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Evans file photo [4583]

Ernest Evans

Given NameErnest
Born13 Aug 1908
Died25 Oct 1944
CountryUnited States


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:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Johnston in action against major units of the enemy Japanese fleet during the battle off Samar on 25 October 1944. The first to lay a smokescreen and to open fire as an enemy task force, vastly superior in number, firepower and armor, rapidly approached. Comdr. Evans gallantly diverted the powerful blasts of hostile guns from the lightly armed and armored carriers under his protection, launching the first torpedo attack when the Johnston came under straddling Japanese shellfire. Undaunted by damage sustained under the terrific volume of fire, he unhesitatingly joined others of his group to provide fire support during subsequent torpedo attacks against the Japanese and, outshooting and outmaneuvering the enemy as he consistently interposed his vessel between the hostile fleet units and our carriers despite the crippling loss of engine power and communications with steering aft, shifted command to the fantail, shouted steering orders through an open hatch to men turning the rudder by hand and battled furiously until the Johnston, burning and shuddering from a mortal blow, lay dead in the water after 3 hours of fierce combat. Seriously wounded early in the engagement, Comdr. Evans, by his indomitable courage and brilliant professional skill, aided materially in turning back the enemy during a critical phase of the action. His valiant fighting spirit throughout this historic battle will venture as an inspiration to all who served with him.

ww2dbaseIn 1955, the destroyer escort Evans was named in his honor.

ww2dbaseSources: the Last Stand of Tin Can Sailors, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Aug 2007

Ernest Evans Interactive Map


Commissioning ceremony of Johnston, Seattle, Washington, United States, 27 Oct 1943, photo 1 of 2; note Lieutenant Commander Evans speaking at left centerCommissioning ceremony of Johnston, Seattle, Washington, United States, 27 Oct 1943, photo 2 of 2; Lieutenant Commander Evans in foreground

Ernest Evans Timeline

13 Aug 1908 Ernest Evans was born.
25 Oct 1944 Ernest Evans was killed in action during the Battle off Samar during the Leyte Campaign in the Philippine Islands.
25 Oct 1944 As Kurita’s Center Force closed on Clifton Sprague’s escort carriers off Samar, destroyer USS Johnston attacked and launched torpedoes against the cruiser Kumano, blowing off Kumano’s bow and forcing her withdrawal.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Only Medal of Honor in the Battle off Samar, Chief Evans. says:
30 Apr 2012 01:09:13 PM

Evans wasn't just protecting the flattops - he also had all the landed young soldiers with MacArthur on his mind. Who/what he charged was Yamato, biggest warship ever built, and the massive jap force with it. He was oblivious to Spragg and Taffy3, and instantly on learning of the gigantic enemy force approaching, ordered "Hard left rudder, flank speed". (Charge the enemy at full-speed.)
Who knows how long Spragg would have "idled about stunned at their bad luck" - without Johnston's truly heroic charge Hoel Heermann etc. may not have been as aggressive, allowing Kurita and his massive power to take out the carriers and wipe out the whole MacArthur Return.
History owes much to this Warrior. Where is the frigate namesake 'Ernest E. Evans'?????????????
2. Paul Moore says:
20 Dec 2014 08:45:47 PM

Its seems that the Navy is more interested in naming fighting vessels for politicians and Navy procurement heroes than naming them for the MEN who gave all like Commander Ernest Evans. Leyte Gulf might have gone down as an American bloodbath if not for Evans. Where is the USS Evans?
3. Commenter identity confirmed David Stubblebine says:
21 Dec 2014 03:57:22 PM

US Navy naming customs call for destroyers and destroyer escorts to be named for notable naval heroes and Navy & Marine recipients of the Medal of Honor in particular. Ernest E. Evans of the USS Johnston is the namesake of the Dealey-class destroyer escort USS Evans (DE-1023) commissioned Jun 14, 1957. USS Evans was decommissioned in 1968 and in 2013 it was proposed to use his name again for another Navy ship. Instead, the virtual simulator for ship handling training at the Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, Rhode Island was dedicated as the 'Evans Full Mission-2 Simulator' in his honor.
4. Anonymous says:
13 Mar 2015 08:31:57 AM

Ernest Evans deserves a warship in his honor.
5. Andrew Roth says:
9 Apr 2015 05:01:30 AM

Ernest Evan's and the men of U.S.S. Johnston deserve something better than a Navy simulator. At least some piece of something that fight's. What enormous gut's.
6. Zeke Lay says:
18 Sep 2015 06:54:53 AM

a striking example of the strange and tragic effort to remove or block the most important historical heritage of America. Surely this isn't happening by chance? It wasn't long ago we cherished our heroes. It is an institutional problem, not a problem with the American people. I cannot even find a museum or tribute in his hometown or birthplace. A TRUE HERO in every sense of the word, recent enough to help us envision all the other patriots in America's past that have enabled this great country.
7. Alan Loch says:
13 Mar 2020 08:11:49 PM

Perhaps the greatest story of heroism ever recorded in US Navy history. He and his men should be honored at flight school by carrier sailors like the Marines honor Coast Guard First Class Higgins Boat pilot Doug Monro who got the MOH saving them.

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More on Ernest Evans
Event(s) Participated:
» Dutch East Indies Campaign, Java
» Marshall Islands Campaign
» Mariana Islands Campaign and the Great Turkey Shoot
» Palau Islands and Ulithi Islands Campaigns
» Philippines Campaign, Phase 1, the Leyte Campaign

Ship(s) Served:
» Johnston

Ernest Evans Photo Gallery
Commissioning ceremony of Johnston, Seattle, Washington, United States, 27 Oct 1943, photo 1 of 2; note Lieutenant Commander Evans speaking at left centerCommissioning ceremony of Johnston, Seattle, Washington, United States, 27 Oct 1943, photo 2 of 2; Lieutenant Commander Evans in foreground

Famous WW2 Quote
"Goddam it, you'll never get the Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!"

Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943

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