NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- The U-S-S Forrestal fire, to this day, remains the Navy's biggest disaster in a combat zone since World War II.
On the 50th anniversary of that fateful day, former shipmates will gather at Arlington National Cemetery, to remember.
Alan Page, then a 26-year old lieutenant junior grade, was there.
"I went to the ready room and looked up, and it was just flames," he said. "And it was like. holy cow, what are we going to do?"
In all, 134 men were killed, 161 were injured. Page knows he was one of the lucky ones. He learned that death can be random, and he mourns his fallen shipmates.
"You just put them in the memory bank, and put them into, God is good, so you feel better now, it's all over," he said. "That's all i could do."
Unfortunately, a half-century later, the dead and injured have still not been awarded Purple Heart Medals, because, the criteria says the wounds must've been received as a direct result of a hostile enemy action.
The Forrestal fire, although taking place in a combat zone, during combat operations off Vietnam, was an accident.
"The sad part is the powers that be decided we want to forget this," he said. "So, no awards, no medals for anyone for bravery in the entire system. Nothing."
It is believed as many as 600 people could attend tomorrow's 50th anniversary ceremony. It's at 10 am, it begins at the Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater, and, moves to the USS Forrestal grave site in Section 46.
There will be a tolling of the bell, a reading of the names of the fallen shipmates, bagpipers and a wreath-laying.
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