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Jim, Ron and Ken, Part 1

Before we get to Jim, Ron and Ken, check out this book by Jerry Bridges. Interesting in light of recent study and sermons in Psalm 51.
Now, today’s blog.

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I love learning about the “sub-plots” in US history, particularly those related to the Civil War, World War 2 or the Vietnam War. For that reason I was drawn to a book entitled, Sailors to the End, by Gregory A. Freeman. In that book I learned of James Blaskis, Ronald Ogring, and Kenneth Fasth. Let me briefly tell you the first part of their story in today’s blog. The date was July 29, 1967. The location was the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam. The USS Forrestal was the world’s first “super carrier”, the largest and most powerful warship at that time. It was tasked to a location in the Gulf of Tonkin called Yankee Station, approximately 75 east of the Vietnamese coast. The Forrestal’s role was to be a platform for launching air strikes against various targets in North Vietnam. James Blaskis, Ronald Ogring, and Kenneth Fasth were at their duty post in the port aft steering compartment, a small room located at the very rear of the ship, on the left side and several decks down from the flight deck. Up on the flight deck preparations were underway for an air strike scheduled to begin at . Planes loaded with rockets, missiles and bombs packed the rear portion of the mighty carrier. At , a rocket was accidentally (electrical surge) fired from a plane. The rocket shot across the flight deck and pierced an external fuel tank on the A-4 Skyhawk piloted by Lt. Comdr. John McCain. The resulting explosion set off a chain reaction of explosions and burning jet fuel. The explosions of 1,000 lb bombs opened gaping holes in the flight deck and were so powerful that they tore through several decks into the port aft steering compartment where the three men were working. As a result of the explosions all three men suffered grave injuries including missing limbs. In spite of their injuries, all three remained conscious and did their best to avoid the burning jet fuel that poured like a burning waterfall into the compartment. As the conditions in the steering compartment became worse, Blaskis called to damage control to ask for a rescue party. He was kept in communication for the next few hours by a number of sailors in damage control. Every single person that talked to Blaskis that day was left with one overriding impression – that in spite of his own severe injuries, Blaskis was concerned only for the welfare of his shipmates.
As the flames increased, it became obvious that the men were trapped and rescue was impossible, the chief engineer of the carrier, an officer named Rowland, got on the phone and told Blaskis the stark truth; the three men were on their own. Baskis responded with three words, “Sir, we’re dying.” Rowland tried to encourage the men as much as he could, yet he knew that James Blaskis, Ronald Ogring and Kenneth Fasth would die in the compartment. He told Blaskis that there was nothing he could do. Blaskis answered quietly and simply, “Yes sir”.
But then Rowland realized that there was something the dying men could do for the carrier. Because the port aft steering compartment in which the men were dying was so badly damaged, steering control had to me transferred to the starboard aft steering. If this didn’t happen soon, total control of steering would be lost and the carrier would flounder and most likely be totally lost. If the steering control could be transferred, the ship could be saved along with thousands of sailors. The order had to be given before the men died.
So, Rowland gave the order to the dying men, “transfer steering”…

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