Community pays tribute to fallen sailor at bridge dedication
FESSENDEN – Community members and the family of the late Navy sailor Patrick Glennon gathered Saturday to pay him tribute in dedicating a bridge near the Fessenden farm where he grew up.
The Fessenden American Legion Post 33 presented the Colors. Kathy Muscha with the American Legion Auxiliary tossed flowers over the bridge in a traditional salute. The crowd of about 80 people released balloons before moving on to lunch at the First Lutheran Church, joined by a train of about a dozen motorcycles in honor of Glennon’s love for Harley Davidsons.
The bridge dedication was the first of three dedications being held following action last spring by the North Dakota Legislature. House Bill 1352 named three bridges for veterans, including the N.D. Highway 30 bridge over the James River in Wells County as the Petty Officer Third Class Patrick G. Glennon Vietnam Bridge.
Glennon and 73 others were killed when a portion of their ship went down in the South China Sea on June 3, 1969.
The USS 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 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 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. Glennon, 23, whose job was in ship maintenance, was asleep in the 1st Division berthing space below deck in the forward section of the ship. His remains were never recovered.
Because the location was 100 miles outside the official combat zone, 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.
Because of that injustice, Jim Nelson, legislative director for the North Dakota Veterans Legislative Council, Bismarck, put Glennon’s name at the top of the list in working to establish a program to name bridges in the state for veterans.
Nelson was serving as a signalman on another ship that was among the first to arrive on the scene of the collision of the Evans and Melbourne.
“It was a terrible night,” he said, recounting the details to the crowd at the dedication.
Also speaking briefly at the bridge dedication was Victor Grant of Fargo, who was on the Evans that day as a radio operator. He had been sleeping in a part of the ship in which 199 sailors were able to be rescued, although he and those he was with were in lockdown for 22 minutes before their hatch was opened and they could climb up to the aircraft carrier.
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 Evans on Oct. 3, 1968.
The Highway 1806 bridge over the Cannonball River just outside the city of Cannonball was dedicated Monday as the PVT. Albert Grass WWI Bridge. Born in Fort Yates, Grass was 22 when he was killed in action on July 18, 1918, in France while serving in the Army’s 18th Infantry.
The Highway 6 bridge over the Cannonball River just outside of Breien was dedicated Monday as the PFC Ronald C. Goodiron Vietnam Bridge. Goodiron, a U.S. Marine from Shields, was killed in South Vietnam on Feb. 28, 1968, at age 20.
The overpass at the intersection of Highway 281 and Interstate 94 in Jamestown will be dedicated as the Hidden Wounds Veterans Overpass at a ceremony in May. The name is intended to raise awareness of the mental health struggles that many veterans endure but may not outwardly display.