March 19, 1945: The war in the Pacific approaches its apocalyptic climax. The largest wartime armada ever assembled, Task Force 58, is closing in on Okinawa; once taken, it will finally put American B-29 bombers in range of the home islands of Japan—and victory.
At the heart of the fleet are fourteen Essex-class aircraft carriers, including the USS Franklin, known as "Big Ben"—a 27,000-ton behemoth, home to 3,500 crewmen and 100 aircraft. Just after dawn, while crewmen prepare for battle, a single Japanese Yokosuka D4Y breaks through the clouds and drops two 500-pound bombs on Big Ben. The first rips through the flight deck's three-inch armor to the hangar deck, exploding amidst two dozen planes carrying thirty tons of explosives. Rockets and bombs howl in all directions. Hundreds of men are forced to leap into the sea to escape, leaving the captain with only one third of his crew; there are more dead, wounded, and trapped men left onboard than able-bodied sailors.
Trial by Fire is the gripping novelization of how, against all odds, the sailors of the Franklin were able to save their ship, after three agonizing days of battling the flames that ultimately claimed the lives of 832 men and injured 300 more. Listeners will be astounded and humbled by the heroic actions of a few brave sailors in the face of catastrophe.