40 Years Ago Today:
A Personal Remembrance by AGCM Fred Baillie, USN, Ret.
USS Forrestal remained at Pier 12 Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, VA, until very early 20 May 1967, 3,500 family members, friends and relatives of Forrestal crewmembers arrive on board FORRESTAL this clear, sunny Saturday for a Family Day Cruise.
Friends and family members start arriving early for the exciting day. Soon the mooring lines were hauled in and Forrestal began to get underway.
After Special Sea and Anchor Detail is secured families walked around the hangar bays, looking at the various aircraft. Friends and family members were shown the mess deck area and berthing compartments of their sailors. Sailors took their guests to the small store and jewelry shop on the second deck. They walked up to the 02 level and showed them the forecastle. The size of the anchor chain links really impressed them, when he told them each link of the chain weighed 360 pounds.
Later the destroyer USS Vogelgesang (DD-862) came alongside for the highline transfer. They watched the transfer from the starboard side. Ensign John F. Elsheimer, the First Division’s junior division officer is being transferred over to, and back from the Vogelgesang because he is Forrestal’s most junior officer. Some officers have all the luck.
Later the families walked up on the flight deck before flight operations started. Air Wing SEVENTEEN treated the guests to an Air Show/Fire Power demonstration. The air wing pilots flew close by the ship, conducting a firepower demonstration dropping numerous types of ordnance for the guests to watch, plus mid-flight refueling.
The families had lunch on the forward mess deck and later he just walked them around to let them get the full feeling of what the Forrestal is all about. The sights and sounds of the aircraft landing and launching is an exciting experience. All on board had a good time.
Forrestal returned to pier 12 at later in the evening.…
(Editor’s Note): Just two months later, on July 29, 1967, the USS Forrestal would experience one of the worst shipboard accidents in US Naval history. Watch this space in July for a special on the USS Forrestal accident, as reported by one who was there.