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Sailors to the End: The Deadly Fire on the USS Forrestal and the Heroes Who Fought It

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  289 ratings  ·  38 reviews
In the tradition of New York Times bestsellers In Harm's Way and The Terrible Hours comes a mesmerizing, high-adrenaline account of the heroic sailors who survived one of the worst accidents in U.S. naval history.

Sailors to the End tells the dramatic and until now forgotten story of the 1967 fire on board the USS Forrestal during its time at Yankee Station off the coast of
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 9th 2002 by William Morrow
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Average rating 4.36  · 
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 ·  289 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Jun 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
The story of John McCain and the tragic fire on board the Forrestal. The author provides lots of interesting detail on the hazards of working on a carrier. Falling overboard was one of the most feared and could happen easily. One had to be always on the alert and totally aware of the surroundings. Fatigue and heat made this difficult. Sailors working in unbearably hot conditions for 12 hours at a stretch could be blown overboard by an errant jet blast, or run down by a tractor that got away when ...more
Mar 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Having spent the better part of a 23 year Navy career, mostly working flight deck operations. We often used the incident scenario from the USS Forrestal to stage our own drills. I found the book to be true to events prior to and after the unfortunate incident that day. I could have plugged my own experiences into portions of that book. I had trouble putting the book down until completion.
I think everyone should read this book and gain true respect for the brave men and the events they endured th
Jun 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Very readable telling of fire aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal during the Vietnam War. The book describes the Forrestal, background of some of her crew; how the fire started: from a WWII-era bomb the ship was carrying; the selflessness of the crew in extinguishing the spreading fire and the severe injuries many of the men sustained. Afterwards followed an investigation into the whole affair, with lessons learned. Many of the tiny details escaped me, but I did get the gist of the whole d ...more
I spent ten years in the US Navy, and at least one month of that time was spent learning firefighting and damage control (not consecutively). The Navy takes firefighting very seriously, because as they pointed out, when you're out in the middle of the ocean, you can't just leave the office if it catches on fire. Therefore, everyone learns how to put out a fire and spends some time face to face with a growling, angry fire. It's more terrifying than you think.

The men of the USS Forrestal were off
Joshua Alvarez
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"They were sailors to the end. They never begged for mercy. They never whined. They never whimpered." (Pg.184)

On July 29, 1967 a faulty rocket-arming system allowed for a rocket to fire across the flight deck of the USS Forrestal and start a sequence of events that took the lives of 134 Sailors and impacted countless more for years to come.

While the faulty rocket-arming system carries the official label of culprit of the fire, the lions share of blame has to be placed on the Department of the Na
Gerald Maclennon
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
On that July day in 1967, nobody but God knew that by sunset 134 sailors and navy aviators would be dead with just as many injured, some terribly burnt. Our carrier, USS Oriskany CVA-34, steamed over to aid and assist the Forrestal during the emergency. Supplies and sailors were transported between the two ship via Sikorsky choppers. I volunteered to assist during the terrible overload down in sickbay. I did everything from mopping up puke to extracting bomb shrapnel from the bleeding bodies of ...more
Rick Wahler
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating and true analysis of one of the greatest tragedies in US NAVY history

Having served on an aircraft carrier and working with ordnance on the flight deck I have a unique understanding of what happened on the USS Oriskany and Forrestal. In fact my training included lessons from both incidents.

I'm angered that a proximate cause of the severe loss of lives on Forrestal tracks back to Washington, DC in the White House and the Pentagon where politics and bureaucracy provided highly danger
Curtis Edmonds
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a terrible book - terrible In the best sense, in that it tells a story that is full of terror and hardship and pain. Due to a chain of errors rooted in military stupidity, and worsened by plain bad luck, a rocket aboard a Navy fighter plane on the flight deck of USS FORRESTAL hit another plane, and a further chain reaction set the ship ablaze. Freeman is meticulous in explaining the roots of the disaster, but he is just as meticulous in detailing the heroism of the crew, from the captain ...more
Bernie Stewart
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sailors To The End: The Deadly Fire On The USS Forrestal
I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s a gripping and disturbing account of the 1967 accident that took the lives of 134 men and seriously injured greater than a hundred more. Terrific read.
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely riveting!

An incredible story about human beings working at their maximum limits, under unbelievable circumstances, overcoming some incredible challenges brought about by some very unique circumstances.
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was such a good historical book. I had never heard of the Forrestal before and this really brought the story to life. What these men went through is unbelievable. Thank you for your service gentleman.
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredible story of loss and survival. Well written and well balanced, it dispels a few of the myths surrounding this tragedy.
Robert Cook
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fire on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin - caused John McCain screwing off and killing a bunch of sailors.
Mike Burke
Oct 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Best and most informative book on the events that led up to the fire on the flight deck.
Jan 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of my best friends from growing up went to the Navy after high school while I went to the Army. After Desert Storm we ended up back home at the same time and I remember him telling me about his flight deck job in the arresting crew. The area of the carrier where this book takes place. So, when I came across this book I knew I had to read it if to just a greater sense of what life was like on a carrier. The whole time I was reading it I could help but think of him. I also thought back to my o ...more
Diana Long
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A descriptive and detailed account of the July 29, 1967 disaster of the carrier USS "Forrestal" as told to the author by those sailors who survived the fire and additional documents to support his findings of this tragic event. Freeman wrote an outstanding chronology of events as they transpired pre-fire, fire and aftermath. The very vivid scenes as they are accounted are heart wrenching to say the least. Sailors who sacrificed their own safety to save others, every boy that day became a man and ...more
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, military
I first got this book when I did a paper on the USS Forrestal. Not only did it provide a great deal of information for the paper, but it pointed me in the direction of the survivors who had been willing to work with Mr. Freeman. Based on the information I got from my own direct interviews, I can say that Sailors to the End is well-written and accurate, painting a good picture of the events surrounding the fire and the overall situation before and after the fire within the Navy as a whole.

This is
Jeannie Walker
May 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An excellent read!
The USS Forrestal was stationed in the Tonkin Gulf to deliver napalm, high explosives and other dangerous payloads. Learning about the tragic fire from chain reaction explosions aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal and the loss of so many lives was heartbreaking. It is true the US Navy can take teenagers and turn them into a fine team who will risk their lives to fight a horrendous fire that threatens to sink one of America’s most powerful aircraft carrier. The sufferings
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This wavered between 3.5 and 4 stars. I had never even heard of this incident, but wow. I'm sure things happen in the military so often that as time passes we never hear about. This was quite an interesting, and sad, story about an aircraft carrier on board that caught fire due to rocket accidentally firing off a plane. I liked the books details of the pre-rocket and people getting into the navy, as well as the aftermath of the rocket and crew. It was especially touching about the three navy cre ...more
Fredrick Danysh
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
In July 1967 the USS Forrestal is conducting flight operations off the coast of Vietnam when an ordnance mishap explodes causing a chain reaction of explosions and fire that claims 134 lives. Here is a close look at aircraft carrier operations and the valor of men fighting to save their ship. An excellent historical work. The only thing that could be improved would be to give the ranks of the men listed as killed as a result of the mishap.
Michael Plas
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fires
This is a fitting tribute to the men who suffered and died upon the USS Forrestal. Mr. Freeman manages to introduce the reader to the minutiae of carrier combat, as well as to the various characters, without boring the knowledgeable reader. He makes the episode an engrossing story, worthy of cinema. As he concludes the book, he tries to assign blame fairly and does not have an animus towards the Navy or an individuals.
Dec 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
An excellent historical account of the devastating fire onboard USS FORRESTAL during the Vietnam war. This fire had major implications for our Navy and damage control procedures. A very personal account as the author interviewed numerous former crew members and detailed the experience from their perspective.
Aug 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended by nephew Eric - research of the fire on the USS Forestal caused by WW II bombs delivered to the ship the night before the fire - captain under orders to continue "mission" Rumsfeld ordered to keep up bombing missions in North Vietnam at all cost. ...more
May 04, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: navy
An easy read, but hampered by the author's abject ignorance on naval matters. The book is a somewhat tepid oral history of both the infamous fire and military service during the Vietnam era, but fails utterly at any meaningful analysis of the incident. ...more
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I really love the way this book was written, using facts and interviews, without the author taking artistic license. The first half of the book starts a little slow, but you'll need the information to keep up with the second half. WARNING, this book can make a grown man cry. ...more
Erin Miller
Gregory Freeman shows once again why he's the best at this style of writing. He tells an incredible story of tragedy and heroism. It's not one that should be ignored and, after reading it, I doubt I'll forget it anytime soon. Great book. ...more
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military-history
Outstanding account of the tragedy on the USS Forrestal, lots of detail an analysis of the factors contributing to the accident. There are 16 pages of photographs, some taken of sailors before the incident and some taken during and afterwards.
Oct 09, 2007 rated it liked it
I get on these nautical kicks sometimes. This one is about the famous fire aboard the USS FORRESTAL during the Vietnam War. Amazing how a little mistake can turn into a disaster.
Tom Tebo
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
All men are heroes, but beware of the chance to become one, it comes at a high price,
Mar 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war-military
This is the kind of thing they don't make movies about. This book is dirty and sad while portraying the heroism of sailors fighting something you can't put a face on. ...more
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