Monday, January 14, 2013

Remember this day in 1969--USS Enterprise fire.

On January 14th, 1969, The USS Enterprise, CVN 65, also known as the "Big E", suffered massive damage from a series of explosions and a fire following the accidental detonation of a Zuni rocket on deck as aircraft were being prepared for bombing practice off Hawaii.
Before the fires were out, exploding ordnance had blown holes through the flight deck and multiple decks below, and burning jet fuel cascading down into those spaces had turned the aft end of the vessel into an inferno and holed the hull just above the waterline. Fortunately US Navy Damage Control teams were able to extinguish the fires and save the ship, and in true US Navy fashion, medevac helicopters were operating from the forward flight deck, bringing firefighting equipment and removing wounded crewmembers, even while the fires were still burning.
There was no shortage of bravery that day and the Enterprise and many badly injured sailors survived because of it. Still, the cost was high. 27 men died, 314 were wounded, and 15 aircraft were lost.


  1. Bad stuff, fire on a ship. I came aboard the USS Forrestal after her fire in 1967. Most of the crew had been aboard during the fire and I spoke to many of them. 134 dead. I remember the sick feeling we all had when we heard of the Enterprise fire. Horrible. You could smell the burnt rubber, fuel and all else for years after the fire.

  2. Well, you DO kinda get serious about putting out the fire when you're LIFE depends on it... And the Big E benefitted from what happened on the Forrestal (with McCain)... It was a tragic loss, but 'could' have been a lot worse.

  3. What I was going to say was presaged by Old NFO's comments. You do take it seriously; we practiced for hours.

  4. I remember the USS Forrestal videos from the firefighting section during boot camp. Later on, I volunteered (nobody said I was all that bright) for submarines, only to find out that not only was I a nuke electrician, but also part of the firefighting team. With 130 guys on board, EVERYBODY was a firefighter. We trained incessantly on fires in various locations, and my teammate and I got to where we could get a hose on station almost before the drill monitors could get there. Cuz when your life depends on it, you frikkin get it done.

    Tragic as these fires (and others) are, the Navy has absorbed their harsh lessons well. As OldNFO said, the Enterprise fire could have been much, much worse were it not for the lessons learned and practices developed from the Forrestal.

  5. Anonymous8:41 PM

    I had forgotten about this

  6. I knew about the Forrestal fire, but I had forgotten about the big E fire. The Navy got serious about fire control in WWII after losing the lexington. A spark sent off the Avgas fumes. The Japanese didn't get the Lady Lex, sloppy fire procedures did. They did well in the subsequent Bunker Hill and Franklin kamakaze fires.