and did not realise at the time that the picture was being taken. He doesn't recall how he heard about the photograph.Blanchard recalls hearing three or four explosions. There were at least two bombs that hit the ship.The attack was not a good experience to go through. Blanchard did not talk about what he had gone through after the war. It took a couple of years after the war for him to open up and begin talking about his experiences.He feels that in years to come people should know about the bombing of the Franklin [Annotator's Note: USS Franklin, CV-13].


When Blanchard's ship [Annotator's Note: USS Franklin, CV-13] was attacked he didn't realize how close they were to Japan.Blanchard thinks that it is important to continue teaching World War II in the future to show what they went through. The war made a man out of him. He had no idea of what was going on until he went through it.Blanchard saw his part in the war as fighting for freedom.The man who took the picture [Annotator's Note: the photograph of Father O'Callahan kneeling over him administering last rites aboard the Franklin] came from the Santa Fe [Annotator's Note: USS Santa Fe, CL-60].

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