- Aug 12, 2018
- On A Hilltop
- LS MT125 TLBM
A mission sponsored by undersea technology company Caladan Oceanic and led by entrepreneur, explorer and retired naval officer Victor Vescovo has announced they have found a section of wreckage belonging to the World War II Fletcher-class destroyer USS Johnston (DD 557) which was lost at the...
"Led by Cmdr. Ernest Evans, a Native American from Oklahoma, the crew of Johnston, outgunned and outmanned, charged into a massive line of Japanese warships in order to protect the American landing force attempting to liberate the Philippine Islands.
Despite the vast overall U.S. technological and numerical superiority during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, at a critical point in the engagement, the outcome was determined by what Cox describes as the sheer, raw courage of the commanding officers and crews of three destroyers, four destroyer escorts, and the pilots and aircrewmen flying off slow escort carriers. At dawn, none of these expected to be engaged by a much larger Japanese force of four battleships including super-battleship Yamato, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and eleven destroyers.
Heavily outmatched, Evans gave the order to attack a major portion of the Japanese fleet. Although Johnston had hit a heavy cruiser which was forced to retire, enemy shells managed to strike Johnston causing widespread damage and casualties. Evans himself was seriously wounded. Despite the grave damage, no torpedoes remaining, and reduced speed and firepower, Johnston commenced a second attack firing 30 rounds into a 30,000-ton Japanese battleship.
Noticing the Japanese ships were targeting escort carrier Gambier Bay (CVE-73), Evans gave the order to “commence firing on that cruiser, draw her fire on us and away from Gambier Bay.” One by one, Johnston took on Japanese destroyers, although Johnston had no torpedoes and limited firepower. After two-and-a-half hours, Johnston—dead in the water—was surrounded by enemy ships. At 9:45 a.m., Evans gave the order to abandon ship. Twenty-five minutes later, the destroyer rolled over and began to sink.
Of the crew of 327, only 141 survived. Commanding Officer Cmdr. Ernest Evans was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, the first Native American in the U.S. Navy and one of only two destroyer captains in WWII to be so honored.
“It was a brutal and bloody fight that serves as a sobering reminder for today’s Sailors: after all that’s asked of them in day-to-day service, they, like their shipmates aboard Johnston, may one day be asked for far more." said Cox."