NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (ALMOST)
4th June, 1969 : The ill-fated Australian flagship, the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne, cut an American destroyer in half in a collision in the South China Sea yesterday. At least 56 American sailors were lost as the USS Frank E Evans sank. The 20,000 ton carrier and the destroyer were taking part in exercises for Navies of South East Asia Treaty Organisation nations. There were no casualties aboard the Melbourne, which has a badly damaged bow and is now limping towards Singapore for repairs.
An Australian Navy Department statement said that just before the collision the Melbourne had ordered the Frank E Evans – just ahead of her in an anti-submarine screen – to change course to a rescue destroyer station astern. It continued: “Evans approached on a collision course and, despite urgent action by Melbourne a collision occurred. When the American ship was sliced in two the bows sank almost immediately. Melbourne secured the after section to her starboard side and more than 200 sailors and officers were dragged to safety.”
[ The ‘ill-fated’ refers to the collision in 1964 when the destroyer HMAS Voyager was sank with the loss of 82 Australian lives.
In 1985 Melbourne was sold by the Bob Hawke Labor government to the Communist China for scrap and towed there, but the actual scraping was delayed for years to allow the Peoples Liberation Army Navy aviators to practise carrier flight operations.]