An explosion aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise kills 27 people in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on this day in 1969. A rocket accidentally detonated, destroying 15 planes and injuring more than 300 people.

Fire aboard Enterprise, 14 January 1969, in Hawaiian waters — The massive fire started when a Zuni rocket accidentally exploded under the wing of an F-4. Some of the subsequent 18 explosions were 500-lb. bombs cooking of in mu

Black smoke rises from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) in the aftermath of a fire that occurred while she was underway conducting air operations near Hawaii (USA) on 14 January 1969. The massive fire started when a Zuni rocket accidentally exploded under the wing of an F-4. Some of the subsequent 18 explosions were 500-lb. bombs cooking off in multiples, leaving 20-foot holes in the armored flight deck. Losses totalled 28 dead, 343 wounded, and 15 aircraft destroyed.

The Enterprise was the first-ever nuclear-powered aircraft carrier when it was launched in 1960. It has eight nuclear reactors, six more than all subsequent nuclear carriers. The massive ship is over 1,100 feet long and carries 4,600 crew members.

Operation Sea Orbit: On 31 July 1964, USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) (bottom), USS Long Beach (CGN-9) (center) and USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25) (top) formed "Task Force One," the first nuclear-powered task force, and sailed 26,540 nmi (49,190 km) around the world in 65 days. Accomplished without a single refueling or replenishment, "Operation Sea Orbit" demonstrated the capability of nuclear-powered surface ships. Date 31 July 1964 Source Official US Navy photograph [1] available on Navsource.org [2] Author 	USN

Operation Sea Orbit: On 31 July 1964, USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) (bottom), USS Long Beach (CGN-9) (center) and USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25) (top) formed “Task Force One,” the first nuclear-powered task force, and sailed 26,540 nmi (49,190 km) around the world in 65 days. Accomplished without a single refueling or replenishment, “Operation Sea Orbit” demonstrated the capability of nuclear-powered surface ships.
Date 31 July 1964
Source Official US Navy photograph [1] available on Navsource.org [2]
Author USN

At 8:19 a.m. on January 14, a MK-32 Zuni rocket that was loaded on an F-4 Phantom jet overheated due to the exhaust from another vehicle. The rocket blew up, setting off a chain reaction 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. Many of the Enterprise’s fire-protection features failed to work properly, but the crew worked heroically and tirelessly to extinguish the fire.

Aircraft burning aboard the U.S. Navy nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVAN-65), 14 January 1969. The fire started when a Zuni rocket accidentally exploded under the wing of an F-4J Phantom II off Hawaii (USA). The following explosions blew holes in the flight deck and killed 28 people, wounding 343, 15 aircraft were destroyed. Among the latter were the depicted LTV A-7B Corsair II from attack squadron VA-146 Blue Diamonds (left) and an F-4J from fighter squadron VF-96 Fighting Falcons (right). Date 14 January 1969

Aircraft burning aboard the U.S. Navy nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVAN-65), 14 January 1969. The fire started when a Zuni rocket accidentally exploded under the wing of an F-4J Phantom II off Hawaii (USA). The following explosions blew holes in the flight deck and killed 28 people, wounding 343, 15 aircraft were destroyed. Among the latter were the depicted LTV A-7B Corsair II from attack squadron VA-146 Blue Diamonds (left) and an F-4J from fighter squadron VF-96 Fighting Falcons (right).
Date 14 January 1969

In all, 27 sailors lost their lives and another 314 were seriously injured. Although 15 aircraft (out of the 32 stationed on the Enterprise at the time) were destroyed by the explosions and fire, the Enterprise itself was never threatened.

EnterpriseF4

The USS Enterprise was repaired over several months at Pearl Harbor and returned to action later in the year.

USS Enterprise (CVN-65) December 2008

USS Enterprise (CVN-65) December 2008

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2 responses

  1. gpcox says:

    History that should be remembered!

    Like