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.
(Abbreviated Warship Wednesday due to the holidays).
USS Independence (CVA-62) (foreground) and USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) rendezvous in the Indian Ocean on 21 November 1965– OTD 53 years ago.
Independence was en route to Norfolk, Virginia, after six months on the line off Vietnam. Enterprise was headed for combat duty in Vietnamese waters.
Just two weeks later, on 2 December 1965, Enterprise became the first nuclear-powered warship to see combat when she launched air strikes at the Viet Cong near Biên Hòa, South Vietnam.