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Self Inflicted Horror on USS Enterprise, 1969

Updated on November 29, 2012

It resembled a scene for the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack with massive explosions and smoke and debris everywhere, yet, it was in 1969, off the coast of Hawaii (ironically) in another war, the Vietnam War.there were 18 munition explosions or detonations.

The disaster was by accident and negligence of those on the flight deck. When it was over, eight holes were blown through the flight deck. It took in a little over three hours to extinguish all of the fires. This incident resulted in 28 deaths and 344 injuries. There were 17 aircraft damaged and 15 destroyed. The cost of repairing the structural damage to the ship was over 126 million dollars. Over 6000 gallons of jet fuel were ignited causing a massive inferno that pictures show best.

The cause was human error, a jet starting unit, a Huffer, with a temp of 850 degrees was pointed to another F-4J aircraft loaded with Zuni rockets. As soon as the first rocket exploded, others ignited causing the fuel of the jet to create a fireball. From this point on, it was just an chain reaction of bad events since the jet aircraft were parked closely together on the deck. As the event increased, 500 lb. bombs started to go off as crews were caught in the fire or with shrapnel as they tried to put the fire out.

The USS Enterprise was the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier and is now retired.


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      Thomas Covington 21 months ago

      I served on the Enterprize (CVAN-65) on this day, and experienced this fire and its aftermath. Now live in Pico Rivera, Calif.