(WHTM) — Central Pennsylvania veteran Harold Sundy is alive today after an aircraft carrier he served on during the Vietnam War caught fire. Many of his shipmates did not make it back home, but he did.
Sundy is honoring them in a special way. His replica of the USS Forrestal is not quite seaworthy but he made it parade-worthy. Sundy built the model and served on the real thing.
“My job was mainly to work in a machine shop,” Sundy said.
Sundy says it was mundane work and mostly a boring routine. That was until July 29, 1967 – a date that for Sundy, will live in infamy.
“You just heard the explosions. You knew it was a problem,” Sundy said.
A rocket on board misfired, struck a fuel tank which ignited a massive fire. 134 sailors perished. A terrible day that for Sundy, took a terrific turn half a world away.
As Harold was battling flames, his wife Betty was birthing their daughter, also named Betty. Sundy did not learn he was a dad for weeks and it took months before his wife learned that he survived.
“I just cried. He was alive and not hurt,” Harold’s wife Betty Sundy said.
Betty’s Birthdays were celebrated… sort of.
“It’s bittersweet and a bittersweet day, really,” Harold’s daughter Betty Fuller said.
On July 29, 1967, Harold dodged death and celebrated birth. He made the ship to honor his fellow sailors who weren’t blessed.
“Especially Memorial Day. Pay a little tribute to them,” Sundy said.
The late US Senator John McCain was also on the USS Forrestal when it caught fire, just three months before he became a prisoner of war. Sundy plans to have the aircraft carrier model in upcoming parades and veteran events.