ABOARD USS NIMITZ, At Sea (NNS) -- During the final phase of USS Nimitz’s (CVN 68) work up schedule off the coast of Florida in 1981, an EA-6B Prowler crashed as it was landing on the flight deck, killing 14 crew men and injuring 45 others.
The fire was extinguished in 70 minutes, exemplifying the high caliber of training and courage of Nimitz’s firefighting teams. Nimitz returned to Norfolk for repairs, and then returned to sea two days later.
To commemorate Memorial Day and this tragic event, Nimitz’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Robert. J. Gilman and Nimitz’s Command Chaplain, Cmdr. Kyle Fauntleroy, spoke to Nimitz and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 crew over the ship’s announcing system (1MC) on May 26, 22 years later.
“In our neighborhoods back home, the Stars and Stripes are flying over children playing ball and families barbecuing in their backyards,” said Gilman, “and people young and old are breathing the fresh air of freedom, because of thousands of Americans from every generation believed in the principles of the Constitution enough to expend their last ounce of energy, their very last breath fighting for the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“Among those we will remember this day are our shipmates and our squadron mates who last walked the Earth aboard this very ship, USS Nimitz,” said Gilman.
Fauntleroy announced the names of 11 deceased Sailors, and as each name was read, it was followed by a bell ring. Fauntleroy led Nimitz and CVW-11 in a Memorial Day prayer.
The heroic firefighting effort, during the flight deck crash, resulted in one distinguished service medal, 11 meritorious service medals and numerous other awards.
Nimitz is currently conducting operations in the Arabian Gulf.
For related news, visit the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn68.