The Pentagon elected in early May not to add the names of sailors killed in a 1969 accident to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The families of the 74 sailors killed during a collision in 1969 have petitioned the Pentagon to add the names on the memorial wall, but officials ruled that the ship collision occurred too far outside the Vietnam combat zone, the Associated Press reports.
The USS Frank E. Evans collided with the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne during a training exercise at night. The bow section of the ship sank, killing 74 sailors, now known as the “Lost 74.”
“I’m not happy with the whole thing,” retired Navy Master Chief Lawrence Reilly Sr. and survivor of the collision, told the AP. “It’s a bad deal.”
Relatives of the sailors made the argument that the ship had backed operations in Vietnam several weeks prior to the incident, and that the ship almost certainly would have been sent back to the region following the exercise in the South China Sea. Moreover, the USS Frank E. Evans Association noted that the Pentagon allowed exceptions to the combat zone requirement in other cases, such as the inclusion of Marines who were killed in the flight back to Vietnam from Hong Kong.
These arguments did not persuade Pentagon officials, but they offered to build a separate plaque near the memorial wall. Only half of the $130 million needed to build the education center, where the plaque would be placed, has been raised.
Some have accepted the compromise, while others have balked at the idea.
“They’re throwing us a bone,” Steve Kraus, a survivor and vice president of the USS Frank E. Evans Association, told the AP. “They’re thinking, ‘OK, maybe this will all go away now.’”
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