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The U.S. Navy's Darkest Day: How America Nearly Lost an Aircraft Carrier

James Holmes

James Holmes

Security,

How it all happened. 

The U.S. Navy's Darkest Day: How America Nearly Lost an Aircraft Carrier

They put themselves ahead of the institution, and they deploy leadership and management tactics that advance their personal interests—even at the expense of colleagues or subordinates.

Seldom do I come away incensed from reading history. The saga of the World War II aircraft carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) constitutes an exception. We normally think of Franklin’s history as a parable about the importance of shipboard firefighting and damage control. It’s about materiel and methods, in other words. And these things are important without a doubt. Fighting ships are metal boxes packed with explosives and flammables. Suppressing fire represents a crucial function, which is why the first thing a new sailor does after reporting aboard is qualify in rudimentary damage control.

(This first appeared several years ago.)

But a ship is more than a hunk of steel. The hunk of steel plus the crew that lives on board it comprises the ship. Bad leadership marred Franklin’s human component. In the end, then, this is a story with mixed lessons. It is not merely about the material dimension of naval warfare.

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