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USS Franklin D. Roosevelt Rotating Header Image

1969 Flight Deck Fire ~ Drake E. Nilsson

1969 – Fire On The Flight Deck

When I reported aboard I was instructed to be briefed by the XO of VF-41 Guy Cane, as I was introduced I thought to my self this fellow has the right name for a F4J Pilot,  I was sent to the Material Control Division for assignment.  I was a  Aviation Storekeeper Striker at the time E-3 airdale.  In those days the Squadrons were required to sent support help to the ship so being the new guy, I was sent to the Ships Mess decks.  that when the adventure began.  I was briefed and order to a dishwashers job by the Senior Master Chief, (forgot his name), after spending 3 months washing dishes and cleaning tables I was ordered back to the squadron.

Funny though, the squadron people were unfamiliar to me and it seemed strange to be associated with them.  SO I kept my friendship with my shipmates from the mess decks and the other ships company buddies I connected with.  when we would go on liberty it was always with my friend George from the boiler room, I also remember some of the card games that took place with the huge steam boilers chugging away only feet from me. I remained on the Roosevelt for another year,  while she made another MED cruse and several Gitmo shakedowns.  I was finally promoted to AK-3 and my interactions with ships supply and storekeepers became a daily occurrence.

Then it happened,  while walking a security watch on the forward port side, on a cold night a leaking tip tank erupted in flames with me under the aircraft.  the explosion blew me inward toward the cat track,  I was on fire and had passed out from the blaze when I came to (on ly seconds after the explosion) I realized what had happened.  smoldering from the flames I raced across the pitch black flight deck to the Island structure to flight deck control.  entering the office I yell that a jet had blown up on the port side forward of the JBD’s and sounded the alarm.  I didn’t wait for orders instead after screaming about the fire I turned and ran out the door back to fight the fire.  I don’t remember to much after that, I was told I assisted in the fire fight but I woke up the next day in sick bay.  I had suffered 2nd and third degree burns and was treated by the best corpsman in the service,  I was Visited by the ships captain and Cag and the now Skipper of VF 41,  They awarded me the NAVY Achievement Medal, with apologies that the purple heart was only awarded in a War Zone.  They said we saved the ship that night.  they say we avoided a major problem like that on the Forestall,.  I guess that night forever sealed my life with those who were ships company on the Roosevelt.  I have truly had my ups and downs in life but beside my family I have never been prouder of anything.

[ Drake E. Nilsson ]