23 MAY 1969

While on station in the Gulf of Tonkin approximatel 100 miles north of Danang, Vietnam, the USS King suffered a catastrophic failure in the after fireroom. At 2152 on 23 MAY 1969, a fuel line ruptured on the front of number 2A boiler. The resulting explosion started a fire that claimed the lives of four King sailors and injured several more. The King remained on emergency diesel generator power until #1B boiler was lit of at 0644 the next morning. The King then slowly made her way back to Subic Bay for repairs arriving on Sunday, 27 MAY 1969. The King remained in Subic Bay until returning to service on 5 JUL 1969 when she returned to the Gulf of Tonkin.


Written by: Don Heili, BT3

Steaming across the Pacific and its waters so blue,

Heading for the Gulf of Tonkin in May of 1969 to give support to ground troops.

Working and sweating in the boiler rooms we worked as a close-knit crew,

Always below decks with no daylight to aid in assigned chores we did do.

A dungeon to many, but a place of friendship for others,

We all toiled and strained and became closer than brothers.

The tubes in the boilers in the front boiler room did rupture and split,

So the boilers in the aft room did steam this ship because no way could we quit.

Working 12 hours on and 6 hours off we all did do,

We did this constantly due to the shortage of crew.

We staffed the aft room with the BT's from both boiler rooms,

Using our talents of each we did share to get the tubes plugged and come topside for air.

Then after a short rest and a smoke or two it was off the aft room, which became the room of doom.

Late one day when struggling to keep both boilers at full steam,

A fuel line did rupture, an explosion so quick no time for a scream.

Four brothers of the boiler rooms did expire that day,

Four of the finest Boiler Tech's, they perished at sea.

The explosion so fierce they didn't know what was coming,

The fires so hot and fierce like angry drums a drumming.

Quickly the fires were doused when General Quarters was piped,

Our little city on the sea, USS King DLG 10, all crew came together to aid their brothers in strife.

The aftermath of pain lingered with many who knew,

That this day we now were short of four of our finest crew.

No way to steam forward this ship just bobbed in the waters.

Dead in the water, the King was in distress and drifting at sea.

Dead in the water seemed a cruel terminology to describe our situation,

Because four lives of our finest had been shortened in the seas of a far away location.

Repairs were hastily made to boiler #2 by many boiler tech’s and a machinist or two,

Then it was slowly off to Subic Bay, Phillipines for this fine ship, the U.S.S. King, with its innards so tore,

This coffin of four into to the piers of a foreign shore.

USS King (DLG-10) pulling alongside Alava Pier, Berths 7 & 8, U.S. Naval Base, Subic Bay, P.I., 27 MAY 1969.
After Fireroom Control Booth
View from main deck into aft fireroom, just outside of sick bay.
Upper level looking down to lower level in After Fireroom
After Fireroom
Lower level of After Fireroom between boilers 2A and 2B.
Upper level, After Fireroom.
Starboard side main deck the morning after the fire, 24 MAY 1969.
Looking from the bottom of the ladder outside the console booth to the main deck.
Looking out of the console booth into the main space.
Inlet valves to the burners, approximately 6" in diameter. The square at the top of the photo shows the melted thermometer.
Ruptured hose that was the cause of the explosion and subsequent fire.
Front of 2A boiler where the hose ruptured. Both boilers were lit and the lower steam drum ignited the high pressure oil.
Console booth before the fire
Console booth after the fire