American Boys: The True Story of the Lost 74 of the Vietnam War

American Boys: The True Story of the Lost 74 of the Vietnam War

by Louise Esola


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In the middle of a dark night off the coast of Vietnam on June 3, 1969, the USS Frank E. Evans is rammed by a ship ten times her size, sending her forward half to the bottom of the South China Sea and into oblivion. Seventy-four Americans are killed in the mysterious collision. The truth is confined to a footnote of the Vietnam War. Buried in obscurity even today, as the 74 names of those killed are not on the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C.

In American Boys, journalist Louise Esola has uncovered and pieced together a powerful story. Groundbreaking and astonishing in scope, American Boys is a tale of heartbreak and perseverance. It's the story of a shattering injustice, of love and healing, and of a great generation of those who fought and vowed to never forget, though their nation has.

"... a classic story of men and war."

--Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

" light on a tragic chapter of the Vietnam War."

--Joseph L. Galloway, We Were Soldiers Once...and Young

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780996057400
Publisher: Pennway Books
Publication date: 09/02/2014
Pages: 452
Sales rank: 201,308
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Louise Esola has been a journalist for over fifteen years. Her work has been featured in numerous publications, including UT San Diego, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Associated Press. A proud native of Philadelphia, she lives in Southern California with her husband and children.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Louise Esola has shed new light on a tragic chapter of the Vietnam War. She has dug deeply into an accident at sea that took the lives of 74 young American sailors and has told their stories brilliantly! American Boys is worth your attention."

--Joseph L. Galloway, co-author of We Were Soldiers Once...and Young

“With Louise Esola's powerful storytelling, American Boys uncovers a lost chapter of history full of grace and determination. A compelling read.”

--Gregory A. Freeman, bestselling author of Sailors to the End: The Deadly Fire on the USS Forrestal and the Heroes Who Fought It

“Louise Esola has done a remarkable job of research in putting together this forgotten story of 74 young men who lost their lives on the USS Frank E. Evans during the Vietnam War. Ms. Esola, writing with conviction and compassion, does a long-neglected service to the memories of those killed in the line of duty. As a Vietnam War veteran myself, I salute Louise Esola and all those who have given their time and energy to keep alive the memories of the fallen.”

--Bestselling author and Vietnam veteran Nelson DeMille

“With stellar reporting and strong writing, Louise Esola has rescued a largely forgotten incident of the Vietnam War: the sinking of the destroyer Frank E. Evans in 1969. “American Boys” traces the sailors from hometowns across America to their service aboard the ill-fated ship, giving the sailors the respect that their country has denied them. “American Boys” could easily become a classic story of men and war.”

--Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

“American Boys is that rare offering, and deserves its own commendation as a piece of powerful research into a segment of Vietnam history that many have tried to bury over the decades…one that deserves to not be forgotten.”

--Midwest Book Review

"This is the story of one of the greatest--still unresolved--tragedies of the Vietnam War, one the U.S. Navy has pretended had nothing to do with it. American Boys explores the realities of Vietnam naval operations and, in evocative prose and stunning detail, it reports the sinking of the American destroyer Frank E. Evans, along with the decades-long struggle of survivors and families to get the Navy to acknowledge the truth of the matter. This book should be read and those Evans sailors commemorated."

--John Prados, bestselling author of Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945-1975

“Louise Esola's finely-wrought account of a Vietnam-era disaster at sea and its unending impact on the drowned sailors' loved ones will echo in your mind long after you've put it down. This beautiful, heart-breaking book should be required reading at the Pentagon and the White House.”
--Jack Cheevers, author of “Act of War: Lyndon Johnson, North Korea, and the Capture of the Spy Ship Pueblo.”
“American Boys is an important story, beautifully told. Long after you finish this book, you will remember the men of the USS Frank E. Evans, and understand why the fight to include the names of its 74 lost crew members continues.”

--Kristen Graham, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist with the Philadelphia Inquirer

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American Boys: The True Story of the Lost 74 of the Vietnam War 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not just another war story! Louise Esola has done a fabulous job in bringing this virtually unknown story of the Vietnam war to the forefront. Her meticulous research enabled her to tell not only the accurate history of the tragic collision of the USS Frank E Evans and the HMAS Melbourne and it’s aftermath, but weaves in the stories of some of those men lost and their families. You will feel as if you know them by the end of your read. She gives extensive evidence as to why this was tragedy was “overlooked” by the US government and support to why the names of these 74 sailors should be added to the Vietnam Memorial. Wonderfully written I could not put it down. A must read for any navy family member, history enthusiast, history teachers. A great book for any high school teacher to use as required reading. Book contains a reading group guide and would be perfect for any book club. Esola’s writing skills are outstanding, an excellent job for a first book. I hope it becomes a best seller.
Daniel51 More than 1 year ago
Wow! American Boys is that book you'll be talking about forever. What an amazing story of tragedy and perseverance. The author keeps you engaged chapter after chapter. This is no dry military book. It takes you back to 1969, the draft, and what the country was going through at the time. The back cover says it best “a book about a war that sank, and took a ship with it.”
MLehman More than 1 year ago
Outstanding, Louise Esola has dedicated the past 4 years to writing this book about an American tragedy, and Injustice. This is the story of the USS Frank E. Evans (DD-754), and the events during the summer of 1969 which led to her final moment on 03 Jun 1969. It is also the story the aftermath of the incident, the shattered lives of the survivors, and the Families left without a Father, Son, or Brother(s). It is also the story of the injustice given to the Lost "74". Louise's in depth research, and relentless attention to detail, makes this a must read for all those who appreciate American / Military history.
lorettamckay More than 1 year ago
amazing . Louise uses adjectives that portrays a complete picture of what she is trying to relate to the reader. this book keeps you involved and waiting for the outcome. a job well done!!
delfrancis More than 1 year ago
This is a great read. Louise Esola has done an exceptional job in writing about a tragedy that happened almost a half century ago and she makes a great case to rectify a wrong. The USS Frank E Evans DD 754 collided with an Australian Aircraft Carrier in the South China Sea 225 miles off the coast of Vietnam. 74 men died and they are not listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Not because it was an accident, but simply because of 100 miles. The accident occurred outside the “official” combat zone, which was an arbitrary line that could be extended or contracted due to the needs of the military. Louise has spent countless hours researching the accident and the political atmosphere of the time to demonstrate the efforts that were made to separate the loss of the 74 from the Vietnam War. She has spent years, and more than a few tears, talking to survivors and family members of the lost 74 to put a face on the tragedy. She demonstrates that these heroes went off to fight an unpopular War, they did not burn their draft cards or run off to Canada. They did their job well and received commendations for their excellent Gun Fire Support of the ground forces. If the accident hadn’t happened, the Evans gun fire could possibly have saved some of the men who are now on the Wall. But the accident did happen and the USS Frank E Evans DD 754 was the only US warship not to come home from Vietnam.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An obstructed fact of the Vietnam War that put to light technicalities of military rule, resulting in deprivation of honor most rightfully earned and deserved by veterans who made the utmost sacrifice in Service of their country.
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I received an author signed copy of this book from Louise Esola as a Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you, Ms. Osola, for sharing your work with me. I look forward to an informative read. And it was an informative and heart-rending story, following some of these lost boys from childhood to enlistment to the sinking of the USS Frank E. Evans. Insult to injury, the lost sailors of the Evans, because they were 200 miles from the Vietnam coast involved in a UN training mission on antisubmarine maneuvers these boys were not included on the 1982 Memorial Wall for Vietnam deaths. The families, not informed, were devastated to find their great loss not recognized on this Memorial Wall. This is a book I would love to share with everyone who served in our forgotten war. Louise Esola speaks not just for these naval casualties, but for all our boys who served in this UN 'Conflict" and returned to an uninvolved USA.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Maria Beltran for Readers' Favorite American Boys: The True Story of the Lost 74 of the Vietnam War, written by Louise Esola, is a non-fiction book about the fate of the USS Frank E. Evans and its crew. It is a profound look at the personal stories of the men who sank with the ship in a 1969 disaster that the US Navy would rather forget. In November 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was unveiled in Washington.  Erected through the efforts of Jack Scruggs, a Vietnam War veteran himself, part of the program is to read the 57,939 names of American soldiers who perished in Vietnam. Ann, whose brother perished with the ship, followed the news about the memorial and through her connections volunteered to read a section of names of the Vietnam dead. To her surprise, her brother’s name, along with the other victims of the sinking of the USS Evans, were not on the list that she would have read aloud at a lectern in the National Cathedral. This is their story. Louise Esola's book, American Boys: The True Story of the Lost 74 of the Vietnam War, is the untold story of American sailors who perished with the USS Frank E. Evans. Putting together the stories of these 74 men is a remarkable feat, not only because this entailed a lot of research but also because the sinking of the ship is a disaster that the US Navy would rather bury in oblivion. It would have taken a great amount of passion and empathy for the author to come up with the idea of this book, let alone setting out to write it. As the United States of America found itself on the losing end of the Vietnam War, protests broke out in the country, American boys were drafted in an unpopular war and the country was counting its dead. Those who sank with the USS Evans were not even counted as casualties of the Vietnam War and this indignity drove Louise Esola to let the public know the story of each of those who lost their lives in the sinking of this ship. The result is a compelling story of despair, determination, love, injustice and reconciliation that gives tribute where it is long overdue.
Johnny3P More than 1 year ago
Excellent!  I read this book last weekend – it’s very well written, and as expected, extremely emotional.   For those like me who lived during the Vietnam era and the years following our "Peace With Honor", this book rekindles the bewilderment of the unconscionable treatment given to our military at that time, and offers insight into the reasons why events like this were systematically buried in history.  It accurately describes, in the case of the USS Frank E Evans, how the wrongs of the past can still be rectified today. This was 74 sons lost in one tragic moment.  A personal loss epitomized by Master Chief Reilly experiencing this tragedy first hand and then being powerless to save his own son serving with him.  As a father of 3 sons, I can’t begin to imagine that burden he had to carry.   The written accounts and photos that momentarily brought the sailors back to life in the pages led us to share in the sorrow of their sudden loss.  Readers can only hope it provides some solace to the families and shipmates of the Lost 74 that this book gave the rest of us a better understanding and appreciation of their efforts to add these names to The Wall, which I believe is inevitable.  This story evokes the nearly half century long injustice that the mortal remains resting within the hull of the Evans on the bottom of the South China Sea have been forgotten by the nation they defended, and it answers the question of why the survivors' motto of "Lest We Forget" should be warmly embraced by us all. I met Louise Esola at her book signing held concurrently with “The Moving Wall” event in Temecula, CA in early October, which proved to be undeniably good karma for the recognition of the “Lost 74”.  The decision on October 28th to finally include the names of those from California on the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Sacramento is a huge milestone to the objective Ms. Esola's book clearly validates. Secretary of State Chuck Hagel should take note of this recent action, and ensure every one of them is rightfully honored for their sacrifice with these 74 names being placed on The Wall in Washington, DC.  I recommend everyone, especially Chuck Hagel, spend some quality time picking up this book and getting to know these brave men.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a history buff, especially Vietnam era, this is a well-researched, well-written story of the three Sage brothers and the other 71 men who lost their lives aboard the USS Frank Evans during the Vietnam War. A great war time tragedy and perhaps, an even greater tragedy that the names of these men were not included on the Vietnam Wall Memorial.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First and foremost I want to thank Louise Esola for writing this truly amazing, detailed and emotional look at the accident between the USS Frank E. Evan and the Australian carrier Melbourne.  It is both naval history and family history to me.  Chief Dad, as written about in Chapter 3, is my father, and my brother Larry was one of the 74 lost as a result of this collision.  To say that it brought back painful memories to me is an understatement, yet I also learned many things about the collision of which, up until now, I was completely unaware.   Louise's extensive research into the accident, including interviewing survivors and families of those lost, give the reader a more personal look at the events, not only of the night of the accident, but both before and after as well, painting a picture that allows people to feel the raw emotions of the aftermath of the accident.   Her driven determination to have the names of these American Boys forever memorialized on the  Vietnam Memorial is more valuable to my family than I can say.  To say a simple thank you is not  adequate.  It is a debt we will never be able to repay.  Louise you are our hero!  Thank you for this  amazing gift.  We are forever grateful and honored to know you.
rollingfred More than 1 year ago
A few days ago I finished Louise Esola’s American Boys – The True Story of the Lost 74 of the Vietnam War. As a US Navy destroyer veteran of that era, I must complement Ms. Esola on capturing the wounds of the survivors and relatives of the lost sailors that remain to this day. She goes beyond the facts of the tragedy and delves into the bowels of Washington bureaucracy and how the incident was presented to the public for political reasons of the time. Ms. Esola captured the mind set of many sailors of that time. With the pre-lottery draft in full swing I wound up in the Navy for the same reason as many of the Evans crew. I became a Radarman on the USS Frank Knox and slept forward below the mess decks on my destroyer, just like a lot of the guys that didn’t make it on the USS Frank E Evans. Plane guarding, the gun line and the night watches all came back like it was yesterday. Yes, I remember what it was like. The sea is big and dark at night. Technical aspects are presented in a way any reader can understand. The stories of the lost, the survivors, their families and the strength they give each other are visceral and compelling. It is my fervent wish that this book gets the traction it so much deserves. The names of these men need to be added to their brothers and sisters on the black granite.
jsalicrup10 More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down!!!  What a great and tragic story.  I'm so glad that Lousie decided to write this book.  I am the daughter of a Navy man and appreciate the way Louise told the story of these young boys with such heartfelt words.  These 74 names NEED to be on the wall - there is no doubt about it.   
JohnCoffey More than 1 year ago
Louise Esola has written an outstanding book on the life and death of the USS FRANK E EVANS DD754 and the men who perished that night, 3 June 1969, as well as of those who survived and the families of the Lost 74. A tired old lady from WWII and Korea, she was still serving her country held together with layers of pain and hard work by her crew. Any Navy man, especially those who served in a Tin Can, will recognize and understand the happenings that night and, through Louise’s compassion, will know the effects suffered by the survivors. You will learn of the families and how they dealt with the news, or lack thereof, from the Navy. Louise has spent years, and more than a few tears, talking to survivors and family members of the Lost 74 in order to put a face on the tragedy of the only ship to not come back from the Vietnam War. These boys (men) left home to serve their country in spite of the unpopularity of the war, and served on the gun line in support of the Army and Marines and were combat veterans; heroes in their own right. Yet that have been excluded from the Vietnam Memorial Wall because of a 100 mile difference. Also, because of the accident many of the men and the families have a difficult time telling their stories, and filtering out fact from fiction. Louise’s book is an awesome gift to those who have had a hard time and brings to light many things that should be known about the US Navy, the political atmosphere of the late 60’s, and the inattention of the Department of Defense, and a step closer to having the names of the Lost 74 added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washing ton, DC.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Button1941 More than 1 year ago
After copious research covering four years, Ms Esola has created an excellent narrative of the collision and sinking of the USS Frank E. Evans  DD-754 along with 74 of her crew. Her description of shipboard activities, duties, equipment, facilities and life on a WWII destroyer are exceptionally accurate. This is not a mire naval history derived from naval operation reports, ship logs, etc. Her focus is on the 74 lost sailors, their families, friends, loved ones and shipmates. The reader is immediately drawn into empathy with them. Those who are emotional will be brought to tears! Finally, the second purpose for this great book is to compel the Navy, DOD and Congress to have the names of these 74 American Boys etched on the National Viet Nam Memorial Wall. Lest we forget! CDR John Button, USNR-Retired Viet Nam 1966-67 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
American Boys is a great read. It is exceptionally well written and researched, and it captured my interest right from the start. It is such a touching book and brought tears to my eyes on several occasions, especially when Louise wrote of her experiences with the victim's families. Louise makes a great case for adding the names of the lost 74 to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I will always remember this beautifully written story of the sailors lost at sea on the USS Frank E. Evans.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was familiar with the event and have tried to tell people about it over the years. Louise Esola was able to add feeling and fact like I never could. I told the story as a very angry person and she lays out the story factually and hictorically. 74 young men dieing for their country and going completely ignored is a terrible black eye for this country and its self serving politicians. Put them on the Wall for God sakes, where they belong with their brothers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a survivor of the collision, I found the book riveting and very well researched. A real tribute to the 74 men lost and an excellent read. Robert Hiltz
WendySLO More than 1 year ago
Good books not only tell an interesting story, they let the reader FEEL the story. This well written narrative of the USS Frank E. Evans and her crew is heartbreaking, personal, intimate, and beautiful in every way. I enthusiastically recommend this powerful book as a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first met Louise Esola at the 2011 USS Frank E. Evans reunion in Waterloo, Iowa. When she told me that she is writing a book about the F.E. Evans, I was skeptical that the story could be told in a compelling way.  I was wrong.  I served 3 tours in Vietnam on a destroyer in Destroyer Squadron 23.  We steamed with the F.E. Evans in and out of the Vietnam combat zone and all over the Pacific. We berthed next to her in Long Beach, Subic Bay, Pearl Harbor, Yokosuka, and other ports.  I walked aboard her many times and saw the faces of those young men who she writes about in this book.  Louis Esola tells the story of the USS Frank E. Evans in a way that left me in tears many times as I read the book.  She tells about life aboard a broken down destroyer in a broken Navy during difficult times when seaboard accidents were happening every day and we were fighting an unpopular war.  This book is compelling in every way and is an enormous gift to those of us who have never been able to properly share our experiences of the times and of this tragic event.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read! A factual narrative that is fast paced and keeps the reader totally engaged. Superbly told story of the boys we sent to war, their untimely deaths, the struggles of their families and survivors and the ongoing efforts to right a wrong. Well worth the time.