Ernest Edwin Evans
by Dick Hefton
In my eight years in Club 29 (58 in Rotary) I’ve “Reflected” on the unusual but with a tip of the hat to Rotary. For example, a review of “The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu,” was recommended reading in Rotary magazine; in another I told of the Kay County Judge, and Rotarian, who, in 1937 declared Amelia Earhart guilty of speeding. Driving a car not an airplane. Then broke the story of a Club 29 president being the only person ever nominated and selected two times to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. That was The Oklahoman managing editor Walter M. Harrison. Turns out he was also never named to the Ok. Journalism Hall of Fame at all, which is in the process of being corrected at this time.
Today to a fellow Muskogee (Rougher) Central High School, no, not quite from my grad class but the class of 1915.
You won’t be alone if you never heard of Ernest Edwin Evans, Big Chief or Captain Evans. After high school with no prospects of higher education Evans, of Cherokee-Creek heritage, enlisted in the navy. He later applied and was admitted into the U.S. Naval Academy as the first native- American Midshipman. He graduated in 1931. The new Ensign was serving aboard a destroyer afloat in the East Indies when Pearl Harbor was attacked and as the war progressed, he captained the destroyer USS Johnston (DD-557) in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. On October 25, 1944 Evans found his small task force facing the main Japanese battle force which had turned for Leyte where Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s landing for his “return to the Philippines” was preparing to hit the beaches. US Navy forces were not in position to intercept the force so Evans charged with torpedo attack which diverted the opposing force thus allowing the MacArthur landing to proceed. The Johnston went down under superior firepower leaving only a few survivors. Evans was not among them. In recognition of his heroism Evans was given credit ultimately for turning the victory toward the final curtain on WWII.
Lt. Cmdr. Ernest Edwin Evans was posthumously awarded The Medal of Honor, the first native American in the Navy bestowed the MOH posthumously.
A story appearing in the August 2021 issue of Military Officer magazine tells of a retired Dallas US Naval officer, Victor Vescovo, who explores in submersibles the five deepest points in the world’s seas successfully relocated and filmed the USS Johnston (Fletcher-class (DD-557) at a depth of 21,180 ft. in the Philippine Sea. The ship’s hull numbers 557 were clearly visible on both sides of the bow.