Legislation to honor sacrifice
Bill would name bridge for Vietnam veteran
FESSENDEN — The sacrifice of a Wells County sailor who lost his life during a Vietnam Conflict training mission deserves to be recognized, according to supporters of a North Dakota House bill designed to do so.
House Bill 1352 would designate a U.S. Highway 52 bridge over the James River between Fessenden and Harvey as the PO3 Patrick G. Glennon Vietnam Memorial Bridge.
Glennon and 73 others were killed when their ship was struck by another ship during a training exercise in the South China Sea, about 100 miles outside the official combat zone in 1969. Due to the ship’s location, Glennon is not considered among those killed in action nor has he or others on the ship been included on the Memorial Wall for Vietnam veterans in Washington, D.C., despite extensive efforts to place their names on there.
For many veterans, including Jim Nelson, formerly of Minot and now of Bismarck, that exclusion is an injustice. Nelson, legislative director for the North Dakota Legislative Council, said Glennon’s name was the first to come to mind when visiting with Rep. Bernie Satrom, R-Jamestown, about legislation to establish a program to name bridges in the state for veterans. A number of states have such programs.
Nelson previously had worked with Sen. Kevin Cramer, then in the U.S. House, on national legislation to honor the 74 sailors who died in the collision. The legislation stalled, but Nelson never forgot.
“We were off the coast of Vietnam, and we got ordered out of this area to join a training exercise,” said Nelson, who was serving at the time on the first ship to respond to the collision that killed Glennon and his shipmates. “My logic and thinking — and most normal people think the same way I do — is that the only reason they were where they were that night is because they were originally in Vietnam. That’s the only reason. We strongly believe that their names should be on the wall.”
Nelson is working with Glennon’s family to honor Glennon by placing his name on the bridge in Wells County.
The family was elated when contacted about the bridge honor, said Janell Rudel of Fessenden, whose husband, Paul, is Glennon’s younger brother.
She said Glennon’s mother, Joyce Rudel, completed documentation forms and provided photos in trying without success to have her son listed on the Memorial Wall. Recognized as a Gold Star Mother for her loss, she died August 2021 at age 96.
Patrick Glennon was born Aug. 22, 1945, in Philadelphia, moving to the Fessenden area as a youth with his brother and mother, who later remarried and had four additional children. Glennon entered the Navy in Fargo after graduating from Fessenden High School in May 1966.
He was assigned to the US Gridley for two years before receiving orders to the USS Frank E. Evans (DD-754) on Oct. 3, 1968.
Seaman Glennon assisted the ship in completing Readiness Training off the Western seaboard following an overhaul period at Long Beach Naval Shipyard. He was promoted to Boatswain’s Mate Third Class in April of 1969.
On June 3, 1969, the Frank E. Evans was steaming in formation with more than 40 other ships representing a number of navies belonging to the South-East Atlantic Treaty Organization. They were participating in Operation Sea Spirit, a large battle group screening the Australian Navy’s anti-submarine aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R-21).
All ships were in blackened condition for night operations in the waters between the coast of Vietnam and the Spratly Islands when the Melbourne signaled the Frank E. Evans to take up position as “plane guard,” a duty that would place the ship about 1,000 yards astern of the carrier and allow her to be in prime position to rescue any pilots from aircraft accidents during flight operations.
While conducting the maneuver, the larger aircraft carrier collided with the Frank E. Evans, splitting it in two. The forward section of the ship drifted along the port side of the carrier in the darkness before sinking in about three minutes, taking 74 members of the crew. Petty Officer Glennon was asleep in the 1st Division berthing space below deck in the forward section of the ship. His remains never were recovered.
A majority of the deceased sailors had previously provided naval gunfire off the coast of Vietnam, including the Tet Offensive.
HB 1352, recognizing Glennon, is one of four bills before the 2023 Legislature that would honor veterans through bridge naming. The PVT Albert Grass WWI bridge is proposed to be designated on Highway 1806 at Cannonball, and the PFC Ronald C. Goodiron Vietnam bridge is proposed on Highway 6 at Solen. A Jamestown bridge would be designated as the Hidden Wounds Veterans Overpass.
Nelson said the goal is to develop a partnership between the state departments of Transportation and Veterans Affairs to identify veterans and bridges for naming. He said the program also could include county and township bridges.
Nelson estimated the cost of signage for the bridges at about $1,000. The legislation includes language allowing the transportation department to accept donations as well as use state dollars to fund the signs.