Ernest E. Evans

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Ernest Edwin Evans
LCdr. Commander Ernest E. Evans, U.S. Navy, at the commissioning ceremonies of USS Johnston (DD-557) at Seattle, Washington (USA), on 27 October 1943 (NH 63499) (cropped).jpg
Evans in 1943
Nickname(s)"Big Chief"[1]
Born(1908-08-13)August 13, 1908
Pawnee, Oklahoma
DiedOctober 25, 1944(1944-10-25) (aged 36)
off Samar, Philippine Islands
Place of burial
remains not recovered; listed on the Walls of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1931–1944
Commands heldUSS Alden
USS Johnston
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsMedal of Honor
Bronze Star
Philippine Liberation Medal

Ernest Edwin Evans (August 13, 1908 – October 25, 1944) was an officer of the United States Navy who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle off Samar in World War II.


Evans, of Native American ancestry (half Cherokee and one quarter Creek),[1] was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma and graduated from Muskogee Central High School. After one year of enlisted service in the Navy, he was appointed to the United States Naval Academy, entering as a Midshipman on June 29, 1927. He graduated from the academy in 1931.[2]

On August 9, 1941, he was assigned to the destroyer Alden, and was serving on her in the East Indies when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7 of that year. He became commanding officer of Alden on March 14, 1942, and held that position until July 7, 1943. While serving on Alden he participated in operations in and around Australia, New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies.

Evans at the commissioning ceremony of the destroyer USS Johnston, Seattle, 1943

In mid-1943 Evans was ordered to duty in charge of fitting out the Fletcher-class destroyer Johnston at the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation in Seattle, Washington. Commander Evans assumed command of Johnston at her commissioning on October 27, 1943, declaring to the assembled crew, "this is going to be a fighting ship. I intend to go in harm's way, and anyone who doesn't want to go along had better get off right now".[3] He was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement in sinking the Japanese submarine I-176 on May 16, 1944.[2]

Battle off Samar[edit]

In the Battle off Samar, a part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Evans led Johnston until it was sunk on October 25, 1944, by a Japanese force that was vastly superior in number, firepower, and armor. Johnston, together with the destroyers Hoel and Heermann, 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 Japanese battlegroup consisting of 4 battleships, 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers and 11 destroyers to abort its original mission to attack the landing beaches at Leyte under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, and retreat. The famous battle has become known as "The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors", after the 2004 book of the same title.

When the Japanese fleet was first sighted, Evans did not hesitate. After laying a smoke screen to help hide the escort carriers from enemy gunfire, he ordered his helm hard to port and he led his destroyer out of the task unit's circular antiaircraft disposition in favor of charging the enemy alone to make a torpedo attack. Some claim that Evans 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." However, contemporaneous sources credit the latter part of this dramatic announcement to lieutenant commander Robert W. Copeland of Samuel B. Roberts, who charged in with Evans on a subsequent torpedo attack.[4]

The fate of Johnston's captain was never conclusively established, and remains the subject of continuing conjecture among the ship's survivors. Some say 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 order to abandon ship; and that he was not among those rescued. Evans was posthumously awarded 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 was killed.[2]


In 1955, the destroyer escort USS Evans (DE-1023) was named in his honor.[5] It was decommissioned in 1968, and no active ship carries the name of Evans or Johnston, although a number of active ships have been named for Samuel B. Roberts and her crew. On November 12, 2013, a petition was started to name a ship after Evans.[6]

On May 23, 2013, the Naval Station Newport, Newport, Rhode Island, Surface Warfare Officers School's virtual simulator for shiphandling training was dedicated as the Evans Full Mission-2 Simulator in Evans' honor.[7]


A light blue ribbon with five white five pointed stars
Bronze star
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Medal of Honor Bronze Star Medal Purple Heart
Presidential Unit Citation American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal Philippine Liberation Medal

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Medal of Honor

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.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Ernest E. Evans, CDR, USN". U.S. Naval Academy Virtual Memorial Hall. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Navy Department Library (May 6, 2020). "Ernest Edwin Evans, 13 August 1908 – 25 October 1944". Modern Biographical Files. Naval History and Heritage Command. Archived from the original on April 19, 2021. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  3. ^ Navy Department Library (March 31, 2021). "Notable Ships: Johnston (DD-557)". Naval History and Heritage Command. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  4. ^ According to the action report of USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), "The crew were informed over the loud speaker system at the beginning of the action, of the Commanding Officer's estimate of the situation, that is, a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival could not be expected, during which time we would do what damage we could. In the face of this knowledge the men zealously manned their stations wherever they might be, and fought and worked with such calmness, courage and efficiency that no higher honor could be conceived than to command such a group of men." USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), "Combined Action Report, Surface Engagement off Samar, Philippine Islands, and Report of Loss of USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), on 25 October 1944," November 20, 1944, Serial X001, page 14.
  5. ^ "Evans III (DE-1023)". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command. July 8, 2015. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  6. ^ "Designate a future Arleigh-Burke class destroyer to be named USS Evans for Medal of Honor recipient Ernest E. Evans". Archived from the original on November 12, 2013.
  7. ^ Edward A. Sherman Publishing Co. (June 7, 2013). "SWOS simulator renamed after heroic destroyerman". Newport Navalog. p. 9.


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
  • Hornfischer, James D. (2004). The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-80257-7.
  • Thomas, Evan (2006). Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign, 1941–1945. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-5221-7.

Audio/visual media[edit]

  • Lost Evidence of the Pacific: The Battle of Leyte Gulf. History Channel. TV. No writer given.
  • Dogfights: Death of the Japanese Navy. History Channel. TV. No writer given.

External links[edit]