The sad story of the Forrestal Fire


By Dario Leone
Aug 2 2017
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On Jul. 29, 1967, a rocket was accidentally fired aboard USS Forrestal, causing massive damage to the ship and a fire that killed 134 Sailors and injured many more

On Jul. 29, 2017 the 50th anniversary of the tragedy aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CVA-59) was commemorated at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall with a special ceremony.

As reported in the article USS Forrestal Tragedy Remembered 50 Years Later written by Chatney Auger, more than 250 surviving crew members and their families filled the seats of Conmy Hall to remember the Sailors who died in the fire on USS Forrestal. Sailors stationed at nearby commands including the Center for Service Support Detachment Defense Information School, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11, Expeditionary Combat Camera (COMCAM), and Naval District Washington presented American flags during the ceremony to represent each Sailor who passed away.

“The first time I heard about the Forrestal fire was in boot camp,” said Senior Chief Logistics Specialist Allison Strong, event volunteer coordinator, assigned to Naval District Washington. “We watched a video about what happened on the Forrestal and we were told that was the impetus for everyone learning about damage control. Being part of this event is very special to me and it was an honor to be able to help put it together.”

On Jul. 29, 1967, a rocket was accidentally fired aboard USS Forrestal, causing massive damage to the ship and a fire that killed 134 Sailors and injured many more. It took more than 24 hours for Forrestal Sailors as well as Sailors from nearby ships to completely extinguish the fire.

“When that happened, I didn’t expect to be here 50 years later,” said Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class (ret) William Solt, Forrestal fire survivor. “I asked my son, his wife and two of my grandsons to come with me to attend this. I want them to see and know what a sacrifice these Sailors made. We had a past president of the Forrestal Association who would say ‘friends are for life and shipmates are forever.’ That’s what’s playing out here today.”

The USS Forrestal Association is a non-profit veterans’ organization formed in 1990 that is committed to preserving the memory of those lost in the tragedy. The group puts together events every year to help honor and remember their fallen shipmates.

“I’ve got 45 years of service in the military, nine in the Navy and 36 in the Army, and I will never forget what happened July 29, 1967,” said Army Colonel (ret) Emmet O’Hare, event coordinator and Forrestal fire survivor. “We have to do things like this. There’s no getting around it, it’s a duty we took on after we lost those Sailors.”

O’Hare says three years ago, on Jul. 29, a young woman came up to members of the USS Forrestal Association as they were laying a wreath to honor fallen Sailors. She had never met her father and told them he was killed in the fire on the Forrestal. She asked the group if any of them recognized her father’s name.

“Three of the guys there knew her dad and she spent the next three hours crying, listening to stories about him. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about getting other people to understand what we went through and the comradery that we shared on that ship,” said O’Hare.

The following video, which actually is a U.S. Navy motivational film for the service personnel on the prevention of fire and for learning firefighting damage control measures, tells the story of the tragic fire on board USS Forrestal.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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