TR Recreates Worst US Aircraft Carrier Fire

The crew of USS Forrestal (CVA 59) extinguishes the remaining fires on the flight deck off the coast of Vietnam, 29 July 1967. In the foreground are the remains of an F-4B Phantom, behind which can be seen the burned hulk of a second Phantom. One hundred thirty-four crew died in this fire, the worst aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.
U.S. Navy photograph

July 29, 1967, the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CVA 59) experienced the worst U.S. aircraft carrier fire since World War II. As the sun descended upon the horizon, smoke billowed across a chaotic flight deck. Corpsmen worked through their exhaustion, tending to their wounded shipmates strewn on the mangled flight deck.


The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) recently conducted a drill called a flight deck 50 that prepares Sailors to respond to similar emergencies.

A flight deck 50 simulates 50 casualties on the flight deck to train Sailors on proper medical and firefighting techniques in order to prepare them for the most severe situations imaginable.

“We are basically preparing for the worst thing to happen,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Cody DuPont.

Regardless of department or ship, Sailors throughout the Navy have an important role to play in emergency response.

“With the flight deck 50, all available stretcher bearers, all of medical and all of air department are involved,” said DuPont. “Air department is responsible for putting out the fires and helping to collect casualties. Then they move them down the aircraft elevator to the safety of the hanger bay so they can get triaged and receive further care from medical.”

TR Recreates Worst US Aircraft Carrier Fire2
USS Forrestal (CVA 59)

The Navy uses lessons learned from Forrestal’s fire to measure the effectiveness of their emergency response.

“With the tragedy that happened on the Forrestal, they had over 100 casualties,” said DuPont. “We need to train ourselves for ‘what if this happened to us?’ By simulating this, we can find out where our weaknesses are, so we can train, and make those strengths. We are testing people to see how well they take the pressure.”

Sailors involved in flight deck 50 training understand the gravity of the scenarios, said DuPont.

“They have worked long hours, and yet they still manage to be motivated and dedicated, and they pull through,” said DuPont. “They understand what’s at stake. This is their family, these are their shipmates onboard, and everyone needs to step up their game and do the best to save their friends’ lives.”

The Forrestal fire is history, but flight deck 50 drills help Sailors prepare for the worst to avoid reliving the past tragedy.

“If this was to happen in real life, it would be very tragic,” said DuPont. “We have to keep that in mind and think that this is the real thing. We need to do our best, put our best foot forward and give it 110% because this is our family and we can’t let them down.”

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)
Press Release, August 22, 2014; Image: US Navy

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