Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Memorial to WWII 'Taffy 3' hero to be dedicated in Muskogee this morning

If you've never read the story of Task Force 3, the Battle off Samar, and the heroes of that cataclysmic clash of sea and steel like Oklahomans Ernest E. Evans and Paul Henry Carr, you need to remedy that immediately. Go read The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, by James D. Hornfischer. It's a story of unparalleled heroism and sacrifice that has been largely forgotten.

I'm thrilled that Muskogee is recognizing Commander Evans with this memorial.

From the Muskogee Phoenix:

A dedication ceremony will be held on Tuesday, October 25 at 10:00 a.m. at Depot Green to dedicate a memorial to a Muskogee soldier who was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts during World War II. Commander Ernest E. Evans was killed in battle on October 25, 1944. 

     “Evans has never been honored in his home town of Muskogee and that is why the Ernest E. Evans Memorial Fund was established,” said Stephan Raegan, event organizer. “We had to raise $40,000 for a bronze bust by noted sculptor Mr. Paul Moore and a granite pedestal that will have his Medal of Honor Citation and his dates of birth and death.”  

      Evans commanded the USS Johnston. His mission was to protect the invasion fleet as a large force of Army troops landed and began to push the Japanese out of the Philippines. However, the US Navy ships were not as well equipped as the Japanese ships they encountered.  

     “This battle has been cited by naval historians as one of the great mismatches in history,” Raegan said. “Taffy 3 (Evans’ task force) was there to protect the escort carriers from submarines and enemy aircraft. The group was never envisioned as a force capable of mounting fleet level combat with battleships.” 

     The USS Johnston was the first American ship to attack the Japanese fleet. Evans sailed straight for the enemy against impossible odds. This bravery was foretold during the Johnston's commissioning ceremony in October of 1943 when Evans told the sailors assigned to the ship, "This is going to be a fighting ship. I intend to go in harm's way, and anyone who doesn't want to go along had better get off right now.” His sailors remained at their stations.

     After two hours of aggressive battle, the USS Johnston went down at sea, along with 185 crew members and Commander Evans.  

     “Evan's actions, and those of other members of Taffy 3, were so extraordinary that they are still studied at all levels of Naval Officer Professional Military Training,” Raegan said.  

The bronze bust and granite memorial pedestal will be unveiled exactly 78 years after his ship down.  

     The public is invited to attend the dedication and unveiling of this memorial in celebration of this 1926 Muskogee Central High graduate.


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