By Max Hrenda
Jim Brogdon can still see the flames through memories of the Philippines, Singapore and Hawaii.
He calls it “Chaos.”
Serving aboard the USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Brogdon saw sights most never have the opportunity to see: His ship patrolled the waters of North Korea; he took several shore leaves to the Philippines, as well as Singapore, which he said was one of the most beautiful things he ever saw; and he spent many months in Hawaii.
But the sight that has stayed with Brogdon to this day, and in his nightmares, came shortly after his assignment to the Enterprise.
On Jan. 14, 1969, during a readiness inspection, a rocket accidentally launched into a plane on the aircraft deck. The resulting explosion started two massive fires: one at the point of impact, and one at the launch point.
“One of the ship’s company backed up to one of the F-4 (jets) to start the plane,” Brogdon said. “When he did, the heat from the huffer (an external engine) set off a Zuni rocket. It went across the flight deck, blew up another plane, and all hell broke loose.”
Brogdon and his squad, VA 146, a team of engineers, had been sent to their bunks after spending the night working.
“We had probably been in there about 30 minutes,” Brogdon said. “And then we heard the most awful commotion. It sounded like bombs going off.”
The resulting fires caused bombs and rockets to explode repeatedly. Brogdon still suffers from a hearing impairment brought on by those explosions.