Apr. 26, 1947
Allen County
Ohio, USA

Jun. 7, 1971
South China Sea

LOST AT SEA, Body never recovered.

His name is Larry Allan Gracely, born April 26, 1947, to Robert and Virgina M. Gracely. His name belongs on the wall!

He and 73 of his shipmates, who on a clear night in the early morning hours of June 3, 1969, lost their lives when the destroyer they were serving on, the USS Frank E. Evans, was split in half in a collision with the Australian aircraft carrier, HMAS (Her Majesty’s Australian Ship) Melbourne, during operations in the South China Sea. Only one of the 74 sailors’ bodies was recovered. It was not Petty Officer Gracely, a sonarman, on watch at the time in the sonar room. The front half of the ship sunk almost immediately; the stern and most of the crew in that portion survived.

It was typical during the Vietnam War for US Navy warships to travel in and out of the combat zone, an arbitrary line in the sea. The Evans had returned to Naval Base Subic Bay in the Philippines to re-supply. Upon departing to return to the combat zone, she was ordered to first participate in SEATO exercise “Sea Spirit.” It was during this operation that the Evans made an improper maneuver that put it directly in the path of the carrier.

Because the Evans was not on the other side of that arbitrary line in the sea, the US Defense Department has refused to put their names on the wall. There has been an effort — including two bills in Congress — to place these 74 sailors’ names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. They, and we living sailors of the Vietnam War, still wait. The effort continues, and will continue, until all 74 names are on the wall.

Petty Officer Gracely graduated from Shawnee High School in 1965. He played on the school’s football team. He attended Bowling Green State University for two years then enlisted in the Navy. He went to Great Lakes Naval Training Center for basic training. He was later trained as a Sonar Technician and was sent to Long Beach, California, to board the Evans. He planned to marry when he returned from the war. Shawnee High School established an award in his name for a football player demonstrating exemplary character. It is still awarded to this day.

The ship and 73 of the crew are over a mile deep in the South China Sea. The memories of all 74 are ever present on the surface.