50 years ago today: The worst morning on the Big E
At 8:19 a.m. on 14 January, a MK32 Zuni rocket loaded on an F-4J Phantom overheated due to the exhaust from a nearby starting vehicle aboard the USS Enterprise (CVAN-65), setting off a chain of events as the carrier was about 70 miles off Hawaii.
The rocket blew up, setting off a series of explosions. Fires broke out across the deck of the ship, and when jet fuel flowed into the carrier’s interior, other fires were sparked.
In all, 27 sailors lost their lives and another 314 were seriously injured. Although 15 aircraft out of the 32 aboard Enterprise at the time were destroyed by the explosions and fire, the Enterprise herself was never threatened.