Explosions Kill 27 Sailors Aboard USS Enterprise 53 Years Ago Today

From The History Channel

Fifty-three years ago today on January 14, 1969, 27 Sailors were killed aboard the USS ENTERPRISE (CVAN 65) when the aircraft carrier was rocked by an explosion of an onboard rocket. More than 300 others were injured in the ensuing fire.

The History Channel explained it this way:

“An explosion aboard the aircraft carrier USS ENTERPRISE killed 27 people in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on January 14, 1969. A rocket accidentally detonated, destroying 15 planes and injuring more than 300 people.

“…the first ever nuclear-powered aircraft carrier….”


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

“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 ENTERRISE’s fire-protection features failed to work properly, but the crew worked heroically and tirelessly to extinguish the fire.

“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.

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

The USS ENTERPRISE (CVAN 65) was the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the eighth United States naval vessel to bear the name. Like her predecessor of World War II fame, she was nicknamed “Big E”.  She was inactivated December 1, 2012, and decommissioned February 3, 2017.

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