USS Forrestal (CV-59) Fire (Hangar Bay One)
Of all the dangers that confront a sailor at sea, the greatest is fire. There is no escaping a fire at sea, no pulling back to a safer distance to combat the flames. It was just such a battle that the men of the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CVA-59) confronted one tragic day off the coast of North Vietnam. At 1053, 29 July 1967, a Zuni rocket beneath the wing of an F-4B Phantom II ignited, shooting across the flight deck and impacting a fuel drop tank beneath the wing of an A-4E Skyhawk. The resulting explosion triggered an inferno as aircraft fully loaded with ordnance began to catch fire. Then the bombs began to detonate, creating a path for the flames to spread to the decks below. Only the heroic efforts on the part of the crew in the face of great adversity saved the ship, but it did not come without great cost. All told, 134 Forrestal and CVW-17 personnel lost their lives and 62 were injured. Twenty-one aircraft were totally destroyed. Forrestal's combat service in the Vietnam War was over, having only barely begun.