Lost At Sea
Before my mother passed away, she shared a box of family heirlooms with me. In it I found mementos of her brother Sonny, an uncle I had never known. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Edmond Truett “Sonny” Franklin, 18 joined the Navy. He first served on the USS Ralph Talbot, one of the few destroyers that survived the Pearl Harbor attack. In December 1943, Sonny was transferred to the USS Gambier Bay, a ship that was heading to the Leyte Gulf in the Philippine Sea. The Japanese, concerned about growing U.S. troop strength in the sea, planned a massive three-pronged attack against the U.S. ships there. Traveling at night, they were hoping to launch a surprise offensive. On Oct. 25, 1944, the battle began. The brave sailors of the Gambier Bay barely had time to launch any aircraft before the flight deck was destroyed. The next shells destroyed the engine room, then other vital sections of the ship. Eventually, the order came to abandon the sinking ship. Despite the severity of the attack, 727 of the 849 crew members of the Gambier Bay survived. Sadly, Sonny was not among them. A letter dated Dec. 19, 1944, from Capt. Walter V.R. Vieweg to my grandparents begins, “it is with deep sorrow that I write concerning your son, Edmond T. Franklin, WT2 c, USN, who following the sinking of the Gambier Bay on 25 October 1944 was reported missing in action.” Today, many Americans want to preserve the memories of their parents and grandparents during World War II, and my family is no exception. We designed a memorial to honor our lost hero, a shadow box containing a picture of Sonny in uniform with a photo of the Gambier Bay sinking and the Purple Heart the family received after Sonny’s death. The youngest Franklin boy Robert Houston Franklin, Sonny’s great-nephew, proudly displays it, keeping the memory alive for future generations.
(Written by Jobeth Pilcher, neice of Edmond Truett “Sonny” Franklin)