CMDR ERNEST E EVANS
Commanding U.S.S. Johnston
“The last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors”
Off Samar, Pacific Ocean.
25 Oct 1944
Known to Historians as the Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, Cmdr Evans led 4 tiny warships, USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), USS Hoel (DD-533), USS Johnston (DD-557) and USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73) into battle against a vastly superior enemy force.
Every man there knew it was suicide. – But they were the last line of defense, for US carriers.
Their tiny 5” guns we no match for enemy Battleships.
If they didn’t hold it was all over – BUT THEY HELD!
It cost them everything, but they held.
Evans used his ships to draw fire away from the US Carriers and launched torpedo attacks on advancing enemy warships. Johnston came under straddling Japanese shellfire, sustaining near-fatal damage. Cmdr Evans unhesitatingly joined others of his group to provide subsequent torpedo attacks against the Japanese and, fire support to the other 3 Destroyers.
Outshooting and outmaneuvering the enemy and in spite of the loss of one engine and several of his guns, Evans kept his flotilla between the enemy and the Carriers he was charged to protect.
Evan’s Medal of Honor citation says it best … When his bridge control destroyed:
“Evans 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.”
Cmdr Evans was seriously wounded at battle’s onset, the last time he was seen or heard was when he gave the “abandon Ship” order. Most of the surviving crew believe he was killed by a subsequent hit – The Captain went down with his ship – and the Flat-tops lived to fight another day.
Cmdr Evans previous Navy awards include : the Navy Cross & Bronze Star Medal.