NIOBRARA, Neb.- The tragic death of the Sage Brothers continues to resonate among residents in and around Niobrara.
On the night of June 2nd, 1969, the Australian aircraft carrier Melbourne was involved with a collision with the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans. The impact cut the Evans in two. 74 Americans died, including three brothers from Niobrara who were all stationed together on board that ship. Their names are Gary, Gregory and Kelly Sage.
During a visit to Niobrara, we visited the Niobrara Museum to learn more about the tragic event, which happened during the Vietnam era. It didn't happen during battle. It turns out the boats were simply out on maneuvers off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea.
"When the news got here, the boys' dad was on his way home from town. He stopped at the bar to listen to the 10 o'clock news," Niobrara Museum Volunteer Delberta Peterson said. "They said that the Evans had been cut in two. Can you imagine that?" she said.
Delberta says she remembers quite a bit of news coverage of the story in the town after the event happened. She said the mother of the three brothers was a "lost soul" for years. But when the Evans crew began to have their reunions, they would come out and visit the Sage brothers' mother. "That changed things for her, because her boys never came back. These boys became her boys," Delberta said.
There is now a beautiful memorial in Niobrara to honor and remember the Sage Brothers. It also lists the names of all 74 Americans who were killed in the collision. If you want to know more about this event, there are several books out on the subject. Or you can visit the Niobrara Museum.