b. 13/08/1908 Pawnee, Oklahoma. d. 25/10/1944 Leyte, Philippines.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 25/10/1944 Leyte, Philippines.
Evans, of Native American ancestry (half Cherokee and one quarter Creek), was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma. He graduated from the United States 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 May 16, 1944.
In the Battle off Samar, a part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Evans fought his ship gallantly 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 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 Japanese battlegroup 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.
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.
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 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 gave his life.
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.
BURIAL LOCATION: MANILA MEMORIAL TO MISSING, MANILA, PHILIPPINES.