One Man Fights for the Lost 74 Names Missing from the Vietnam War Memorial

By Faye Higbee

One Man Fights for the Lost 74 – Names Missing from the Vietnam War Memorial

Nearly every year since 2001, someone has tried to get a bill passed that would add 74 names to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. Every year, it gets tabled, shoved into a corner. But one man, Del  Francis, 74, is biking his way across the country to bring attention to the men who lost their lives aboard the USS Evans.

lost 74

The USS Frank E. Evans before the collision- US Navy photo

June 3, 1969 #Lost74

According to the Marine Corps Times, in the early morning of June 3, 1969 the Destroyer USS Frank E. Evans was escorting the HMAS Melbourne, an Australian “light” aircraft carrier, in the South China Sea during the Vietnam War. The task put them just outside the “combat zone.”

Suddenly a navigation error caused the aircraft carrier to rip the USS Evans in two. A join inquiry said that the Evans was mostly at fault, but the Melbourne also bore some responsibility.  Seventy-four  men were lost that day.

Del Francis remembers it vividly: he was asleep two decks below the Combat Information center on the ship when the collision occurred.

“Only a couple of us escaped from there. I lost all my good friends. No one escaped from the CIC.” Del Francis

Outside the Combat Zone

But the names of those who died were never placed on the Vietnam Wall because they were “outside the combat zone” that day. Francis is fighting for their names to be added.

The men of the Evans all received the Vietnam Service Medal. And the Evans expended thousands of rounds of ammo shooting at the enemy.Whether they were in the combat zone or not at the moment, they were definitely in the war.

Reluctance? 

According to the LA Times, the National Park Service claimed that “adding a large number of new names to the memorial wall would detract from the power and beauty of the simple black granite wall that evokes such a strong emotional response in visitors.”

Translation: they value the look over the intent of the memorial. They can’t be bothered.

Since 1982, 361 names have been added. Sixty-eight Marines who went down when their C-130 crashed in 1965 outside the combat zone were added. There is precedent for it.

In 2015, Rep Charles Schumer, D-NY, formally requested that SecNav Ray Mabus add the names to the  memorial. The Pentagon has stated they will review it, but thus far nothing has happened.

DELFRANCIS

Del Francis, bike to Washington D.C. to fight for recognition of 74 men who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. Photo via WBKO

Fighting Back

Del began his biking journey  in Sulphur Springs, Texas, and plans to keep going until he reaches D.C. He has a traveling entourage that follows him in an RV with  a banner that lists the names and faces of all 74 men who died that fateful day.

He thinks he’ll reach DC in late August, and at 74 years tough, that’s quite an accomplishment. Several people are scheduled to accompany him into DC. He rides for the #Lost74.

From Del’s website, Ride for Recognition

My name is Del Francis. I live in Texas but grew up in Colorado. I was in the United States Navy at the height of the Vietnam War. In 1969 I was on the USS Frank E. Evans when it sank in 1,100 fathoms of water off the coast of South Vietnam in a tragedy of being the only US warship to leave the United States for the Vietnam War and not return. We lost 74 men. This is the second largest single loss of life for the United States Navy during the Vietnam War. 

Today my country refuses to honor these men.

Today their names are still not on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. despite proof that the names do belong on that wall. Why? 

 Today my surviving shipmates and I, along with families and friends, are working hard to reverse that. But the issue is slow-moving. Few in Washington seem to care.

Francis is doing it to honor the “Lost74.”

 

 

 

 

Featured photo via “The District” tour guide.