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The 'Lost 74': Fargo vet who survived shipwreck wants victims honored as Vietnam War casualties

Richard Grant holds a jacket with an image of the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans on Thursday, April 19, 2018, in his north Fargo home. He was serving on the ship when it sank in a 1969 naval accident near Vietnam. He wants the 74 crew members who died in the accident added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO — Richard Grant was 22 years old when he and others aboard the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans watched 74 of their fellow crew members drown after a collision with another ship on June 3, 1969, in the South China Sea.

Known as the "Lost 74," the men died during the Vietnam War, but their names are not listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington.

Grant, one of the 199 survivors of the Evans collision, wants that rectified.

He's worried about the legacy of the "Lost 74" not being honored with the casualties of the Vietnam War. "Now it's time to contact our senators and get these guys on the wall," he said.

Grant, a retiree who lives in Fargo, wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in The Forum this month, seeking the help of Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in getting the 74 names on the wall.

The wall currently lists more than 58,000 men and women who lost their lives in the war.

"Nobody wants to see anymore Vietnam casualties, but after so much time has passed they should acknowledge it," he said. "It's time that the senators learn the history of what happened."

The Pentagon turned down a petition last year to list the 74 victims on the wall, maintaining that they do not qualify because the collision happened outside of the combat zone.

Nighttime disaster

The Evans, nicknamed the "Gray Ghost," had recently left the combat zone and was taking part in friendly maneuvers with the Australian and New Zealand navies when disaster struck in the middle of the night.

The Evans collided with the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne because an error was made in maneuvering. Grant said the collision sliced the Evans in half, and he was on the side with most of the survivors.

He said at the time he had no idea what had happened or why he and other crew members were in lockdown.

"We were locked in our quarters. All the lights were cut off, and we had no way out, which is the only reason our side of the ship floated," Grant said.

They were in lockdown for 22 minutes. Eventually their hatch was opened from the outside, and they climbed a rope ladder up to the aircraft carrier.

It wasn't until Grant and other crew members stood atop the aircraft carrier that they were able to look down and see what had just taken place.

The other half of the Evans went under within five minutes, taking crew members down with it.

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