Combat Direction Systems Activity (CDSA) Dam Neck celebrated
National American Indian Heritage month on November 15, 2017 by
inviting Rear Adm. (Ret.) Samuel Cox, now the Director of the Navy
History and Heritage Command, to talk about Native American Medal of
Honor recipient, Cmdr. Ernest Evans, who served in World War II as
the commanding officer of USS Johnston (DD 557).
November 15, 2017 - Rear Adm. (Ret.) Samuel Cox, Director of the
Naval History and Heritage Command, recently talked about his hero,
Medal of Honor recipient Cmdr. Ernest Evans, at Combat Direction
Systems Activity Dam Neck. The presentation was in honor of National
American Indian Heritage Month. Evans was half-Cherokee and
one-quarter Creek Indian and commanded USS Johnston (DD 557) in the
Battle off Samar in World War II.
(U.S. Navy photo by Joe Navratil, NSWC)
Evans was one-half Cherokee and one-quarter Creek and
experienced prejudice during his times growing up in
Oklahoma and as a Midshipman with the Naval Academy class of
1931. “He was the third Native American Midshipman and
experienced the prejudice common in the times,” said Cox.
“Native Americans actually have the highest per capita
service rate in the history of the American armed forces.”
Despite that, Evans was known for his calm demeanor and
unflappable leadership. “If you disappointed him, you knew
it,” said Cox. “That was worse than being screamed at.”
Evans was also known for his desire to get his ship as close
to shore as possible to provide naval gunfire support to
Marines ashore and his desire to engage the enemy despite
That’s what happened the morning of October 25, 1944, after an
American patrol plane sighted a Japanese Task Force steaming through
the unguarded San Bernardino Strait and toward the island of Samar
in the Philippines. The far larger and more capable Japanese task
force was heading toward a much smaller American group known as
“Taffy 3”, after the bulk of the U.S. Fleet had been lured away by a
Japanese decoy fleet to the north. Taffy 3 had been designed to
protect slow convoys from submarine attack had been repurposed to
attack ground targets, and were unprepared to face such a large
force in a gun battle.
After shooting commenced, Evans’ USS
Johnston steamed through smoke to take on the Japanese fleet. Damage
was done by both sides, but the USS Johnston was gravely damaged and
Evans was seriously wounded. Evans left the bridge and commanded the
ship from the fantail, calling orders down the hatch where sailors
were turning her rudder by hand. He was stripped to the waist and
covered in blood with his left hand wrapped in a handkerchief. Evans
eventually gave the order to abandon ship and was never seen again.
“A Japanese destroyer captain saluted as USS Johnston sank,”
said Cox. Evans was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, and his
ship received six battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation
for service in World War II.
As the senior naval intelligence
community leader, commanding the Office of Naval Intelligence and
the National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office when he
retired in 2013. “Other kids had sports heroes. Mine was Cmdr.
Ernest Evans,” said Cox.
By U.S. Navy Joe Navratil, NSWC
Ernest Evans Medal of Honor Citation
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