Shaheen Leads Bipartisan Effort to Add Lost Navy Sailors to Vietnam Memorial, Requests Meeting with Defense Secretary

February 18, 2020

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, led a letter with Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Doug Jones (D-AL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Pat Toomey (R-PA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Steve Daines (R-MT) to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper requesting a meeting to discuss adding the names of the 74 sailors lost aboard the USS Frank E. Evans to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. The USS Frank E. Evans sank off the coast of Vietnam on June 3, 1969. Among the “Lost 74” were Granite Staters Ronald Arthur Thibodeau of Manchester and Gary Joseph Vigue of Dover. 

The Senators wrote, “As you may be aware, after serving multiple tours off the coast of Vietnam, the USS Frank E. Evans was ordered to participate in a nearby training exercise. During practice maneuvers on June 3, 1969, the ship collided with an aircraft carrier and sank, killing 74 sailors who were aboard the ship. Each of these service members made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our nation, yet their names are not located on the Vietnam Memorial wall. While the incident occurred approximately 100 miles outside of the official combat zone, the ship and a majority of the deceased sailors had previously provided naval gunfire off the coast of Vietnam, including during the Tet Offensive. The ship was also set to return to combat after the exercise, and the other ships in the Evans group returned to Vietnamese waters following the exercise.” 

The letter continues, “Last year marked 50 years since we lost these 74 sailors.  Honoring the sacrifice of these 74 sailors alongside the nearly 60,000 other service members who died in Vietnam is long overdue. We look forward to a meeting with you and working together to ensure their names are added and their sacrifice is rightfully commemorated.” 

Senator Shaheen cosponsored bipartisan legislation led by Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) to require the Department of Defense to add the names of the “Lost 74” to the Vietnam War Memorial and called on Senate and House Armed Services Committee leaders to include the bill in the National Defense Authorization Act for the current fiscal year. 

The letter can be read in full here.