|Born||13 Aug 1908|
|Died||25 Oct 1944|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseErnest Edwin Evans was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma, United States. He was 75% Cherokee in ethnicity. He originally dreamed to be a Marine officer, but he entered the Navy instead in May 1926 after performing well in the fleet competition. At the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, he was nicknamed "Chief" by his classmates, partially due to his heritage and partially due to his leadership capabilities. "Evans appreciated the hidden nature of things, the power of the unseen over the tangible", said author Jim Hornfischer. When WW2 began, he served aboard the destroyer Alden and participated in the Battle of the Java Sea in Feb 1942 Two weeks after the Java Sea battle, he assumed command of Alden. On 27 Oct 1943, he was given commission of the destroyer Johnston. "This is going to be a fighting ship", he said during the commissioning ceremony. "I intend to go in harm's way, and anyone who doesn't want to go along had better get off right now." He later added "[n]ow that I have a fighting ship, I will never retreat from an enemy force."
ww2dbaseOn 15 May 1944, under Evans' directions, Johnston sank the Japanese submarine I-176 by depth charges off Bougainville, Solomon Islands, and was later awarded a Bronze Star for the action. The successful hunt had a lot to do with his ability to trust his crew to get the job done. "He expected every man to do his job without any psychological ploys," recalled Lieutenant (jg) Ellsworth Welch, Evans' anti-submarine warfare officer aboard Johnston. "He had great faith in all of us", said Johnston's gunnery officer Lieutenant Robert C. Hagen, "I don't recall him saying a mean word to me the whole time.... The captain was a true, instinctive fighter.... We were on a high-class ship because the captain was high-class."
ww2dbaseOn 25 Oct 1944, during the Battle off Samar, Johnston was among the ships that laid smoke to protect the escort carriers caught in the open by heavier Japanese warships led by Vice Admiral Kurita. Not waiting for orders, Evans gave the order to go on the offensive. Johnston was lucky that the Japanese missed all attempts to hit her with gunfire, giving her an opportunity to return fire with 200 shells on cruiser Kumano with her small 5-inch guns. When she was closer, she fired 10 torpedoes, then immediately retreated from the engagement. At least one of the torpedoes hit Kumano, blowing off her bow. After receiving hits from Japanese warships, Evans was wounded by shrapnel, losing two fingers on his left hand. At 0750, orders came down for the destroyers to make a torpedo run. Although Johnston had already used all her torpedoes and one of the engines had been lost, Evans ordered her in anyway as a means to provide fire support and to draw fire from the ships that still had torpedoes. At 0820, Johnston came within 7,000 yards from a Japanese battleship, and the guns fired 30 rounds within a minute, hitting the Japanese battleship several times. Then, she headed toward a heavy cruiser that had been attacking the escort carrier Gambier Bay, attempting to draw fire to save the escort carrier. After exchanging fire with the heavy cruiser, she took on an entire Japanese destroyer squadron that was on a torpedo run; Johnston's persistent attack forced the squadron to fire their torpedoes early, which was a major reason why all these torpedoes went astray. However, this final attack run against an entire destroyer squadron was also Johnston's last. After a shot hit her number one boiler room, steam was cut to the lone remaining engine, leaving her dead in the water. At around 0940, Japanese ships poured shells into Johnston as they sailed in semi-circles around the ship. A hit knocked out the forward gun, and then another hit on the 40-mm ready ammunition locker left the already damaged bridge totally untenable. At 0945, Evans gave the order for the crew of Johnston to abandon ship. The destroyer was now a gruesome scene of death. Lieutenant Jesse Cochran, a survivor of Johnston, later recalled seeing "a pile of people - bodies - half alive, half dead" on the deck. At 1010, she rolled over and began to sink by the bow. Evans was last seen around this time, with Machinist's Mate Bob Sochor probably the last man to have done so. Having just re-gained consciousness after a shell blast, he ran for the fantail after realizing the abandon ship order had already been given. He ran across Evans en route, with neither one of them speaking a word in each other. "We passed by staring blankly at one another", recalled Sochor. It was not certain whether he was killed on the ship. Survivor Allen Johnson saw an officer dive into the water for a motor whaleboat, while others said they saw Evans climb into the whaleboat; however, none of them could make positive identification during the chaos. What was certain was that he was not among those rescued.
ww2dbaseEvans was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery during the Battle off Samar. The citation read:
ww2dbaseIn 1955, the destroyer escort Evans was named in his honor.
ww2dbaseSources: the Last Stand of Tin Can Sailors, Wikipedia.
Ernest Evans Timeline
|13 Aug 1908||Ernest Evans was born.|
|25 Oct 1944||Ernest Evans passed away.|
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