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Ernst Honors USS Forrestal Crew on 50th Anniversary of Tragic Fire

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, led 25 of her Senate colleagues in introducing a Senate Resolution to honor Sailors and Marines who sacrificed their lives for ship and shipmates while serving onboard USS Forrestal 50 years ago this week, and to commemorate the efforts of those who survived, including now-Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

On July 29, 1967, an inadvertent rocket sparked a devastating fire aboard USS Forrestal as she supported combat operations off the coast of Vietnam. The fire created a chain reaction, igniting nine bomb explosions across the flight deck. For 18 hours, the Sailors and Marines onboard, including some of Iowa’s own, fought to extinguish the fire.

Despite their valiant efforts, the fire claimed the lives of 134 men and severely injured 161 others. Among the survivors was Senator McCain, who narrowly escaped the initial explosion. Ultimately, the loss of 21 aircraft and irrevocable damage to the ship forced the USS Forrestal to terminate its mission and return to Norfolk, Virginia for repairs.

“The selfless sacrifices of the 134 crewmembers lost aboard USS Forrestal, and the families they left behind have not, and will never be forgotten,” said Senator Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a combat veteran. “With sincerest gratitude, we also recognize the courage and dedication of those Sailors and Marines who survived; Iowans were among them and so was my good friend Senator John McCain. Without their heroic efforts, the loss would have been even greater. Such a somber anniversary serves as a reminder of the daily risk assumed by our men and women in uniform and their commitment to serving our nation, no matter the cost.”

Senator Ernst introduced this legislation with the support of Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), James Inhofe (R-OK), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Tim Kaine (D-VA), David Perdue (R-GA), Angus King (I-ME), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Luther Strange (R-AL).

To read the full text the resolution, click here.