||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