The Virtual Wall, memorializing Vietnam casualties since 1997
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When placed in commission on 01 October 1955, USS FORRESTAL was the first of the "super-carriers" and the largest warship ever constructed. She displaced almost 80,000 tons and was 1,076 feet long and 129 feet in beam at the waterline. When her air wing was embarked she had a complement of over 5,000 sailors and Marines, and her "main battery" consisted of 80 to 100 aircraft of various types. She was a formidable weapon of war.

FORRESTAL was home-ported on the East Coast and spent the first twelve years of her commissioned life serving with the 2nd and 6th Fleets. She departed Norfolk (Virginia) on 6 June 1967 for her first deployment to Vietnam with Carrier Air Wing 17 and about 80 aircraft embarked:

FORRESTAL arrived on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin on 25 July and immediately began combat operations. The first four days were routine; the fifth day, 29 July, was not.

The ship was preparing to launch a major strike and many fully fueled and armed aircraft were parked about the deck. At 10:52 AM a 5" ZUNI rocket accidentally fired from an F-4 Phantom parked on the starboard side of the ship and pointed inboard. The rocket impacted an armed A-4 Skyhawk (piloted by then-LCDR, now Senator, John McCain) parked on the port side.

The rocket's impact dislodged and ruptured the Skyhawk's 400-gallon external fuel tank and ignited the jet fuel which poured out. A 1000-pound bomb also fell to the deck, into the spreading pool of flaming jet fuel. Within 90 seconds the bomb "cooked off" and detonated. That explosion resulted in a chain reaction as the closely-packed aircraft were first engulfed in and then contributed to a massive fire with repeated high-order bomb detonations. The ship's "plat" cameras, mounted on the island and embedded in the deck itself, provided ample video coverage of the initial accident and the subsequent catastrophe.

The first responders were Repair Party 8, led by Chief Petty Officer Gerald Farrier, who can be seen in the plat tapes running toward McCain's Skyhawk immediately after the rocket strike. The fuel tank had already ruptured and burning fuel was spreading around the aircraft. Chief Farrier had, as his weapon against this blaze, a hand-held fire extinguisher. He had not yet reached the Skyhawk when the first detonation occurred . . . he simply disappeared in the blast. A number of air- and deck crew were trapped in the inferno; many died there, while others were able to escape to the deck-edge catwalks.

Outside the rapidly spreading fire, the flight deck crew immediately began an effort to contain the blaze. The on-deck firefighting crews rallied after the first explosion and attacked the fire, only to disappear in the second, and larger, round of explosions. The plat tapes show the decimated firefighters recruiting help from anyone in the vicinity, and these make-shift crews once again pressed into the growing inferno. The third round of detonations cleared the deck of men and fire-fighting gear, but within a minute more crewmen from the forward deck and below-deck areas had reconstituted fire-fighting teams and were working their way aft.

Afterwards, starboard quarter looking forward

Over a dozen 1,000 and 500 pound bombs detonated within the first few minutes of the fire, punching holes through the 3" armor plating of the flight deck. Flaming fuel poured through those holes, into the working and berthing spaces on the O-3 level, then down into the aft hangar bay. Numerous smaller explosions occurred as lesser weapons, ranging from the Skyhawk's cannon ammunition to 5" rocket warheads, detonated.

Although it was 13 hours and more before the last fire was extinguished, FORRESTAL's crew did put it out ... but at the cost of 135 dead and hundreds more injured. FORRESTAL left Yankee Station under her own power, steaming to Subic Bay for temporary repairs before returning to Norfolk on 15 September 1967.

After shipyard repairs, USS FORRESTAL continued to serve, making many more deployments with the 2nd and 6th Fleets ... but she never again deployed to Vietnam. FORRESTAL was decomissioned on 11 September 1993 after 38 years of active service.

The listing below includes all of the men who died as a result of the 29 July fire. Those names in blue link to personal memorial pages on The Virtual Wall. Several are marked with asterisks (*) to indicate men who died after 29 July of injuries received. If you knew one of the men named below who does not yet have a memorial page on The Virtual Wall, you may request a memorial page for him.

PR2 Marvin J Adkins, VF-11 SN Everett A Allen, CVA-59
ATR3 Gary J Ardeneaux, VF-11 ADJ1 Toney A Barnett, VF-74
LT Dennis M Barton, VA-46 AMH2 Robert L Bennett, VF-11
AQF2 Mark R Bishop, VF-11 SN James L Blaskis, CVA-59
AA William V Brindle, VF-74 AE3 Bobby J Brown, VF-11
AMS1 Jerry D Byars, VF-11 AE3 Francis Campeau, VF-11
AQF3 Jack M Carlan, VF-74 AN Daniel G Cavazos, VF-74
SN Ray A Chatelain, CVA-59 * AN Richard D Clendenen, VF-11
SN William D Collins, VF-11 AN Robert B Cotten, VF-11
AMH2 James L Crenshaw, VF-74 AME2 Mario C Crugnola, VF-74
AN Robert J Davies, VF-74 AO2 Thomas J Dawson, VA-65
AE3 Jerold V Despard, VF-11 ADJ3 Edward R Dorsey, HC-2
ADJ3 Joseph G Dugas, VF-11 ADJ3 Paul A Dupere, VF-74
SN John S Duplaga, VF-11 SN Kenneth Dyke, CVA-59
AE1 Walter T Eads, VF-74 AO2 James A Earick, VA-106
ATN2 John T Edwards, VF-11 ABHC Gerald W Farrier, CVA-59
FN Kenneth L Fasth, CVA-59 AME1 John J Fiedler, VF-74
AN Russell L Fike, VF-74 ADJ1 Harold Fontenot, VA-106
AN Johnnie L Frazier, HC-2 AN Gerald G Fredrickson, CVA-59
AMS1 Herbert A Frye, VF-74 AN Ramon Garza, VF-74
LT Robert E Geller, VA-65 ADJ3 Richard H Gibson, CVA-59
AN Lawrence J Gilbert, VF-74 AMS3 William T Gilroy, VF-11
AMS3 Larry E Grace, VF-74 AE3 Russell A Grazier, VF-74
ATR3 Charles C Gregory, VF-74 SN William C Hartgen, CVA-59
AN Robert L Hasz, CVA-59 AN Richard A Hatcher, VA-46
AN William K Hinckley, VF-11 DS2 Stephen L Hock, CVA-59
AMH3 Larry D Holley, VF-11 AE2 Calvin D Howison, VF-11
AA Philip L Hudson, CVA-59 * AO3 Julius B Hughes, VF-11
WO Donald N Hugo, CVA-59 AN Ralph W Jacobs, VF-74
ATR3 Donald W Jedlicka, VF-11 AN William B Justin, CVA-59
AN Thomas M Kane, VF-74 AN Charles D Kieser, VF-74
AN Joseph Kosik, VF-11 AME3 Edward L La Barr, VF-11
SN Wade A Lannom, VF-11 AN William Lee, CVA-59
EM2 Robert C Leonberg, CVA-59 AN John T Lilla, VF-11
AQF3 Arnold E Lohse, VF-11 AN Charles E Long, VF-11
AZ2 William E Lowe, VF-11 AMH3 Kenneth W Lozier, VF-11
AQF3 James S Mac Vickar, VF-74 AN Ralph E Manning, CVA-59
AMH2 Earle E Mc Auliffe, VF-74 AN Brian D Mc Conahay, VF-74
ADJ1 George C Mc Donald, VF-74 AO2 Frank C Mc Nelis, VF-11
AMH3 William V Mc Quade, VF-11 AN Alan R Metz, VA-106
AN George D Miller, VF-74 AN Edward A Mindyas, VF-74
PR3 Hubert H Morgan, VF-11 AE3 Leroy Moser, VF-11
AN James E Neumeyer, VF-74 AE3 Gary E Newby, VF-11
AA James E Newkirk, VF-11 FN Ronald R Ogrinc, CVA-59
AN Thomas D Ott, VA-46 AN Wayne H Ott, VF-74
AMHC Richard L Owens, VA-46 AMH3 Richard T Pinta, VF-11
AO2 Raymond N Plesh, VA-106 AN John C Pody, VA-46
AMH2 Ernest E Polston, VF-11 AN Douglas A Post, VF-74
AE3 Robert M Priviech, VF-11 ATN3 John M Pruner, VF-11
ABH3 Robert A Rhuda, VF-74 AN Charles R Rich, VA-106
AMS3 Jerry P Rodgers, VF-11 AME2 Dale R Ross, VF-11
AN James M Runnels, VF-11 AN Harvey D Scofield, VF-11
AO2 Joseph C Shartzer, VA-65 AMH3 William J Shields, VF-11
ABH3 Richard M Sietz, CVA-59 AN David W Smith, VF-11
SN Richard T Smith, VF-74 AMS2 John F Snow, VF-74
AQ1 John C Spiess, VF-74 SN Nelson E Spitler, CVA-59
AO3 Johnny W Spivey, VF-74 LCDR Gerry L Stark, VA-46
AN Walter E Steele, CVA-59 ADJ2 Wendell W Stewart, VA-106 *
AA Robert A Stickler, VF-74 AN Kenneth D Strain, CVA-59
ABH2 Robert H Swain, CVA-59 AN Delton E Terry, VF-11
YN3 Norman A Thomas, CVA-59 AMH1 William F Thompson, VF-74
AE3 Richard J Vallone, VF-11 AN Robert J Velasquez, CVA-59
AN Juan A Velez, VA-106 AN George E Wall, VA-106
AN Harold D Watkins, VA-46 AA Gregory L Webb, VF-74
AME3 Gerald A Wehde, VA-65 AQF3 Judson A Wells, VF-11
ADJ3 Richard L Wescott, VF-11 AA Edward J Wessels, VF-74
LCDR Fred D White, VA-46 AN Kerry D Wisdom, VF-74
AN Robert L Zwerlein, VA-46 *

Selected web sites for the

USS FORRESTAL (CVA-59)   The Forrestal Association

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 10/15/06