Have any U.S. Aircraft carriers been bombed since the end of WWII?
Not US, but there was an English one hit in the Fauklands War.
Burned up because it was aluminium.
Wasn’t the Vincennes (sp?) hit in the war with Iran?
USS Saratoga (CV 3) and USS Independence (CV 22) were target ships at the atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll in July of 1946. The Saratoga sank.
The USS Vincennes is not a carrier, and I can’t recall it being bombed.
The British lost several vessels in the Falkland Islands war, but IIRC none of their aircraft carriers was hit.
The U.S.S. Vincennes–which is also not an aircraft carrier–wasn’t hit at all; rather, it shot down an Iranian jetliner. You may have been thinking of the U.S.S. Stark, which I believe is a destroyer, which was damaged but not sunk by an accidental Iraqi attack during the Iran-Iraq War.
There was the incident during the Vietnam War (July 29, 1967) with the carrier USS Forrestal (CVA-59), in which bombs on the flight deck detonated as a result of a deck fire (triggered by a Zuni rocket accidently triggering from an F-4, streaking cross-deck to hit a parked A-4D Skyhawk; Senator John McCain’s plane, as it happened), though I don’t think that really counts as a bombing.
In 1967 the American super-carrier Forrestal was severely damaged in action while on station in Vietnam when one of its planes on deck launched a missile at another of its planes on deck, causing a fuel spill and fire, which in turn caused a lot of bombs and missles to explode, causing great damage and the loss of 134 lives, and taking it out of the war.
The Forrestal incident was pretty serious, burning a hole through several decks. I think it took days to put the fire out. The video footage is pretty incredible, mostly for the huge number of things done wrong in fighting the fire. For example, some men are using firehoses on the fire, and washing away the foam that was just laid down. Also, many of the men are shirtless. Basically, an example of the importance of discipline and training when it comes to inherently dangerous activities, such as operating an aircraft carrier.
The Stark was a frigate, I believe. Also during that conflict, the Samuel B. Roberts, another frigate, hit a mine. And of course there was the bombing of the Cole not so long ago.
Re; Brits at the Falklands: can confirm neither of the two Harrier-carriers (Invincible and Hermes) was hit. Hermes was taken a shot at but nothing came of it.
Re; Forrestal – I believe another of the carriers of the period also had a similar though not as severe incident. After that the Navy adopted a policy of training whole crews to take up damage-control stations. One of the things that happened there was that only a limited number of crew were really trained for firefighting and they were lost to cooked-off bombs early in the game.
The plat camera films of the Forrestal incident have been edited into a training film and used ever since to show how bad things can get when improper procedures are done. Since then the navy trains everyone in basic firefighting and more so for those that ever set foot on a carrier. Though I never experienced a fire working on the flight I was glad I had the training when 4MMR caught fire on the Ranger.
I believe the following is the other incident to which JRDelirious referred. From A Brief History of U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers:
The Enterprise also had some kind of incident in the late 60s, which has always been kept very quiet.
Here is a very interesting page describing the fires aboard US aircraft carriers during the 1960’s: Carrier Fires. It’s part of the extensive World Aircraft Carriers List which may be of some use in researching topics of this sort. That site considers aviation tenders, light-, escort-, and super-carriers to be in the same general category.
Other than the three fires which occured on the Oriskany (Oct 1966), the Forrestal (Jul 1967), and the Enterprise (Jan 1969), I can find no evidence for the bombing of US aircraft carriers, but there have been incidents involving other ship classes:
USS Cole (Oct 2000) destroyer - terrorist bombing in Yemen
USS Stark (May 1987) frigate - bombed by Iraqi warplanes
USS Liberty (Jun 1967) intelligence - bombed by the Israelis during the 6-day war.
USS Iowa (Apr 1989) battleship - accidental explosion
Unless I’m missing some Vietnam-era bombings, I believe that covers it.
A good friend of mine is a Navy alum and he says “Trial by Fire” is his favorite film. He also wants a video copy.
My dental hygenist told me about this, but I think it was in the eighties. A fighter crashed into the deck and a few planes were ignited. The thing is that it was supposedly predicted by Nostradamus himself. It was apparently a huge deal among crew members and he was surprised that he didn’t hear any coverage about it by the media.
Remember that an Aircraft Carrier represents an ungodly investment by the country operating them. A single US Super-Carrier is worth billions of dollars ($3.5 billion for the USS John C. Stennis without the airwing) and has 5,000+ people on it alone (with the air wing on board).
The US can somewhat forgive embassy bombings, the downing of airliners, missile strikes on frigates and so on. However, mess with an Aircraft Carrier (assuming you could get close enough to one…they are VERY well guarded) and you risk some mighty wrath from the US government. Attacking one is tantamount to declaring war on the US. Of course, if you’re already at war with the US then the carriers become target #1.
When I was in the Navy we were shown the Forrestal film for training. It was easily one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen. The worst part was thinking about the pilots: many of them were strapped into their planes, helpless as the fire spread to them, burned them, and in some cases lit off the ordnance they were carrying.
The spreading fire trapped some men at the edge of the flight deck, forcing many to jump to the water dozens of feet below. I don’t know if any drowned this way, but many broke multiple limbs.
And damage control training must have been woefully inadequate back then. In the film you can see a hose team laying down AFFF (a fire-suppression foam) working side-by-side with a water hose team. Water and AFFF are an either/or kind of thing; if you spray water on AFFF you just wash it away, thwarting everyone’s efforts.
Another hose team sprayed water down into a big hole that didn’t even have fire at the bottom…but did have millions of dollars worth of equipment which was ruined by all the water.
Of course, sailors being sailors, USS Forrestal was forever after known as the Forest Fire.
My own ship, the USS Reeves, was involved in exercises in the Indian Ocean on October 31, 1989 (before I reported aboard) and was accidentally bombed on the front of the bow by a U.S. fighter pilot who mistook the ship for the target he was supposed to bomb. A big hole was made in the main deck. It destroyed the boatswain’s locker, severed the anchor chain (sending the anchor to the bottom of the sea) and sent shrapnel everywhere, including through the windows of the bridge and into a quartermaster’s ass.
Regarding the Forrestal fire, faulty ordnance played a much bigger role in the disaster than the mistakes made by the crew. And the errors could be attributed more to a lack of training than just poor performance in a crisis. In 1967, the Navy did not train crews in firefighting as extensively as it does now. Nearly all of the flight deck firefighters were killed when the first 1,000-lb. bomb exploded only 1 minute and 34 seconds after the fire started. The remaining crew did what they could, but unfortunately, most of them had not been trained in firefighting and they were working with whatever equipment hadn’t been destroyed by the bomb blasts.
The bombs that blew up far earlier than expected were manufactured in 1935 or 1953, depending on whether you believe the crew who took them on that night or the Navy’s official report, and they had sat in open-air huts in the Phillipine jungles for years. When they were delivered to the Forrestal, they were in such bad condition that they scared the wits out of the ordnance guys.
And “Trial By Fire” contains footage from the Forrestal, the Oriskany and training exercises, but you can’t always tell which is which. Some fascinating stuff though. You should see the hours of uneditd film footage from the Forrestal.
– Greg, Atlanta (I know this stuff because I’ve spent three years working on a book about the incident, interviewing lots of survivors and going through Navy records. The book comes out next year.)