We should all remember the Forrestal fire

Fifty-two years ago, five men from Alpena were to experience one of the most shocking events of their lives. The USS Forrestal (CVA-59) was involved in the worst shipboard fire since World War II. One hundred thirty-four men died, and many more were injured. But, by the grace of God, the four men who were on board the Forrestal were not injured in any way.

There were onboard Forrestal, Glen Heck, Gary Suszek, and Jim Parks in a Squadron from Sanford, Fla. Also, Tom Seabrook was in the “A” division, which is an Engineering/Machinery division.

Also, stationed in The Philippines, was Lloyd Gilbertson. He was there on overseas shore duty, stationed at the Naval Air Station, Subic Bay. I sold my car to Lloyd just before I went on active duty, and never thought anything about it until I went to the Enlisted Club with some friends, sat at a table, looked up and there, to my amazement, was Lloyd Gilbertson. Before and after the fire, I spent most of my time with Lloyd and his wife and daughter. The “chance” that Lloyd was there has always amazed me, and I have to believe that it was “Divine Intervention.” A friend from home when he was very badly needed.

So, the article in the Alpena News that came out a few days after the fire was ALMOST correct. It correctly listed the four of us on board Forrestal, but missed the fact that, for me at least, was one of the most important players. The friend who allowed me to take a break from the aftermath of the fire until our ship was patched up enough to return home.

I don’t know where any of my “shipmates” are today, but I wish all of them “Fair winds and following seas”.


Lake City, Fla. (formerly of Alpena)


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)