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Families Hold Out Hope That 74 US Sailors Killed at Sea Are Honored on Vietnam Veterans Wall

Congressional efforts to include the names of the 74 sailors on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall have failed in the past

Monday will mark the 50th anniversary of one of the deadliest days in the Vietnam War, when 74 sailors were killed when their ship went down in the South China Sea.

But none of those who gave their lives on that ship have their names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall.

Now, there's a renewed effort to include them at the memorial.

The USS Frank E Evans was providing artillery support off the coast of Vietnam in the spring of 1969. In the early morning hours of June 3, the Evans was participating in training exercises outside the combat zone when an Australian aircraft carrier unintentionally collided with the U.S. vessel, slicing it in half.

Ensign Alan Armstrong, along with his 73 crew mates, were lost to the depths of the South China Sea. Their bodies were never recovered.

Armstrong's sister, Ann Armstrong-Dailey, recalls the last time she spoke with her brother as he was deploying to the combat zone.

"He called me from there, and we told each other we loved each other, and I'm really glad that we had that chance," she said.


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Years after his death, when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall was being designed, the families of the lost 74 looked forward to being able to honor their loved ones.

"We just thought, oh, how wonderful. At last we can finally put him to rest," Armstrong-Dailey said.

Then the Department of Defense told them the names of the 74 sailors killed that day would not be included on the wall because the Evans went down outside the combat zone.

"To be honest, it was like losing him all over again," Armstrong-Dailey said.

The Department of Defense has reviewed several requests to add the names of the fallen sailors to the wall, including personal reviews by then defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, all of which concluded that the fallen crew of the Evans did not meet the established criteria.

Every day from her balcony in D.C., Armstrong-Dailey looks at the monuments to our country's heroes and thinks about her brother and his crew mates.

"These boys answered the call of their nation," she said. "They gave the ultimate sacrifice for their nation and they deserve to be honored."

Legislation is pending in the Senate that would pave the way for the lost 74 to have their names added to the wall. However, congressional efforts have failed in the past.

"I visit it with hope and trust that sometime soon we will have his name along with his shipmates on the wall," Armstrong-Dailey said. "That we can touch and we can visit and we can celebrate."

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