SCHUMER URGES DEFENSE SECRETARY JIM MATTIS TO ADD THE FORGOTTEN FRANK E. EVANS 74 TO THE VIETNAM VETERAN MEMORIAL WALL; SAILORS DIED IN VIETNAM WAR IN SOUTH CHINA SEA IN 1969, BUT BECAUSE ACCIDENT OCCURRED OUTSIDE OF THE DESIGNATED COMBAT ZONE, THOSE WHO PERISHED ARE LEFT OFF MEMORIAL WALL
Terry Lee Henderson, Larry Reilly Jr., and 72 other American Sailors Tragically Died When The U.S.S. Frank E. Evans Collided With an Australian Aircraft Carrier in South China Sea in June 1969, But Because The Training Exercise Was Deemed “Not Directly Linked to War, Forgotten Frank E. Evans 74 Not Recognized on Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall
Schumer to Mattis: Adding the Names of These Heroes to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the Proper Acknowledgement For Their Sacrifice; Now is the Time To Engrave These 74 Vietnam Sailors Names on National Memorial
During a meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer urged Secretary Mattis to grant Terry Lee Henderson of Mayville, Larry Reilly Jr., and the names of 72 other sailors who died on the U.S.S. Frank E. Evans the honor and respect of being added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. Schumer explained the Department of Defense has delayed adding Frank E. Evans 74 to the wall, citing a rule which limits recognition on the memorial wall to sailors who died within a designated combat zone. Schumer has long fought to recognize the sailors on the wall and said that the sailors in fact died in a war-related exercise in the South China Sea. Schumer told Secretary Mattis that for these sailors, recognition on the Vietnam Wall is the proper acknowledgement of their service and sacrifice.
“I made it clear to Secretary Mattis that I will not give up this fight. Along with the families of these 74 sailors, I will keep fighting, tooth and nail, until those names are memorialized where they should be,” said Senator Schumer. “These men made the ultimate sacrifice for this country and we should remember and memorialize their dedication. I told Secretary Mattis that the bureaucratic rules which dictate who may or may not be recognized on the Vietnam Wall have let down the families of these brave sailors. The Reilly and Henderson families, and the families of the 72 other sailors, should be able to visit that wall and pay tribute to the brave young men who gave their lives. I hope he heeds my call and works with officials to add these names to the wall. ”
Schumer’s meeting with Mattis follows a letter sent to Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley to request his support for honoring the sailors. Schumer first launched this push in 2015 and secured the support of then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. In 2016, Schumer visited the Henderson and Reilly families at their homes to learn more about the effort and to announce he was introducing an amendment to a National Defense Authorization Act for the forgotten Frank E. Evans 74.
Schumer said, in his meeting with Secretary Mattis, those assigned to the U.S.S. 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. Schumer also noted the similarities between the Vietnam Service Medal and the criteria for inclusion on the Vietnam Wall, which is nearly identical. The Frank E. Evans crew was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal for their service during the accident.
On June 3, 1969, the U.S.S. 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 combat zone, the crew and sailors were deemed ineligible for inclusion on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Schumer said that these artificial lines should not be a barrier to recognition when it comes to service.
Schumer has long fought to recognize the sailors and crewmembers who died on the U.S.S. Frank E. Evans, including New York’s Henderson and Reilly. Schumer said that the DOD’s hesitance to honor the sailors on the wall is a denial of recognition for their bravery and sacrifice.