Commander Ernest E. Evans, USN (October 25, 1944)

Ernest Edwin Evans was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma on August 13, 1908. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy with the class of 1931 and was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy. He commanded two destroyers during World War II. Early in the war, he was captain of the USS Alden (DD-211). Later he was the first and only captain of the USS Johnston (DD-557) [featured image].

It was as captain of the Johnston during the Battle off Samar in the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf that he was decorated with the Medal of Honor for his great courage.

Seventy years ago today, Evans remained in command of the Johnston despite his own wounds and kept his ship in the fight through enormous battle damage against a superior Japanese force.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (A-F):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor


Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy. Other Navy awards: Navy Cross, Bronze Star Medal

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.

Evans’ body was never recovered. He is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. The USS Evans (DE-1023) was named in his honor and served with the Navy from 1957-1968.


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