Forgotten sailors of Vietnam remembered

THE sinking of the USS Frank E Evans 45 years ago this month remains one of the forgotten stories of the Vietnam War.

The HMAS Melbourne after it collided with the USS Frank E Evans.

The HMAS Melbourne after it collided with the USS Frank E Evans.

All that remained of the USS Frank E Evans after the collision.

All that remained of the USS Frank E Evans after the collision.

At approximately 3.15am on June 3, 1969, the American destroyer collided with the Australian light aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne while undertaking exercises in the South China Sea.

The Frank E Evans was sheared in half by the collision and the Melbourne suffered severe damage to its bow.

Seventy-four US Navy personnel aboard the Frank E Evans died in the accident.

Trevor Davis was a 17-year-old junior shipman aboard the HMAS Melbourne when the accident occurred.

Davis had only joined the Royal Australian Navy a few months earlier and the Melbourne was his first posting.

“I was halfway down the boat when the two ships collided,” he said.

“It absolutely scared the crap out of me as it did a lot of the other blokes on the ship at the time.”

The bow section of the Frank E Evans sank in under two minutes while the stern section remained afloat.

Mr Davis, who moved to Gloucester in 2000, travelled to California earlier this month to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the sinking of the destroyer with retired US Navy personnel.

Unlike other US Navy casualties during the Vietnam War, the names of the 74 crew killed in the collision are not inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Despite operating in Vietnamese waters immediately before deployment to the exercise with HMAS Melbourne and being scheduled to return to activities supporting the war effort, it was determined that as the operation was not directly linked with the US mission in Vietnam and took place outside the geographical limit for the conflict, the crew was ineligible for inclusion on the wall.

Several moves to have the names of the dead crew members inscribed on the wall have failed.

Mr Davis remained in the Royal Australian Navy for another seven years following the collision between the Evans and the Melbourne, though on different vessels.

He left the navy at the age of 24 and went into construction.

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