Rohrabacher Pushes for El Toro Crash Victims on Vietnam Wall
WASHINGTON – Rep. Dana Rohrabacher on Tuesday introduced legislation to honor servicemen who died en route to or leaving Vietnam war zones by etching their names on the Vietnam Memorial wall in Washington. The names would include specifically the 84 servicemen whose Vietnam-bound aircraft crashed 50 years ago shortly after taking off from what was then El Toro Marine Air Station.
Rep. Mimi Walters, who represents Irvine, California, in a district neighboring Rohrabacher’s, has signed on as an original co-sponsor of the bill.
The air disaster remains the deadliest in Orange County history. On June 25, 1965, the C-135 with 72 Marines and a 12-man crew, destined for Vietnam, took off from El Toro and moments later crashed into Loma Ridge. Bodies were strewn across a mile-wide radius in the foothills of the Santa Ana mountain range. None survived the fiery impact.
The Marines had not yet received their marching orders, but their interrupted fate was to fight in the Southeast Asian war then raging.
“These heroes,” said Rohrabacher, “lost their lives in the Vietnam war, just as did those Americans who perished in the paddies, the jungles, and the highlands of that terribly ravaged country.
“They deserve to be memorialized on our National Mall.”
Current guidelines permit only the names of those who were killed in designated combat areas, as covered in legislation signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was commander-in-chief at the time. The bill, HR 3439, broadens the rules to include those who were killed traveling to or from Vietnam with combat in their immediate future or behind them.
The Vietnam Memorial wall includes space for the additional names. The legislation directs the secretary of defense to add those 84 names and others who experienced similar fates.