Monday afternoon Sulphur Springs celebrated the return of Del Francis following his bicycle ride to Washington DC. Francis, 74, rode his bicycle over 1500 miles to the capital to raise awareness for the 74 seamen who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. His desire is to have their names placed on the National Vietnam War Memorial Wall.
June 3, 1969, 3 a.m. maneuvering around an Australian Aircraft Carrier, inexperienced sailors on the con went in front of the carrier resulting in the U S ship being cut in half. The front half of the American vessel, where Francis was, rolled over and sank in three minutes. Only 25-30 of those on the front half survived. The back half of the vessel curled around the carrier. An Australian sailor jumped down onto that section of the vessel and lashed it to the carrier with ropes keeping it afloat. Those sailors climbed a rope ladder to safety.
Those who did not survive are not listed on the D C Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial because at the time of the incident, the ships were 100 miles outside the official combat zone. Both ships had just left the gun-line having given gun support to troops fighting on the mainland. The day of the accident, the ship and crew had received credit for Vietnam service. Francis said these men deserve to be honored on the wall with their brothers. He said they answered the call and our country needs to honor them for their service.
Francis says there has been movement due to his effort. For the first time in 47 years the Department of Defense is reviewing the incident and placing the names on the wall. Francis also met with the memorial fund to discuss the logistics of getting the names on the wall. They told Francis that it is just a matter of time before the names are placed on the wall. The wall is running out of space but by using the initials for the first two names of each individual it is possible to get their names on the wall.