Thompson, William Frank, AM1

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Last Rank
Petty Officer First Class
Last Primary NEC
AM-0000-Aviation Structural Mechanic
Last Rating/NEC Group
Aviation Structural Mechanic
Primary Unit
1965-1967, Commander Carrier Air Wing 17 (CVW-17), COMNAVAIRLANT
Service Years
1947 - 1967
Official/Unofficial US Navy Certificates
Order of the Golden Dragon
Panama Canal
AM-Aviation Structural Mechanic
Five Hash Marks

 Last Photo   Personal Details 


Home State
South Carolina
South Carolina
Year of Birth
1929
 
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Bersley H. Thomas, Jr. (Tom), SMCS to remember Thompson, William Frank, AM1.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Walhalla
Last Address
Walhalla

Casualty Date
Jul 29, 1967
 
Cause
Non Hostile- Died Other Causes
Reason
Other Accident
Location
Vietnam, North (Vietnam)
Conflict
Vietnam War
Location of Interment
Oconee Memorial Park and Mausoleum - Seneca, South Carolina
Wall/Plot Coordinates
24E 047

 Official Badges 




 Unofficial Badges 

Gulf of Tonkin Yacht Club Order of the Golden Dragon


 Military Association Memberships
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  2012, Vietnam Veterans Memorial [Verified] - Assoc. Page

 Photo Album   (More...


 Ribbon Bar

 
 Duty Stations
Advancement Schools and CoursesVF-74 BedevilersUSS Forrestal (CV-59)Commander Carrier Air Wing 17 (CVW-17), COMNAVAIRLANT
  1959-1959, (AMH) Aviation Structural Mechanics A1 Basic
  1959-1960, (AMH) Aviation Structural Mechanic Hydraulics A School
  1965-1967, VF-74 Bedevilers
  1965-1967, USS Forrestal (CV-59)
  1965-1967, Commander Carrier Air Wing 17 (CVW-17), COMNAVAIRLANT
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1964-1973 Yankee Station, North Vietnam
  1967-1967 Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Phase III Campaign (67-68)/USS Forrestal (CVA-59) Fire
 Other News, Events and Photographs
 
  Dec 23, 2017, General Photos1
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity


 

   
Comments/Citation
 

FORRESTAL was home-ported on the East Coast and spent the first twelve years of her commissioned life serving with the 2nd and 6th Fleets. She departed Norfolk (Virginia) on 6 June 1967 for her first deployment to Vietnam with Carrier Air Wing 17 and about 80 aircraft embarked:

  • Attack Squadrons 46 and 106 with 24 A-4E SKYHAWK light bombers
  • Attack Squadron 65 with 12 A-6A INTRUDER all-weather bombers
  • Fighter Squadrons 11 and 74 with 24 F-4B PHANTOM fighter-bombers
  • Heavy Reconnaissance Squadron 11 (RVAH-11) with 6 RA-5C VIGILANTE recon aircraft
  • Airborne Early Warning Squadron 123 (VAW-123) with four HAWKEYE airborne control aircraft
  • Det 59, Heavy Attack Squadron 10 (VAH-10) with four KA-3B SKYWARRIOR tankers
  • Det 59, Helicopter Squadron 2 (HC-2), with several UH-2A SEASPRITE utility and ASW helicopters
  • A VAP-61 detachment of RA-3B SKYWARRIOR intelligence collection aircraft
FORRESTAL arrived on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin on 25 July and immediately began combat operations. The first four days were routine; the fifth day, 29 July, was not.

The ship was preparing to launch a major strike and many fully fueled and armed aircraft were parked about the deck. At 10:52 AM a 5" ZUNI rocket accidentally fired from an F-4 Phantom parked on the starboard side of the ship and pointed inboard. The rocket impacted an armed A-4 Skyhawk (piloted by then-LCDR, now Senator, John McCain) parked on the port side.

The rocket's impact dislodged and ruptured the Skyhawk's 400-gallon external fuel tank and ignited the jet fuel which poured out. A 1000-pound bomb also fell to the deck, into the spreading pool of flaming jet fuel. Within 90 seconds the bomb "cooked off" and detonated. That explosion resulted in a chain reaction as the closely-packed aircraft were first engulfed in and then contributed to a massive fire with repeated high-order bomb detonations. The ship's "plat" cameras, mounted on the island and embedded in the deck itself, provided ample video coverage of the initial accident and the subsequent catastrophe.

The first responders were Repair Party 8, led by Chief Petty Officer Gerald Farrier, who can be seen in the plat tapes running toward McCain's Skyhawk immediately after the rocket strike. The fuel tank had already ruptured and burning fuel was spreading around the aircraft. Chief Farrier had, as his weapon against this blaze, a hand-held fire extinguisher. He had not yet reached the Skyhawk when the first detonation occurred . . . he simply disappeared in the blast. A number of air- and deck crew were trapped in the inferno; many died there, while others were able to escape to the deck-edge catwalks.

Outside the rapidly spreading fire, the flight deck crew immediately began an effort to contain the blaze. The on-deck firefighting crews rallied after the first explosion and attacked the fire, only to disappear in the second, and larger, round of explosions. The plat tapes show the decimated firefighters recruiting help from anyone in the vicinity, and these make-shift crews once again pressed into the growing inferno. The third round of detonations cleared the deck of men and fire-fighting gear, but within a minute more crewmen from the forward deck and below-deck areas had reconstituted fire-fighting teams and were working their way aft. 

 


 Afterwards, starboard quarter looking forward

Over a dozen 1,000 and 500 pound bombs detonated within the first few minutes of the fire, punching holes through the 3" armor plating of the flight deck. Flaming fuel poured through those holes, into the working and berthing spaces on the O-3 level, then down into the aft hangar bay. Numerous smaller explosions occurred as lesser weapons, ranging from the Skyhawk's cannon ammunition to 5" rocket warheads, detonated.

Although it was 13 hours and more before the last fire was extinguished, FORRESTAL's crew did put it out ... but at the cost of 135 dead and hundreds more injured. FORRESTAL left Yankee Station under her own power, steaming to Subic Bay for temporary repairs before returning to Norfolk on 15 September 1967.

   
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