First page of the 1967 Cruise Book
"All gave some...Some gave all"
On July 29, 1967 the USS Forrestal was operating on Yankee Station off the coast of North Vietnam. She had been conducting combat operations for 4 1/2 days (including a strike early that morning). At 10:52am the crew was beginning the second launch cycle of the day, just then a Zuni rocket from an F-4 Phantom was accidentally launched (triggered by stray voltage during the start of the Phantom) across the deck hitting a parked and armed A-4 Skyhawk (the Skyhawk was piloted by Lt. John McCain, now a U.S. Senator from Arizona and lifetime member of the Forrestal Association). The impact caused the belly fuel tank on the Skyhawk to rupture spilling fuel and causing a chain reaction fire of planes parked on the deck. The impact also caused a 1,000 pound bomb to fall off and into the spreading fire. Within a minute and a half the bomb was the first to "cook-off" and detonate killing flightdeck chief Gerald Farrier and the first wave of fire fighters. This initial detonation caused a massive chain reaction of explosions that engulfed half the airwing's aircraft and blew huge holes in the steel flight deck. Fed by fuel and bombs from other aircraft that were armed and ready for the coming strike, the fire spread quickly. Many pilots and support personnel were trapped and killed. meanwhile, fuel and bombs (from the damaged planes on the flight deck) began spilling into the holes created by the exploding ordinance, spreading the fire further into the ship. The crew heroically fought the fire and disposed of armed bombs and aircraft over the side of the ship. The main fire on the flight deck was brought under control in about an hour, other fires raged throughout the day and into the night. Finally after 13 hours the fires were extinguished, Forrestal's crew had saved their ship and countless lives. Once the fires were extinguished, the extent of the devastation was apparent. Most tragic was the loss to the crew, 134 had lost their lives, while an additional 64 were injured. This disaster remains the single worst loss of life on a navy vessel since the USS Franklin (CV-13) was bombed in WWII while operating in the Pacific. The ship proceeded to Cubi Point in the Philippines for temporary repairs. In only eight days enough repairs were made that she could start the long trip back to Norfolk, Virginia (her homeport) for permanent repairs. On her way home Forrestal was capable of operating aircraft if needed. Forrestal would spend seven months in the yards being repaired, she was re-built from the hanger up and forward to aircraft elevator number four. This accounts for about 1/5 the ships length and 5 decks. On April 8, 1968 Forrestal was once again ready to take her place in the fleet, she was never to return to the waters of Vietnam. With over a dozen major detonations from 1,000 and 500 lb. bombs, missile, and fuel tanks, no ship has ever survived the pounding Forrestal underwent that day, before or since. She and her crew proved the toughness and dangers associated with the operation of super-carriers, this is one of her greatest legacies. The USS Forrestal would go on to serve the United States for another 26 years during the height of the Cold War and see it through to its demise. She and her crew were always ready to go into battle again, the call never came. The ship and crew served in war for 4 1/2 days, but served to ensure peace for almost four decades. Forrestal had truly served her purpose as 'First in Defense'.
Rare Flight Deck 59 patch, one of my old liberty cuffs and the HC-2 1968 Med Cruise Patch that I designed for them - My very first graphics design job