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Oct 23, 2013

Stars and Stripes| by Audrea Huff

Crew members aboard the USS Forrestal fight a series of fires and explosions on the carrier's flight deck in the Gulf of Tonkin on July 29, 1967. U.S. Navy

The Forrestal, a decommissioned aircraft carrier aboard which more than 130 sailors died amid a series of explosions and massive fire in 1967, has been sold for a penny.

All Star Metals bought the ex-Forrestal on Tuesday for scrapping and recycling, the Navy said in a statement. Before the end of the year, it’s expected to be towed from the Navy’s inactive ship facility in Philadelphia to All Star Metals’ facility in Texas.

The Navy’s first “supercarrier,” the Forrestal was in the Gulf of Tonkin the morning of July 29, 1967, for the Vietnam War effort when stray voltage triggered a rocket to launch from an F-4 Phantom on the flight deck.

The rocket struck an armed A-4 Skyhawk — piloted by a young Lt. Cmdr. John S. McCain III — rupturing the fuel tanks and sparking a chain reaction of fires and explosions on the deck, which was parked full of planes.

The crew fought the flight deck fire for an hour, but other fires blazed into the next day.

In the aftermath, 134 men were killed and more than 300 injured. The ship was heavily damaged, and more than 26 aircraft were destroyed and more than 30 damaged. More importantly, the Forrestal fire prompted changes to the way the Navy handles damage control and helped improve disaster training.

The aircraft carrier spent more than seven months in a shipyard undergoing repairs after the tragedy but returned to sea for more than two decades.

On Sept. 11, 1993, the Forrestal was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register after more than 38 years of service.

The Navy made Forrestal available for donation in June 1999 as a museum or memorial but received no viable applications.

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