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NH senators call on Defense Secretary to honor ‘Lost 74’ on Vietnam wall

Vietnam Wall Memorial (Ken Lund/Flickr)

New Hampshire’s two U.S. senators have signed on to a bipartisan letter urging Defense Secretary Mark Esper to add the names of the 74 American sailors who died aboard the USS Frank E. Evans in 1969 to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, and Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, are leading a dozen lawmakers who requested a meeting with Esper to discuss the matter.

Noting that last year marked the 50th anniversary of the loss of the sailors during a training exercise off the coast of Vietnam, the senators said honoring their sacrifice “is long overdue.”

During international maneuvers on June 3, 1969, the Evans collided with a much larger Australian aircraft carrier and the smaller ship was cut in half.

Seventy-four sailors died, including two young men from New Hampshire: Ronald Arthur Thibodeau of Manchester and Gary Joseph Vigue of Farmington. Both were married and had young sons.

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The military did not include the “Lost 74” sailors’ names on the Vietnam wall in Washington, D.C., because the accident happened outside the designated combat zone.

In their letter to Esper, Shaheen and her fellow senators, including Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, noted that the Evans had been providing naval gunfire off the coast of Vietnam before the training exercise, including during the Tet Offensive.

And the ship’s crew had been set to return to combat after the exercise concluded, they told Esper.

“We look forward to a meeting with you and working together to ensure their names are added and their sacrifice is rightfully commemorated,” the letter concluded.

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© 2020 The New Hampshire Union Leader