Two weeks ago, I finished watching a three part special on the Vietnam war presented on the History Channel. Although familiar with the war, I never have read or watched an in depth history of the war. About part way through the special, I was reminded of a trip I took in sixth grade to Washington D.C. as part of our high school marching band. Along with all the normal tourist spots, we visited the Vietnam War Memorial and on behalf of my parents, I looked up the name of the son of our neighbor. His name was Richard and died during the war. I made the obligatory name tracing from the memorial and later when I returned home I presented it to his parents. I don't remember their reactions but I'm sure it was polite gratification.
I have met many Vietnam Vets over the years but never knew anyone who hadn't come home. My step-father's birthday was one of the last ones drawn in the draft so he never went. In my hometown, Richard was the only one who never came home. Now thirty years later, I decided I wanted to know more about Richard and his involvement in the Vietnam War. I quickly fired up the internet and soon discovered that he died on the infamous U.S.S. Forrestal fire whose most famous survivor these days is Senator and former presidential nominee John McCain. The fire is best described as a series of unfortunate events.
Needing 1000 pound bombs for a bombing raid scheduled to take place the following day, the Forrestal took possession of some 30 year old bombs that had been sitting in humid Subic Bay, Philippines since World War II. Everyone was nervous about them and wanted them removed but there were no more new Mark 83's left to replace them and so they were reluctantly prepared for the following day's mission. The following day an electrical surge and some unfortunate mistakes in safety caused an accidental discharge of a Zuni rocket which caused a rupture of several aircraft fuel tanks and the 30 year old "fat boy" bombs from Subic Bay. The newer Mark 83's could have safely withstood the fire but the the old "fat boy" bombs couldn't and exploded. In all 134 died that day putting out the fire and one of those was the son of our neighbors. He was 21 years of age. Today he would have been 69 years old.