SCHUMER ELEVATES TO SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CARTER THE USS FRANK E. EVANS VICTIMS’ APPEAL; WOULD ETCH NAME OF SON OF SYRACUSE MAN ON VIETNAM MEMORIAL WALL – LARRY REILLY JR. DIED IN VIETNAM WAR TRAINING EXERCISE IN SOUTH CHINA SEA IN 1969, BUT BECAUSE ACCIDENT WAS RULED OUTSIDE COMBAT ZONE, HE & 73 OTHER SERVICEMEN WHO PERISHED WERE LEFT OFF NATIONAL MEMORIAL WALL
Larry Reilly Jr. & 73 Other American Veterans Tragically Died When USS Frank E. Evans Collided With an Australian Aircraft Carrier in South China Sea in June 1969, But Because The Training Exercise Was Unjustly Deemed “Not Directly Linked to War,” These 74 Names Were Not Recognized on Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Schumer Says These 74 Americans, Including Reilly, Bravely Served Their Country Inside & Outside The Combat Zone; Adding the Names of These Heroes to the Vietnam Memorial is the Proper Acknowledgement For Their Courage & Service and Sacrifice – In June 2015, Schumer Urged The Secretary of the Navy To Honor These Heroes; Now Schumer Elevates Call to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter
Schumer to DOD: Larry Reilly Jr. & 73 Other Vietnam Vets Paid the Ultimate Sacrifice for America & Deserve to be Honored on the Vietnam Memorial Wall
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to have the names of 74 Americans enshrined on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. Schumer first launched his effort in June 2015 when he called on Secretary Mabus of the U.S. Navy to give the deceased crewmembers of the USS Frank E. Evans the proper recognition for their brave and noble service. Today, Schumer elevated his call to Secretary Carter, citing that the top Department of Defense (DOD) official would be the one to make the final decision. Schumer explained that these Americans bravely served their country during the Vietnam War and died tragically in a war-related training exercise in the South China Sea. Among those who perished was Larry Reilly Jr., whose father, Larry Reilly Sr. is a Syracuse-area resident.. Schumer says they have been fighting for years to have the names of Larry and his fellow sailors engraved alongside the other Veterans who served valiantly and perished during the Vietnam War.
“For more than four decades, surviving crewmembers and relatives of those lost on the USS Frank E. Evans have struggled to understand why geographical lines have superseded these sailors' sacrifice and service. By withholding the names of these 74 veterans, including Larry Reilly Jr., from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, we are denying individuals who bravely served this country and paid the ultimate sacrifice the proper recognition they deserve. These sailors served their country well, so I am elevating this push by urging Secretary Carter directly to have these crewmembers’ names enshrined on the national memorial to give these veterans the honor they deserve. With Memorial Day just a few months away, we should be able to look at 74 additional names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in our nation’s capital,” said Schumer.
On June 3, 1969, the USS Frank E. Evans collided with an Australian aircraft carrier during a joint naval exercise in the South China Sea. Seventy-four American sailors were killed in the accident. However, because the tragedy took place outside of the official Vietnamese combat zone, the crew was deemed ineligible for inclusion on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Schumer said that these geographical lines should not be a barrier to recognition when it comes to service. Schumer said those aboard the USS Frank E. Evans were essential to the American military efforts in Vietnam, and their presence in the South China Sea was directly linked to the war. Therefore, Schumer is pushing to have the names of these crewmembers, including Reilly, properly enshrined on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to honor their memory, bravery, and sacrifice.
Schumer said he is supporting the ongoing efforts of Syracuse resident Larry Reilly Sr. to have his son’s name – Larry Reilly Jr. – included in the national memorial. Schumer said Reilly Sr. is a survivor of the USS Frank E. Evans collision. His son, along with 73 other crewmembers, tragically lost their lives while helping to advance American military efforts in Vietnam. Schumer said their combat-related service deserves acknowledgment upon the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. In June 2014, he urged Navy Secretary Mabus to give full consideration to this request, which was met with a favorable reply.
Schumer said there were four crewmembers on the ship who were born in NY and lost in the accident in 1969. Schumer said these men are included in the list of 74 sailors he is pushing to have engraved in the Vietnam Memorial Wall. They include: James Franklin Bradly, born in New York, NY; Terry Lee Henderson, born in Buffalo, NY; Dennis Ralph Johnson, born in Tarrytown, NY; and John Townsend Norton, born in Brooklyn, NY.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the Department of Defense appears below:
Dear Secretary Carter,
I write to request that the names of the 74 Sailors lost aboard the USS Frank E. Evans on June 3, 1969, be added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Those aboard were essential to the American military efforts in Vietnam, and I strongly agree with the Department of the Navy that their presence in the South China Sea was directly linked to the war. By withholding their names from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, we are denying the deceased crewmembers of the USS Frank E. Evans the proper recognition for their brave and noble service.
Just a few days after providing main and support fire for ground troops on the gun line in Vietnamese waters, the USS Frank E. Evans was cut in half after it collided with an Australian aircraft carrier during a joint naval exercise in the China South Sea. Seventy- four American sailors – all of whom were likely to return to conflict after the exercise – were killed. However, as this tragedy took place outside of the official Vietnamese combat zone, this valiant crew was ineligible for inclusion on the Vietnam Veteran Memorial.
As a staunch supporter of this case, I submitted a letter to Secretary Mabus in early 2015, requesting a review of the Evans memorial decision. In a letter dated June 10, 2015, the Department of the Navy declared its support of the recommendation to add the 74 Sailors who were lost aboard the USS Frank E. Evans to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Navy acknowledged that the Evans was outside of the combat zone and participating in a training exercise, and also recognized this tragedy could be an exception to the established criteria, a conclusion that I fully concur with.
Since 1969, surviving crewmembers and relatives of the lost have struggled to understand why geographical lines supersede recognition of service. On two other notable occasions, exceptions have been made for Vietnam Veterans who were neither directly involved in combat, nor in close proximity of enemy lines. These exceptions resulted in those specified veterans’ names being inscribed on the Memorial Wall. The combat-related service of these 74 lost Sailors deserves acknowledgement on that same Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I urge you to give full consideration to this request.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator