USS Forrestal Disaster and Other Memories

November 10, 2014 David deBoisblanc

I remember watching this video in bootcamp as we were in firefighting training. It is very interesting. As you may know, a young John McCain was central to this story.

I ended up assigned to the ship and came to love it. While others called it the USS Forestfire, the ships company called in The FID. The FID comes from the ships motto, First in Defense.

The repairs to the extensive damage could be seen in hanger bay 3 and throughout the structures between it and the flight deck. There was a large sign in the hanger bay that commemorated the dead.

I fought two fires during my tours. One in engine room number 3, actually the main fire was in engine room 4 but the heat ignited a fuel tank in the engine room 3. I handled the six foot applicator for protecting the other fire fighting team. This device is nicknamed after a donkey's anatomy as you Navy veterans will no doubt know.

I also was the first to respond to a fire in the aft liquid oxygen plant. Fortunately, the fire was atop the production unit and did not get near the LOX tank about 40 feet away.

It took the entire contents of a giant twin tank wall mounted fire suppressant unit to get it out. I stood up on a corner angle iron to reach to top of the box that contained the main plant. I did not have time to put on an OBA (Oxygen Breathing Apparatus) as I wanted to suppress it before it got near the oxygen tank, fortunately, there wasn't much smoke due to a door to an open air sponson right next to where I was.

Sounds more exciting than it actually was. I got it out in a matter of a few minutes. I worked in the plant as a lead NCO for a shift and getting it out was a matter of my responsibility as it was small but could have erupted the entire aft side of the ship if it had reached the LOX tank. The fire was caused by a faulty repair done by a civilian worker that overheated and ignited the insulation that tightly stuffed the plant.