A Brief History
On January 14, 1969, we were once again reminded how navies around the world manage to make mistakes that cost lives and even entire ships. This time, 28 lives were lost and 314 sailors injured, but the USS Enterprise, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was not lost.
We have commented on naval disasters we call “Naval Oops Moments,” and this time the problem was a Zuni rocket under a jet’s wing that blew up. The explosion destroyed that plane and caused a fire resulting in multiple explosions, destroying 15 jets and blowing holes in the deck.
The “Big E” was not in a war zone at the time, but off the coast of Oahu. Repairs cost just over $1 billion in today’s dollars. The similar experience on the USS Forrestal in 1967, an aircraft carrier that suffered an on-deck missile mishap, resulted in damage control and deck practices that minimized the damage.
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For more information, please see…
Evans, Mark. USS Enterprise (CVN-65): The First Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier. McFarland, 2022.
Freeman, Gregory. Sailors to the End: The Deadly Fire on the USS Forrestal and the Heroes Who Fought It. William Morrow Paperbacks, 2004.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of fire on the stern of USS Enterprise, is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, it is in the public domain in the United States.
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