In June 1967 the aircraft carrier USS James V. Forrestal sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, for the waters off Vietnam. There, after just five days of combat duty, a fire broke out on the flight deck, claiming the lives of 134 crewmen. Life, then the most popular magazine in America, reported that “in five minutes everyone became a man.” What life couldn’t predict was that after 20 years, one of the dead would become a legendary ghost.
|Sailors To The End – Deadly Fire On The USS Forrestal And The Heroes Who Fought It|
They called him “George,” and the stories about his haunting of the ship are endless. A chief petty officer reportedly went insane after seeing a hand – blackened and charred – materialize from the bulkhead. One fireman, after tossing his tools haphazardly onto the deck plate above him, later found them neatly lined up on the deck with no one around to thank. And a crook refused to go down to the freezer where ice-cream was stored because flickering lights and a tap on the shoulder had driven him away. Many of those killed in the fire had been stored in that same freezer.
Skeptics attribute the reports to simple accidents and mere hysteria, but Steven Peretti is not convinced. A boiler technician third class, Peretti’s one and only encounter with George was in 1990. He was in the ship’s machine room when he heard a dripping sound in the corner. As he walked over to investigate, he saw the fire hose rise off the rack. A fireman working on the bilge saw it too. Then the hand dryer over the sink suddenly turned on, and the two men ran upstairs and immediately reported the incident. “Chalk it up to George,” they were told.
The aircraft carrier was decommissioned in 1993, and one of the American navy’s most famous ghosts was finally laid to rest.