From the Commanding Officer, USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63):

Folks,

Had a unique opportunity to surprise the crew the other day. Made a little jog in navigation and was able to pass directly over the final resting place of USS LEXINGTON, CV-2. We passed over at almost exactly the time of day that she was hit by the first torpedo in May
19 42 and the weather was exactly the same. That part was a coincidence, but making the conscious decision a couple days ago to CPA her resting place was not.

I personally read, over the 1MC, from CAPT Sherman’s after action report. Chaps then said a prayer (attached), we played echo Taps and two sailors laid flowers from the fantail.

Didn’t tell almost anyone what we were doing ahead of time. During weekly training GQ last night the XO and CHE read aloud from the Chief Engineer’s after action report lessons learned. You cannot believe how appreciative the crew has been for all of this. It actually made me feel pretty good.
The Prayer

26 JULY 2007
TRANSITING THE AREA OF THE BATTLE OF THE CORAL SEA
LET US PRAY. ALMIGHTY AND ETERNAL GOD, THE MYSTIC BEAUTY OF THE SEA SEEMS TO RISE IN BENEDICTION TO YOU. AS WE PASS OVER THESE HALLOWED WATERS WHERE 65 YEARS AGO, THE USS LEXINGTON WAS LOST IN THE BATTLE OF THE CORAL SEA, IT IS ONLY RIGHT THAT WE STOP AND PAUSE FOR A MOMENT TO REMEMBER THE MOMENTOUS SACRIFICE OF OUR ELDER SHIPMATES. FROM THEM, WE LEARN THE HIGHEST IDEALS OF THE WARRIOR SPIRIT: SELF-SACRIFICE, MISSION ACCOMPLISHMENT, TENACITY.
IN THE DOGGED FIVE-DAY BATTLE THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF WORLD WAR II, SAILORS FROM ACROSS AMERICA AND FROM EVERY WALK OF LIFE, BANDED TOGETHER WITH A COMMON FOCUS OF DEFEATING A FORMIDABLE ENEMY.
LORD GOD, WE REMEMBER THOSE WHO FOUGHT AND PERISHED HERE. WE ARE THANKFUL FOR THEIR LIVES EVEN AS WE ARE WE ARE INSPIRED BY THEIR MONUMENTAL ACHIEVEMENT. WE ARE THANKFUL FOR THE OPPORTUNITY THAT WE HAVE TO SERVE IN OUR NATION S DEFENSE AND TO CARRY ON THESE HIGH IDEALS. WE ASK THAT YOU WILL WALK WITH US TO REMIND US THAT THE TRADITION WE INHERIT DOES NOT BELONG TO US INDIVIDUALLY, BUT IS A SACRED TRUST GIVEN TO US BY THOSE UPON WHOSE SHOULDERS WE STAND.
AS TAPS IS PLAYED FOR THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED WHO IN THIS PLACE FOUGHT AND DIED SO MANY YEARS AGO, WE OFFER YOU OUR MOST HUMBLE PRAYER. MAY THEIR SOULS, AND THE SOULS OF ALL WHO HAVE GIVEN THEIR LIVES FOR FREEDOM’S CAUSE, THROUGH THE MERCY OF GOD, REST IN PEACE. AMEN.

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USS Forrestal (CVA-59) Fire Remembered

Remembering USS Forrestal — 40 Years Later

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Wyscaver, Fleet Public Affairs Center, Atlantic

NORFOLK (NNS) — The Farrier Firefighting School Learning Site (FFSLS), part of Naval Station Norfolk, commemorated the 40th anniversary of the devastating events on board aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CVA 59) in a ceremony July 27.

Former Forrestal crew members, surviving family members and instructors from the fire fighting school attended the ceremony.

“My earliest memories of fire fighting training on the dangers of fire at sea center around the fire aboard USS Forrestal and our lessons learned from that day,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert E. Sutler, department head at FFSLS.

On July 29, 1967, while operating off the coast of Vietnam in the Tonkin Gulf, an accidental firing of a Zuni rocket from an F-4 Phantom struck an armed A-4 Skyhawk causing one of the worst losses of life in naval history. One hundred thirty-four crew members lost their lives and 67 were seriously injured. The damage to Forrestal totaled more than $70 million.

Lou Braasch, a Forrestal survivor, read the names and rang a single toll in memory of each individual Sailor who sacrificed their lives battling the blaze that erupted aboard.

The accidental launch and substantial impact caused a fuel tank and 1,000-pound bomb on the Skyhawk to fall off, leading to a fuel-powered fire on the flight deck. The following minutes would contain sights of burning aircraft, spreading fires and massive holes in the steel foundation of the vessel.

Retired Capt. Tommy C. Wimberly, former Forrestal crew member, explained, “about a minute to a minute-and-a- half after the fire started, the first bomb detonated. It’s difficult to describe what the detonation of those bombs felt like, it was a severe shock.”

In the midst of all of the chaos, Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handler) Gerald W. Farrier, armed with only a portable fire extinguisher, fought the fires to the best of his ability until a bomb exploded, taking his life.

To help honor Farrier’s efforts and those of his shipmates, the Farrier Firefighting School is named in his honor and serves as one of the top facilities for training service members in critical firefighting areas.

“Here at this magnificent facility are taught many of the lessons learned from the events in the tragic aircraft carrier fires of the Vietnam era,” Wimberly added.

One former crew member that survived the horrific experience noted the impact of Forrestal.

“They made the supreme sacrifice and the least we can do is gather together annually and honor their bravery. A lot of us were close to the fire that day and it’s something I will never forget,” said Bradford Jones.

As the ceremony concluded, a few individuals took time to reflect on the past while looking forward to the future of the Navy in terms of firefighting.

“I hope that places like this, [The Farrier Firefighting School], will save a lot of lives and prepare a lot of people to helps themselves and help others to survive and fight another day,” said Jones.

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