Another Franklin Hero

When I read the article “Big Ben’s Fight for Life” (Spring 2008), I was reminded of the letters from Dad when he was on the USS Franklin. He was a thirty-three-year-old seaman /gunner’s mate assigned to Franklin in May 1944. Dad addressed letters to me “Hello, Big Shot.” I was seven years old. He was concerned about my school activities, and always suggested I help Mom with the chores. Dad loved his little family. The bombing on March 19, 1945, took my Dad’s life. Mom received the telegram telling of his death on April 5.

After about fifty years, I discovered two crew members who were with my Dad on that fateful day. Gayle Bowen and Dad were in the galley peeling potatoes when the bomb hit. They got separated. Dad got trapped with George Black and eleven other men. According to Black, after several attempts my Dad was able to force open a hatch and led the men across the hangar deck to a gun mount on the starboard side of the ship. Black chose the ocean over smoke and shrapnel and was eventually picked up by a destroyer, USS Hunt. What an honor to know these two men.

Official records indicate Dad was asphyxiated and buried at sea. On March 8, 1945, I wrote to Dad: “Hi Dad, How’s the boys on the ship? Yes, my tooth is coming OK. I’m sorry I haven’t been writing letters to you. I love you. Richard Don.”

He never received that letter. It was returned to my mother in 1945, and I only found it recently, after her death.

Richard Don Simms

Fort Worth, Texas

Fallacy of British Protection

Dennis Showalter’s analysis of European imperial expansion in the early modern era, “European Power Projection” (Winter 2008), seems essentially flawed. He develops more exceptions to his premise that European expansion was primarily mercantile in nature than he does examples of his core argument. Rather than distinguishing between the period from the 15th to the 18th century and the 19th, he might better have discussed a continuity as technology and political development advanced and, critically, the nation states of Europe matured as institutions and rivals.

One particular assertion of Dr. Showalter’s should be regarded, however, as not only flawed but essentially incorrect. His broad claim that American colonists demanded the protection of European, in this case British, regular troops in the pre-independence period contradicts the events. Rather than ineffective and unstable, American militia forces—rangers, as he would have it—bore the brunt of military action from King Philip’s War through the first half of the French and Indian War, sustaining the colonies through a series of deadly conflicts. The rivalry between France and Britain in Europe and through their global imperial systems—including the determination at the top of the British government to capture Canada—brought regular European troops to predominance in the war. In its aftermath, a principal motivation for the American independence movement was concern among colonists about just why British regular forces remained in the colonies against former practice and in the absence of a significant European threat. Many colonists feared the Redcoats would be employed to reduce customary local political control, including that over taxation, in favor of the central administration in London, a course that they knew had occurred in Ireland and Scotland.

Michael J. Duff

Kew Gardens, N.Y.


Originally published in the Summer 2008 issue of Military History Quarterly. To subscribe, click here