The Captain's Prayer...

AGCM Fred Baillie, USN, Ret.


At 1052 Hotel time on the 29th of July 1967, their fifth day on Yankee station, tragedy struck Forrestal as she prepared to launch an alpha strike against North Vietnam. Before it was over, 134 men would lose their lives and hundreds more would be burned and injured fighting the fires that irrupted and spread across two thirds of the flight deck. Zuni rockets from an F4 Phantom on the starboard side were accidently triggered and sprayed off into A4 Skyhawk attack aircraft that were poised port side aft, loaded and ready for launching. The old World War II black powder 1000 pound bombs strapped to the bellies of the A4s cooked off in the extreme heat from the fire and exploded...ripping large, gaping holes down through to the hangar deck. The fires would spread several decks below the hangar deck in places and the thousands of gallons of water and foam used to fight the fires created a dangerous, threatening list before the situation was brought under control. So many that day, owed so much to so few... That night our skipper offered the following prayer over the 1MC... and shortly after that, I gave the skipper a weather briefing on the route back to Subic in his at sea cabin. When I entered he was sitting on his bunk, in his skivvies, kinda bent over with his head in his hands. He was drained, totally exhausted...We talked some and it became a very emotional scene, but Captain Beling got us through it...he was one helluva skipper and I will never forget him, my shipmates or that day.

The Captains Prayer

Our heavenly father, we see this day as one minute and yet, a lifetime for all of us. We thank You for the courage of those who gave their lives in saving their shipmates today. We humbly ask You to grant them peace...and to their loved ones, the consolation and strength to bear their loss. Help us to renew the faith we have in You. We thank You for our own lives. May we remember You as you have remembered us today. From our hearts, we turn to You now, knowing that You have been at our side in every minute of this day. Heavenly Father, help us to rebuild and reman our ship, so that our brothers who died today, may not have made a fruitless sacrifice.

Offered by: John K. Beling, Captain, USN
USS Forrestal CVA-59, 29 July 1967
Yankee Station, Tonkin Gulf, South China Sea