July 29th, 1967 off the coast of Vietnam and the U.S.S. Forrestal was rocked by massive explosions and fire. 134 men died, 160 were injured and East Texan Bob Shelton saw it happen from the bridge of the carrier.
"They're a floating ordinance the least little thing can cause very serious things to happen" says Shelton. With 5,000 men on board, a spark set off a chain reaction as bombs a rockets started fires that destroyed dozens of aircraft and would last eleven days.
Shelton recently contributed to a book written about the navy's worst fire disaster, in which he chronicles the horrors of how the ship had to remain at sea to fight the fire. "There's no place to run. You're walking past many burned and mutilated people." Petty officer 3rd class Shelton was to be on deck the day of the fire, but because he was troubled by recurring nightmares of fire, he traded assignments with a shipmate. His shipmate died in the blaze.
Shelton tells of a flight lieutenant who escaped from his burning plane to go on to become a senator from Arizona. "John Mccain was sitting in an A-4 preparing for launch."
Shelton is haunted by the images of the Forrestal, but hopes the book will help lay the memories of his shipmates to rest.
Bob Hallmark, reporting.
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