samedi 29 juillet 1967 - un mélange de mauvaises habitudes et de manque de chance amena ce jour-là le puissant porte-avion USS Forrestal quasiment à sa perte. En opération au large du Vietnam, hors de portée de l'aviation et de l'artillerie vietminh, l'incompétence de certains à bord a rapidement aggravé un incident sérieux mais contrôlable par un équipage bien entraîné, au point de mettre le navire en péril. Tout le détail de l'affaire filmée par la Marine US.
Vidéo non-classifiée, archive historique.
photos : wikipedia.org
pour télécharger :
(article ci-dessous copyright Time Magazine)
Time: Fire on the Forrestal
Friday, Aug. 04, 1967
Twice in the same day, the clang of fire bells sounded over the Gulf of Tonkin, and the cry of "Fire! Fire! Fire!" issued from the loudspeaker of the U.S.S. Forrestal, the Navy's third largest aircraft carrier (after the Enterprise and America). Each time the blaze was doused in minutes, but an uneasy calm settled over the 76,000-ton ship. Only the day before, the Forrestal had arrived off the North Vietnamese coast for her first combat duty, and her 4,500-man crew grimly recalled that a fire had killed 44 men aboard the carrier Oriskany in the same waters last October. "Two fires in one day," said a pilot. "We'd better watch that stuff."
Less than 48 hours later, as Navy Phantom and Skyhawk jets lined up for morning bombing missions against the North, the Forrestal's fire bells sounded again, and the pilot's worst fears were realized. A fuel tank fell from the wing of an A-4 Skyhawk and ruptured, spilling gas onto a sizzling steam catapult. Fanned by 35-mile-an-hour gusts, fireballs leaped to other fully loaded planes, trapping the pilots inside. As bombs and rockets exploded on the 1,000-ft.-long flight deck, the flames spread to the hangar deck far below. Engulfed by flames and smoke, crewmen and pilots tossed rubber rafts overboard, then plunged 90 feet into the waters below.
Racing across the flight deck, asbestos-coated fire crews sprayed everything in sight with foam and wrestled burning planes and 1,000-lb. bombs overboard. The destroyers Rupert us and Tucker steamed alongside with hoses trained upward. When the flames subsided, helicopters carried injured men off to nearby ships; one was the Oriskany, restored to Viet Nam service only two weeks earlier.
Her hull battered and charred, the Forrestal limped toward the Philippines with belowdecks fires still raging. The toll: at least 70 known dead, 89 missing. At least 26 planes were destroyed and another 28 damaged, with a loss of more than $60 million in aircraft alone.