Veterans from World War II carrier hold final reunion

Veterans of the World War II-era aircraft carrier USS Franklin held their final planned reunion Friday in South Carolina.

The gathering, held at the USS Yorktown at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant brought together about two dozen of the remaining crew members.

The Franklin was badly damaged in a Japanese attack on March 19, 1945. During the bomb attack, more than 800 sailors were killed and almost 500 were wounded.

Most of the survivors in attendance at Friday's reunion said they never saw the single Japanese plane come in and had no choice but to jump blindly into the sea, The Post and Courier reported.

"I was gasping for breath because of the fumes," David Baruch, 86, a gunner's mate on the carrier, told the newspaper. "I don’t know how much longer I could continue breathing. So I jumped."

Bill Schauer, 86, who was on the third deck on the morning of the attack survived because he was below the worst of the fire that engulfed the deck above him, according to The Post and Courier report.

"We were thrown all over," Schauer told the paper, recounting his escape through air vents and tunnels. Hundreds of other crew members were trapped on lower decks.

One of the members of the crew was Lt. Cmdr. Joseph O' Callahan, who later received the Medal of Honor for his actions that day. He was the only chaplain to receive the Medal of Honor during the war.

After the war, the Franklin was decommissioned and later sold for scrap.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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