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First Name: Ernest

Last Name: Evans

Birthplace: Pawnee, OK, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)

Rating:

Middle Name: Edwin



Date of Birth: 13 August 1908

Date of Death: 25 October 1944 (Presumed)

Rank or Rate: Commander

Years Served: 1931 - 1944
Ernest Edwin Evans

   
Engagements:
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)

Biography:

Ernest Edwin Evans
Commander, U.S. Navy
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Commander Ernest Edwin Evans (13 August 1908 - 25 October 1944) was a U. S. Navy officer who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Leyte Gulf during World War II.

Ernest Edwin Evans was of Native American ancestry (half Cherokee and one quarter Creek), and was born on 13 August 1908 in Pawnee, OK. He graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy in 1931. During World War II, he commanded the destroyer USS Alden (DD-211), and later became the only skipper of the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Johnston (DD-557). Commanding Johnston, he was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement in action against a Japanese submarine on 16 May 1944.

In the Battle off Samar, a part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Evans fought his ship gallantly until it was sunk on 25 October 1944 by a Japanese force that was superior in number, firepower, and armor. Johnston, together with the destroyers USS Hoel (DD-533) and USS Heermann (DD-532), four destroyer escorts and six escort carriers (CVEs) formed the task unit 77.4.3, known as Taffy 3. This group, together with planes from Taffy 2 (TU 77.4.2), ultimately forced a vastly superior Japanese battle group consisting of several battleships, heavy cruisers, light cruisers and destroyers to abort its original mission to attack the landing beaches at Leyte under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, and retreat.

The fate of the Johnston's captain was never conclusively established, and remains the subject of continuing conjecture among the ship's survivors. Some claim that he was hit by Japanese naval shellfire; others that he was able to jump into a damaged motor whaleboat. What is known is that he was seriously wounded during the battle; that he lived long enough to give the abandon ship order; and that he was not among those rescued. Evans posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his material contribution to the decisive victory won in Leyte Gulf and shared in the Presidential Unit Citation awarded his group for this action in which he gave his life.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy.

Place and date: Off Samar, 25 October 1944.

Citation: 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.

When the Japanese fleet during the Battle off Samar was first sighted, Evans did not hesitate and his ship immediately headed directly towards the far superior enemy. He is reported to have told his crew over the ship's intercom: "A large Japanese fleet has been contacted. They are fifteen miles away and headed in our direction. They are believed to have four battleships, eight cruisers, and a number of destroyers. This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can." The last portion of the quote ("This will be ... damage we can.") is usually credited to LCDR Robert W. Copeland of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), who charged in with Evans.

Honors

In 1955, the destroyer escort USS Evans (DE-1023) was named in his honor.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Navy Cross
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
American Defense Service Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Philippine Liberation Medal

Death and Burial

Commander Ernest Edwin Evans was lost at sea on 25 October 1944. He is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila, Manila City, Philippines.




Honoree ID: 1382   Created by: MHOH

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