Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro declared that a DDG 51 Flight III Arleigh guided-missile destroyer that belongs to the Burke-class would be named in honour of WWII hero Ernest E. Evans, the Navy’s first Native American to receive the Medal of Honor and one of only two destroyer captains to do so during the war.
During the Native American Heritage Month, Secretary Del Toro made the declaration. Secretary Del Toro also revealed that the ship would be sponsored by the United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first-ever Native American who served as a cabinet secretary.
Ernest Edwin Evans was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma, on August 13, 1908. On May 29, 1926, he graduated from Muskogee Central High School and enrolled in the United States Navy. He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy after a year of enlisted service, joined as a midshipman, and completed a Bachelor of Science in June 1931.
Evans served at San Diego, Pensacola, and on seven ships during his first decade of service. He was on his eighth tour in the East Indies when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, launching the United States into World War II.
Cmdr. Evans took charge of the USS Johnston as its sole commanding officer in 1943. Cmdr. Evans addressed his crew and the assembled audience during the commissioning ceremony. He said it was going to be a fighting ship and that he intended to put himself in danger, and anyone who didn’t want to join should get off right now.
Cmdr. Evans and the crew members of the USS Johnston were caught up in the Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 25, 1944, off the coast of the Philippines. Cmdr. Evans and the other destroyer captains conducted an offensive strike against a far bigger Japanese naval force that day, with the USS Johnston leading the way.
Evans ordered the crew to undertake a torpedo run, diverting fire away from the carriers and directly absorbing hits from three strong 14-inch guns.
Despite serious damage to his ship and his own wounded from Japanese fire, he frequently manoeuvred the USS Johnston between the enemy and the relatively more vulnerable US ships, saving thousands of his fellow Sailors’ lives.
The USS Johnston was eventually sunk in the Battle of Leyte Gulf with Commander Evans aboard. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his inspirational leadership and selfless actions in the face of a superior enemy force.
Cmdr. Evans also received the American Defense Service Medal, the China Service Medal, the Fleet Clasp, and Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with six engagement stars, the Philippine Defense, the World War II Victory Medal, and Liberation Ribbons with one star, in addition to the Medal of Honor, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.
The destroyer escort ship USS Evans (DE 1023) was titled in honour of the Commander. Evans.
Reference: US Navy
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