In Righteous Company
The battle in store for this crew would prove that it is the men that truly make the difference.
Article by Benjamin Clun previously posted on the NORSKK web site on May 13, 2018.
This is going to be a fighting ship. I intend to go in harms way, and anyone who doesn’t want to go along had better get off right now. – attributed to John Paul Jones
The men aboard this ship have been fighting for months. They are not on the largest or most formidable ship in the US navy (their complement numbers just over 300, their ship being a fletcher class destroyer), but their fighting spirit is indomitable. The USS Johnston weighed a mere 2700 tons, and its largest guns were 5 five-inch guns (or 127mm). To put that into perspective, the main gun on the Abrahams tank is 120mm.
The battle in store for this crew, however, would prove that it is the men, and not the metal, that truly make the difference.
The group of vessels this crew find themselves amongst are a lightly defended carrier group known as taffy 3. There are 6 escort carriers, lightly armed mini-aircraft carriers. There are two other destroyers, and four destroyer escorts, small light vessels built for escorting ships of the merchant marine.
The USS Johnston was captained by commander Ernest Evans. It is this man, and his crew, that would stem the tide of a Japanese fleet that included the Yamato, the largest battleship ever built, which was more than 25 times the size of his vessel. The sheer size difference would have had most men, if not actually fleeing in terror, at the least hesitating. Where Evans had 5 of his five-inch guns to the ready, the Yamato had 9 eighteen-inch guns. Thus was the playing field for the battle off Samar.
It was the in the morning of the 23rd of October, 1944, when the crew aboard the Johnston would have heard their captains voice over the ships intercom. Every man on board strong in the knowledge of their own abilities, and those of their comrades. Many would have been at their posts. Some were perhaps resting, still others maybe readying themselves for another day of active service in a war zone. These men heard Evans speak, giving voice to a fierce courage they all possessed.
“A large Japanese fleet has been contacted. They are 15 miles away and are headed in our direction. They are believed to have four battleships, eight cruisers, and a number of destroyers. This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can”.
At such proclamation, one that would instil soul rending fear in most men, his loyal crew jumped into action. For as their commander would attack head on the threat presented, so would they.