Honoring “The Lost 74”

How many times in your life have you been “in harm’s way”? 

For me, it has only been two, maybe three, times. This is because, like our friend Dick Sullivan (in his most recent story), I did not serve in the military.

Women and men who serve in the military are in harm’s way 24/7. That should make us respect and love them all the more. Here is just one example of my point:

  I learned a friend had been in the Navy. Like most, he did not talk about his service in Vietnam, but he did send me a link to a story about the USS Frank E. Evans

It was 3:00 in the morning on June 3, 1969. The Evans, a destroyer measuring 375 feet in length with a crew of 273, was sailing in total darkness with other Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) ships in the South China Sea. They formed what some might call an armada around HMAS Melbourne. The Melbourne was an Australian aircraft carrier, considerably larger than the Evans.

Tragically, a series of human errors led to catastrophe. Suffice it to say a course change was misunderstood. The Evans turned in front of the Melbourne and was cut in two. The forward (bow) half of the Evans sank in minutes.

Seventy-four wonderful sailors were lost, shattering the lives of their families and friends, including their surviving shipmates. My friend was asleep in the stern portion of the Evans. The crew of the Melbourne attached mooring lines and it remained afloat.

Because the incident occurred outside the combat zone, the names of The Lost 74 are not listed on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington. There are many memorials around the country, including in the hometowns of the deceased. Three brothers, Greg, Gary and Kelly Jo Sage will forever be mourned in Niobrara, Nebraska.

 Locally, these wonderful sailors are now remembered at the Veterans Memorial on the Mishawaka campus of the Center for Hospice Care, where a plaque is dedicated to The Lost 74. Several survivors of the Evans disaster attended the dedication ceremony, both to remember their fallen shipmates and to receive the heartfelt thanks of all of us.