USS HORNET MUSEUM : News and Events

The World War II Heroics of the USS Santa Fe and Franklin

Through dive-bombings, kamikaze attacks, and typhoons, the dramatic saga of the USS Franklin and the Santa Fe – two ships that executed one of the greatest rescue missions of World War II.

Toward the end of World War II, Japanese high command viewed the destruction of American aircraft carriers as the key to keeping their country free of invasion. And they advocated any means necessary, including attacks by the infamous suicide pilots called kamikazes. On March 19, 1945, a Japanese bomber broke through the U.S. air cover and dropped two 500-pound bombs on the aircraft carrier USS Franklin. The bombs pierced the ship’s decks, setting off onboard ammunition, igniting fuel, and killing hundreds of officers and enlisted men within minutes. The rest of the crew, nearly 3,000 American seamen and aviators, was left fighting for their lives as the Franklin began to sink. In a maneuver heralded as one of the greatest feats in naval history, the light cruiser USS Santa Fe bellied up alongside the flaming Franklin and rescued more than 800 sailors while still being stalked by Japanese fighter pilots.

Author Steve Jackson has recreated the legendary World War II careers of the Franklin -- the most decorated naval vessel of the war -- and the Santa Fe -- unparalleled in frontline service and famous for avoiding casualties. Through the eyes of the men who served, Jackson gives a range of perspectives -- from the highest levels of rank to the bottom of the pecking order and from high-flying fighter pilots to men deep within the ship’s bowels. Lucky Lady follows the crew from their homes to the shipyards, from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines, and finally to the waters off the coast of Japan. Lucky Lady acquaints the reader with their encounters with kamikazes, typhoons, ship-to-ship combat, and how they dealt with the death of crewmates and being far from home.

Lucky Lady is a powerful memorial to those Americans who performed the ultimate in sacrifice and heroism, a story vast and varied, yet human in scale -- a fitting tribute that has stirring echoes in our present time.

“I don’t really think of this as my book… it is ‘their’ book, the men who served on the ships and the ground and the air, and to the women and other family members back home who were truly the backbone of this country when it was needed most.”

Steve Jackson further describes the rewards of writing this true-life tale:

“There has been one unexpected and wonderful phenomenon at these signings as former crewmembers, as well as crewmembers of other WWII ships, their wives and widows, children and grandchildren are showing up—often out of the blue—and standing up in the question and answer parts to share their stories and photographs. Most moving of all are the reunions of former shipmates who in some instances haven’t been in contact for nearly 60 years.”

“A generation that remained mostly silent about what they experienced and accomplished is now taking pride in the fact that they are being asked to speak and that younger generations are listening.”

Steve Jackson’s father, Donald, served on the Santa Fe. A treasured lock of hair that Steve's mother-to-be, Charlotte, gave to young sailor Donald in 1944 -- found after more than fifty years -- triggered this remarkable book.

Jackson’s new non-fiction book, “Lucky Lady,” is a departure from his New York Times best-selling true-crime books such as “Rough Trade” and “No Stone Unturned.” Jackson’s book “No Stone Unturned” has been called “a must-have for true crime fans” and “better than CSI because it’s true.”

Steve Jackson lives near Denver, Colorado.