During the 1960's, the US Navy suffered three serious fires aboard
aircraft carriers. These photos depict those fires and their aftermath.
The lessons learned from the fires are still taught in Navy damage control
courses today, in the hope that these disasters are never repeated.
USS Oriskany (CVA 34), 26 October 1966
Oriskany was operating off Vietnam at the time of the fire. Two
sailors were storing flares in a space at the starboard forward corner of
the hangar deck. One of the flares lit accidentally, and the sailor threw
it into the locker and closed the hatch. The locker contained 650 flares,
which quickly lit. The resulting fire caused extensive damage to the ship
and killed 44 men. The entire forward section of the ship from the hangar
floor up was gutted.
The aftermath on deck.
The exhausted crew takes a breather after the fire has been extinguished.
Burnt-out and undamaged aircraft are clustered on the aft section of the
flight deck, clear of the fire area.
USS Forrestal (CVA 59), 29 July 1967
Forrestal was operating off Vietnam at the time of the fire. A
Zuni rocket was accidentally launched on deck (due to an electrical
problem), hitting a parked A-4, and igniting its drop tank. The fire then
spread to other aircraft, and bombs began to explode on deck. The fire
burned for 13 hours, killed 134 crew and caused the loss of 21 aircraft,
some of which were pushed overboard before the fire reached them. 7 holes
were blown in the flight deck. Repairs took 7 months, requiring complete
removal and reconstruction of the aft section of the ship down to the
hangar floor. This was the worst carrier fire in postwar years. The ship
has carried the nickname "Forrest Fire" ever since. Films shot during
the fire are still show in the course of basic training for all sailors.
Enterprisewas operating off Hawaii at the time. The sequence of
events was similar to the Forrestal fire, starting with a rocket
overheating due to exhaust from a flight deck vehicle and "cooking off".
The rocket hit another aircraft, which ignited and touched off a flight
deck disaster. The fire was put out within 4 hours. Damage, although
severe, was less extensive than that caused by Forrestal fire. The
nuclear "frigate" USS Bainbridge was one of Enterprise's
escorts, and according to one of her sailors she vastly surpassed her
rated speed of "30+" knots while racing to the carrier's aid. The next
day the frigate escorted the carrier into Pearl Harbor, and the atmosphere
was said to be not unlike prevailing mood when the previous USS
Enterprise (CV 6) returned to Pearl Harbor the day after the