Admiral Michael M. Gilday
U.S. Navy, Chief of Naval Operations
Of the countless acts of valor in our Navy’s history, the USS Johnston’s (DD-557) daylight torpedo attack during the Battle off Samar stands out as uniquely courageous. Although in company with other ships, the Johnston broke formation under the orders of her captain, Lieutenant Commander Ernest Evans. Evans repeatedly interposed his battered ship between Japanese forces and the ships he was protecting, fighting his ship to the very end.
Author of Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898–1945
On the afternoon of 1 March 1942, Lieutenant Joshua Nix’s USS Edsall (DD-219), the old Asiatic Fleet destroyer, ran afoul of Japanese battleships and heavy cruisers. Nix and his crew fought for 90 minutes—laying smoke, firing obsolete four-inch guns, and making desperate torpedo attacks—but the Edsall ultimately succumbed to a combination of dive-bombing and surface gunfire. The Japanese rescued and then executed about 40 of the Edsall’s crew; none survived.
Admiral Phil Davidson
U.S. Navy, Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command
In May 1944, the Buckley-class destroyer escort USS England (DE-635) sank six Japanese submarines in 12 days, an unmatched accomplishment in the history of antisubmarine warfare. Her Presidential Unit Citation stated, “The USS England skillfully coordinated her attacks with other vessels and with cooperating aircraft, striking boldly, and with exceptional precision at the enemy.” This singularly remarkable feat reflects the fighting spirit of our Navy.
Salvatore R. Mercogliano, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History, Campbell University
On a run from Cape Town to Surinam on 27 September 1942, the WWII Liberty ship SS Stephen Hopkins with a Navy armed guard encountered the Nazi raider Stier and her supply ship Tannenfels. In a running gunfight, with merchant marine cadet Edwin O’Hara manning the aft gun, the Stephen Hopkins and the Tannenfels sank. O’Hara and 30 others lost their lives.
Vice Admiral Richard A. Brown
U.S. Navy, Commander, Naval Surface Forces
The crew of the USS Johnston (DD-557), led by a fighting captain, Lieutenant Commander Ernest Evans, demonstrated the best example of a courageous and battle-minded crew during the Battle off Samar during the Leyte Gulf campaign. Evans and his crew fought tenaciously for three hours against a larger enemy. He was last seen yelling steering orders through a hatch to aft steering before going down with the ship.
Historian and Technologist
On 8 March 1862, the ironclad CSS Virginia, constructed from the USS Merrimack’s hulk, smoked three powerful Union ships, becoming the world’s greatest warship. The next day, the USS Monitor, with a fraction of the Virginia’s size, crew, and guns, spent hours dueling her to a convincing draw. The two never fought each other again.
Midshipman Tyler Lacroix
U.S. Navy Reserve, University of Colorado, Boulder NROTC
The river gunboat USS Carondelet sneaking past 50 Confederate guns at
Island Number 10 in the Mississippi River near Tiptonville, Tennessee, on 4 April 1862. On a rainy and moonless night, Commander Henry A. Walke navigated his ship through deadly waters. He memorized the path ahead via flashes of lightning before being fired on and completing the run at max speed.
Former captain, U.S. Marine Corps
Disguised as a Maltese merchant, the 64-ton ketch USS Intrepid slid under the Tripoli Harbor guns and pulled alongside the captured frigate USS Philadelphia late on 16 February 1804. Within 20 minutes Lieutenant Stephen Decatur’s crew snuck on board, dispatched the Tripolitan guards, set the frigate aflame, and escaped past the harbor defenses.
Edward J. Marolda
Former Director of Naval History (Acting)
The spontaneous attack by the destroyer USS Johnston (DD-557), commanded by Lieutenant Commander Ernest E. Evans, on Japanese Admiral Kurita’s powerful battle force during the pivotal World War II Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944. Until sunk by heavy enemy gunfire, the Johnston gave as good as she got with torpedoes and gunfire. 186 officers and enlisted sailors paid the ultimate price for their valor.
Lieutenant Commander James B. Craven III, USNA ‘64
U.S. Naval Reserve (Retired)
On 25 October 1944, in the Battle off Samar, seven destroyers, the “small boys” of Taffy 3, interposed themselves between the U.S. carriers and almost the entire remaining force of the Japanese fleet, consisting of three battleships, eight cruisers, and other small ships. The courageous force of the “small boys” was led by the USS Johnston (DD-557), commanded by Lieutenant Commander Ernest E. Evans (USNA ’31), a Cherokee warrior from Oklahoma. The Johnston was closest to the Japanese and armed with ten torpedoes. Evans broadcast his orders to the ship: “All hands to general quarters.; prepare to attack major portion of the Japanese fleet; All engines ahead flank; Commence making smoke and stand by for a torpedo attack. Left full rudder.” The Johnston’s gunnery officer said later that he could see Evans’ “heart grinning” as he led his ship into the fight against the Japanese battleships and cruisers. The Johnston and her captain were lost, but for two hours they held off the Japanese fleet and enabled the Taffy 3 carriers to live to fight again. Ernest Evans was appropriately posthumously given the Medal of Honor.
Commander Lane E. Napoli
U.S. Naval Reserve (Retired)
On 19 March 1945, the USS Franklin (CV-13) was hit by two Japanese bombs that caused tremendous damage to the ship. The crew saved a ship that should have been lost. If ever courage was displayed, it was on CV-13 that day.