On 2 October 1967 in a solemn, traditional Navy ceremony with full military honors, eighteen unidentified and or missing USS FORRESTAL CVA-59 crew members who died on 29 July 1967 are honored today at Arlington National Cemetery.
It was the largest group burial in Arlington National Cemetery since World War II, Superintendent John C. Metzler said.
Catholic Mass and Protestant Services began at 0900 in the Fort Myer North Post Chapel, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Gravesite rites beside eight flag-draped caskets containing the remains of the men followed.
About 500 persons, many of them widows, mothers and fathers of the dead, 100 of them sailors from the FORRESTAL attended the mournful ceremonies.
Also attending were Navy Secretary Paul R. Ignatius, the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Thomas H. Moore, and FORRESTAL’s Captain and Mrs. John K. Beling.
The requiem mass said in the chapel this morning was for five of the group. Then two Protestant chaplains conducted a service for the remaining 13.
In the latter service, USS FORRESTAL’s Chaplain David Cooper referred to the dead as, “these patriots, these, our shipmates, your sons, husbands, friends, and brothers.” “One of them played the organ at our daily service, he added. They all answered the call of America.”
After the chapel services, the symbolic casket was carrier to the graveside on the old artillery caisson drawn by six black horses. Behind the caisson marched the Navy band and a Navy honor guard.
At the graves, the Catholic and Protestant chaplains took turns delivering final prayers over the dead. Navy escort officers assigned to accompany each mourning family presented them with an American flag folded in the tri-cornered shape symbolic of the American Revolution. In addition to the chaplains, Secretary Ignatius, Admiral Moore, and Captain Beling filed by the rows of folding chairs to say a word of comfort to each family.
After the gravesite ceremony, the rifle squad fired a volley and Taps were played. Upon the completion of Taps the band played “America.” The Families Naval escort presented each Family unit with a folded Flag. The Ceremonial Detail followed by the marching FORRESTAL contingent departed the gravesite.
When the ceremony was over, the dignitaries, the chaplains, and the rifle squad left. However, the relatives and men from the FORRESTAL stayed behind briefly in silence before they also began to disperse.