On a calm, moonlit night 43 years ago in the South China Sea, Tom Anthony was a young radar man asleep in his metal bunk on the USS Frank E. Evans.
He was jarred awake after 3 a.m. by the horrendous sound of an Australian aircraft carrier crashing into the side of the destroyer.
The collision sent Anthony and shipmates scrambling through the dark as water poured into the compartment. As the ship rolled — the bow section would sink in three to five minutes — he reached a ceiling latch and looked back on a sight that would be seared into his mind forever.
“I saw the water rising real quick and I could see the suction,” said Anthony, now 65, who lives in Mansfield. “And I saw some guys being sucked back down.”
Decades later, that memory still reddens his eyes with tears. It is the sort of haunting image that brings Anthony and other survivors of the disaster that killed 74 U.S. sailors together each year for a reunion of the USS Frank E. Evans (DD 754).