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USS Forrestal Remembered – Lessons from Tragedy


On the morning of July 29, tragedy struck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal.

At around 1050 that morning, a rocket was launched. It exploded into a few fully armed planes, creating a massive fire. The fire was fueled by a ruptured 400-gallon fuel tank and exploding bombs.

The day’s tragic events will forever be ingrained in our Navy’s history, but it’s because of them that we have many of the safety measures and training requirements that we do. For instance, all Sailors now watch USS Forrestal documentary in boot camp, so we may never forget the importance of damage control.

Damage Controlmen assigned to USS Essex (LHD 2) disassembles the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) oxygen tanks at the conclusion of an advanced firefighting course.

Damage control training is required by all Sailors, and thus the use of necessary safety equipment. For instance, accident reports on USS Forrestal maintain that there were some among the would-be firefighters who could not enter smoke-filled compartments for the simple reason that they did not know how to use an Oxygen Breathing Apparatus (OBA), a critical piece of firefighting gear.

Today our Sailors learn how to use the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) as part of their standard training. Some Sailors, like damage controlmen receive additional, more advanced training on the systems as well.

Information ascertained from this incident led to several damage control improvements:

♦ Installation of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) to combat large hydro-carbon fuel fires


Sailors inspect the flight deck during an aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) systems check aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Briana C. Brotzman/Released)

♦ Use of 1.5-inch instead of 2.5-inch protein lines, which has resulted in a 75 percent reduction in response time and 200 percent increase in firefighting capability


♦ Increased complement of survival support devices by 300 percent and oxygen breathing apparatus by 20 percent


♦ Development of additional escape exits, especially from berthing, living and working spaces


♦ Development of an egress marking system to facilitate personnel escape from shipboard compartments


♦ Requirement to familiarize crew- members with egress procedures annually.


The Navy will never forget those lost on USS Forrestal and their sacrifice has helped countless of their shipmates save their ships and their fellow Sailors.



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