LTJG William Gowan McWilliams, III
United States Navy
Circumstances of Death:
LTJG William Gowan McWilliams, III, 24, died as a result of asphyxiation during fire on board his carrier the morning of October 26, 1966.
The USS Oriskany was on "Yankee station" off the coast of North Vietnam when a fire broke out in a locker containing illumination flares and quickly enveloped five decks in the forward portion of the ship. Thirty-four of the men who died, including LTJG McWilliams, were pilots who had just returned from missions and were sleeping in quarters forward of the flare locker. They were suffocated in the dense smoke.
Crewmen valiantly fought the fire, performing feats of amazing courage, jettisoning heavy bombs which lay within reach of the flames. Other men wheeled planes out of danger, rescued pilots, and helped control the fire. Medical assistance was rushed to the carrier from the USS Constellation (CVA-64) and USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42). In the end, 44 sailors died and 156 were injured. After the fires aboard Oriskany, Forrestal and Enterprise (all occurred within a two year span), the Navy completely revamped its ordnance handling procedures. No accident of this magnitude has happened on an aircraft carrier since.
History of Service:
Jun 64 - Oct 65
Oct 65 - Nov 65
Nov 65 - Apr 66
Apr 66 - May 66
May 66 - Oct 66
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