From the Stars and Stripes archives

Chronology of disaster on carrier Forrestal

The fire-damaged carrier USS Forrestal at Subic Bay Naval Base, Philippines, in August, 1967.


By STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 1, 1967

SAIGON — Here is the chronology of the tragic fire Saturday, July 29, 1967 aboard the Carrier Forrestal, as released by the Navy:

11:20 a.m. — The Forrestal reports a major fire on the flight deck and all ships on Yankee Station move to give assistance.

11:21 a.m. — Forrestal reports that the fire started just before 11:00 a.m. on the aft section of the flight deck, during prelaunch starting of engines. One of the planes exploded in a pack of about l6 planes in a U-shape formation on the fan tail. Fire spreads over the entire aft section of the flight deck. A number of aircraft are reported destroyed, and many men killed or wounded.

11:32 a.m. — Carriers. Bon Homme Richard and Oriskany send medical assistance by helicopter.

11:47 a.m. — Forrestal reports fire on flight deck under control, but catwalks and below decks fires are still burning. Fire now estimated to have started at about 10:53 a.m. Fuel tanks, rockets and bombs on nearby planes explode. Estimate 29 aircraft destroyed and still no report on the number of casualties.

12:15 p.m. — Fire out on flight deck.

12:26 p.m. — Casualties have flooded ship medical facilities, and more men are trapped in hangar bay and on the aft flight deck. Receiving medical assistance and fire fighting assistance from helicopters.

12:45 p.m. — Having trouble controlling fire on the first and second decks below flight deck and in hangar bay three. All available carrier-based transport planes are being rigged with litters to evacuate wounded to carriers Bon Homme Richard and Oriskany.

1:10 p.m. — Casualties expected to be high because aircraft were manned and ready for take-off. Four large holes in flight deck from exploding bombs.

1:48 p.m. — Fires still burning on the first three decks below the flight deck in the aft section of the carrier. All main machinery and steering gear still working.

2:12 p.m. — All fires out on the first deck on the port side. Aft radio compartment evacuated because of dense smoke and water.

2:47 p.m. — Fires continue but are being brought under control. Forrestal steams toward rendezvous with the hospital ship Repose.

3:00 p.m. — Commander of Task Force 77 reports he is sending Forrestal to Subic Bay, Philippine Islands, after rendezvous with Repose.

5:05 p.m. — Head count begins on Forrestal and other ships. Fires are still burning in aft carpentry shop and main deck.

6:44 p.m. — Fires flare up again.

8:30 p.m. — Fire is reported contained in the second and third decks but area is still too hot to enter. Bedding and clothing is reported feeding the fire, and a hole is being cut in flight deck to fight flames.

8:33 p.m. — Fire on the second deck is reported under control. Heat and smoke making it difficult to fight the fire.

8:54 p.m. — Fire is out everywhere but on second deck on port side. Heat and smoke remain. Evacuation of wounded to Repose in progress.

Sunday, July 30, 12:20 p.m. — All fires out. Forrestal continuing to clear smoke and cool hot steel on second and third decks.

Sailors battle fires that erupted after a chain reaction of deadly explosions aboard the USS Forrestal in 1967. The Army is involved in an effort that would replace many of its weapons with what are called 'insensitive munitions,' which are less susceptible to exploding inadvertently.