It was, in fact, a fire that had broken out on July 29, 1967, on the flight deck of the USS Forrestal, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) off the coast of North Vietnam.
The fire started when an armed rocket accidentally launched from a F-4 Phantom fighter, hitting another jet waiting to take off. Fuel began leaking from the damaged plane’s fuel tank, which erupted in flames at 10:52 a.m.
Although the fire on the flight deck was extinguished by 12:15 p.m., fires continued to burn throughout the ship until the following day. By then, 134 of the Forrestal’s 5,000 crew members had died, and 161 were injured, 64 of them severely.