CHICAGO — As Americans prepare to celebrate the Independence Day holiday, one local veteran is sharing his story of survival during World War II.
David Baruch is a true hero, a Navy veteran who survived the bombing of the USS Franklin at the end of WWII, and says it was the third time he was spared from death.
Known then as the Big Ben of aircraft carriers, the Franklin was four stories high, three football fields long, had more weapons than most other aircraft carriers and was considered unsinkable. There were 3,500 men on board.
David was tasked with maintaining weapons on the ship when it went to sea in 1944. By 1945 it was involved in all the invasions of islands that the Japanese occupied
Days before March 19, 1945, the Franklin was a mere 50 miles off the coast of Japan when the kamikaze strikes began, and planes started flying into their ship trying to destroy it. As david was standing in line to eat, he realized there was a lull in the attacks. Then he had a feeling something was wrong.
He went up on deck, and that's when the bomb hit. No one saw it coming, the smoke was so think and toxic, David had to jump to survive. Around 1,400 men either jumped, got blown off, or thrown off the boat. Without a life jacket, David treaded water for four hours before being rescued.
He was with a pilot who had bright yellow life vest on, a bright yellow one, grabbed onto him and kept treading. The pilot had two broken ankles, but time didn't matter and they kept swimming, just just trying to survive
When more people came, hanging onto ropes with cork life preservers, David swam to them.
"I reached up and didn't have the strength; they grabbed my wrist and saved me from the jaws of death," he remembers. Around 800 lost their lives.
When David was able to go back and get his personal belonging with others, they found a record player. One record was left, the title was "Someone's Rocking My Dream Boat."
David turns 93 this year, after going on to study psychology, being married for 60 years, and getting to meet his great grandchildren. He is still very active in groups involved with the USS Franklin, and he remembers that day like it was yesterday.
While living in a retirement community, he travels around the country to give talks and educate people about the Franklin.