Sen. Cramer, Colleagues Urge Inclusion of "USS Frank E. Evans Act" in NDAA


U.S. Senator and Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) member Kevin Cramer (R-ND) wrote a letter to SASC and HASC leaders urging them to include the “USS Frank E. Evans Act” in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). He was joined by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Hoeven (R-ND), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Jon Tester (D-MT).

Last year, then-Representative Cramer introduced the “USS Frank E. Evans Act” as an amendment to the NDAA. It passed in the House but failed to be added in the Senate or during Conference. Senators Cramer and Gillibrand then reintroduced this legislation in the Senate in March of this year. The bill received its first hearing in June from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, chaired by Senator Daines. There, Senator Cramer introduced the bill and characterized the Lost 74’s exclusion as a disservice.

“Washington’s bureaucracy should not stop us from honoring these veterans,” the Senator said.

The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Chairman Inhofe, Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Reed and Ranking Member Thornberry:

As you begin conference discussions on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for (FY) Fiscal Year 2020, we respectfully ask that you include section 1094 of H.R. 2500. This section is identical to S. 849, the U.S.S. Frank E. Evans Act. This bipartisan bill would add the names of 74 sailors (the “Lost 74”) to the Vietnam Memorial wall who were killed off the coast of Vietnam in a training accident, but they were outside the conflict zone. While hundreds of names have been added since it was built, the memorial still does not include the “Lost 74″. 

After serving multiple tours off the coast of Vietnam, the USS Frank E. Evans was sent to participate in a nearby training exercise. During practice maneuvers on June 3, 1969, the ship collided with an aircraft carrier and sank, killing 74 sailors who were aboard the ship. Each of these service members were deployed and died in the service of our nation, yet their names have been left off the Vietnam Memorial wall. While the incident occurred about 100 miles outside of the official combat zone, the ship and a majority of the deceased sailors had previously provided naval gunfire off the coast of Vietnam, including during the Tet Offensive. The ship was also set to return to combat after the exercise, and the other ships in the Evans group returned to Vietnamese waters following the exercise.

The U.S.S. Frank E. Evans Act has broad bipartisan support. It has 15 cosponsors spanning the political spectrum, reflecting the nonpartisan consensus that it is time to get this done.  On June 19, 2019, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks held a legislative hearing on a series of bills, including S. 849. For two years in a row, the House has unanimously passed this provision within the FY19 and FY20 NDAA. 

This year marks the 50 years since we lost these 74 sailors. Honoring their service is already long overdue, but what better way to commemorate their sacrifice than to see their names added. Now is the time. Just like the nearly 60,000 people who died in Vietnam, these 74 heroes left home to give their country their all, and they did not return. We respectfully request that Section 1094 remain in the final conference text so the “Lost 74” are lost no more.