USS Johnston found
USS Johnston – along with the Sammy B (“the destroyer escort that fought like a battleship) – the two bravest ships in the Navy in what is known as “The U.S. Navy’s finest hour,” the Battle off Samar on October 25, 1944 that saw destroyers and destroyer escorts, all manned primarily by reservists (“Democracy’s Navy”), go against the strongest battle line the Imperial Navy ever sent to sea.
Johnston made her attack on the battleships, taking on Yamato – the world’s biggest battleship armed with 18-inch guns. Her torpedoes didn’t hit anything, but they forced the enemy fleet to break its formation, destroying its cohesiveness and leading to the ultimate American victory.
Returning from the attack with hits in one engine and her bridge from Yamato’s main battery, her wounded captain – who was conning the ship from the fantail after the bridge was knocked out – saw the destroyers Hoel and Heerman preparing to commence their run at the enemy. Commander Ernest Evans – descendant of Cherokee warriors – could have continued his retirement and no one would ever have faulted him.
But he turned the wounded Johnston back toward the enemy, making smoke to hide the others while taking on the enemy destroyers in close range gunfights through the smoke. The last anyone on another ship who survived the battle saw of him, he was raising a battle flag from the stern mast. Johnston received the Presidential Unit Citation and Evans was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.