On October 27, 1945 - Navy Day - a memorial service was held for the USS Evans on Mare Island, CA where she had been decommissioned. A booklet was published for the event which is worth preserving. The name of the writer was not mentioned.

Sections

Introduction

Commissioning and Shakedown
Pearl Harbor and the Marshalls
The Marianas
Palau
The Philippines
Iwo Jima
Okinawa
Friday, May 11, 1945
Return
Decommissioning

Introduction

Today, the eyes of the nation are turned toward the United States Navy to officially celebrate her record of a job well done. The men who manned the huge force of ships and planes are being feted for their performance in clearing the enemy from the seven seas and the sky above those seas. It's a sailor's day everywhere, to celebrate a proud record. Here there is more; a sailor celebrates his joy at coming home.

The capitulation of Japan on August 14 brought major hostilities to a close. Some 12 days later, our navy steamed into Tokyo bay and closed the most spectacular campaign in its history. The U.S. Navy at first stubbornly, then with ever increasing might had swept across the immense Pacific steaming, flying, fighting all the way until the final destruction of the Japanese Navy.

Operating as an integral part of this vast organization, the USS Evans, DD552, performed the numerous duties required of a destroyer. She was hardly different from other 2100-ton Fletcher class cans. Most of the officers and crew were civilians in uniform, men who never been to sea, or even seen a destroyer. From training and work grew an organization and finally a spirit. From our own variety of experiences and combination of personalities grew a feeling that the Evans had developed something distinctive. Something that marked us as the Evans and not just another destroyer. The "Fighting Bob" was a small cog in a huge machine, but to us she was important; she was our ship, our lives and our ticket home. This is her story.

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Commissioning and Shakedown

On the 9th of September, 1940, while the battle for Britain was at its height, Congress authorized construction of the USS Evans, DD552. Her keel was laid the next July 21 by the Gulf Shipbuilding Corp. At Chickasaw, Alabama. The Nazis marched steadily ahead in Russia; Pearl Harbor was attacked; Bataan, Corregidor, Midway and Guadalcanal became history in the Pacific. Lidice was eradicated, the British held at El Alamein, while the "Fighting Bob" slowly materialized. Mrs. Charlotte Evans Isherwood sponsored the launching on October 4, 1942, christening the Evans after her famous father, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans.

In another six months, members of the new crew began trickling in to Chickasaw. Officers fresh from training schools, men from boot camp, and a scant few who had seen it all before. September and October were spent in Pre-Commissioning training at Norfolk. Bloody Tarawa fell, and the Big Three met at Teheran as we put finishing touches on our ship. Finally we were ready. On December 11, 1943, we two-blocked our commission pennant under the command of Commander F.C. Camp, USN, and began life as seagoing sailors.

Ten days later, we headed for New Orleans on our first run at sea. Fitting out kept us aboard during Christmas and New Years, while the Mardi Gras City celebrated. The rough trip to Bermuda for shakedown tagged us 90 percent landlubbers. Few will forget that mammoth swell that greeted us just off the Mississippi delta and the way the angry Atlantic tossed our insides around. A month off Bermuda in and out again, day and night chasing friendly subs, firing at sleeves and sleds and making torpedo runs was followed by a hasty post-shakedown availability at the Charleston Navy Yard, South Carolina. Plowing north to Newport, Rhode Island, we met cool weather, then turned and headed south for the Panama Canal via Norfolk. The "Fighting Bob" was on her way to the Pacific. The Gatun locks closed around us - that was the last we were to see of North America for 16 long months.

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Pearl Harbor and the Marshalls

We put Balboa astern March 3 as part of an escort for Four transports steaming for Pearl Harbor. Some 5,000 miles ahead of us Task Force 58 was running wild through the Marshalls and Carolines while marines stabbed ashore at Kwajalein, Eniwetok and Majuro, and the 6th Army gobbled up Manus Island in the Admiralties. A week spent at Pearl during March was confined to more practice firings and speed runs with a few liberties ashore.

Around the end of March, they sent us off to battle - we hoped - to Majuro Atoll in the Marshalls. Action followed soon. For some five weeks, well into May, we patrolled Wotje, Jaluit, Maloelap and other tiny garden spots in the Marshalls. Deep among the palm trees, thousands of starving, by-passed Japs lay hiding, but five miles off shore it was a dull patrol.

The RAF and Flying Forts pounded viciously at Hitler's Fortress Europe. General Mark Clark Slugged it out on the road to Rome. Our fast carriers and battlewagons cut loose through the Central Pacific covering landings at Hollandia; we trolled back and forth off Wotje and chaffed for action. One day, upon returning to "Red Snapper Lagoon" (a tiny, forgotten lagoon in the Marshalls), we discovered signs of life. With all hands at "GQ," we sent a party ashore who parleyed in sign language and grunts with some natives who had escaped from Jap-held Wotje in a tiny sailing canoe. After establishing sovereignty of the US, the landing party retired without casualties and the natives brought a turtle alongside as a gift. This was the height of our action in the Marshalls.

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The Marianas

We arrived back in Pearl on May 18. Something big was up - we could tell from the huge collection of ships. After some 2 1/2 weeks of hectic living, grubbing back and forth from the fleet and a landing in whale boats, dragging the usual guys out of the usual fights and working on the ship, we shoved off in a huge 5th Fleet convoy - west. We steamed westward for well over a week, arriving in the vicinity of Saipan with anew respect for the size of the Pacific. Buzz bombs were falling on London, Rome had fallen, the Channel was crossed while we were under way. Now, we too were to see some of the action. As we screened tankers, the army and marines stormed ashore on Saipan. Only 24 hours later, B-29s raided the steel city of Yawata deep in Kyushu.

Our own little group felt the Jap reaction a few days later when enemy planes dive-bombed our three tankers. The action was brief but fierce with the tankers alone suffering damage. The Evans was credited with one Jap plane as a son of Nippon plunged into the drink. A few seconds later, our hearts topped a beat when a "Judy" unexpectedly whipped in on us, skimming over our fantail only a few feet above our heads.

We were in the area during the famous "Turkey Shoot" day of June 19, receiving constant radio reports of the brilliant action of our pilots as they chased the Jap fleet back across the Philippine sea and shot some 350 Jap planes out of the sky. Thereafter, our job was routine steaming while the land war boiled and 1,000 miles to the south MacArthur leap-frogged to Biak. We returned to Eniwetok at the end of June, catching a few days availability, then came right back out again for another month. During July, the marines hit Guam under cover of an immense bombardment which pulverized the Jap defenses. We made one more trip, then returned to Eniwetok for a much-needed two weeks tender availability.

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Palau

On the 26th of August, we weighed anchor and swung our bow south for little Pearl Harbor - Manus Island in the Admiralties. As we crossed the equator, the customary gruesome festivities were held aboard with the few shellbacks aboard making up in spirit what they lacked in number. In Manus, we whisked all sort of "vital" equipment off a freshman tender, plundered shore bases for badly needed spare parts, and got soaked in the sudden, driving rains. Then it was off again with our precious tankers and some 50 bags of mail for Task Force 58. We made the tedious mail deliveries, greatly speeded by Captain Cap's beautiful ship handling, then dashed on a 32-knot speed run south to Owi and General Douglas MacArthur with the photos of the gigantic carrier plane strike that smashed Luzon early in September. We had visions of running a gauntlet of the Japanese Navy and air force, but the trip was quiet. It was a pleasure to be alone, no listening to chatter from half a dozen radio speakers, no station keeping, no tankers to herd.

From Owi, it was a leisurely trip back to Manus crisscrossing the equator on various legs of the zigzag plan. Just before we headed north again, the marines landed on Peleliu and Anguar. Simultaneously, the 6th Army struck again, hopping up to Morotai some 300 miles closer to the Philippines. Meanwhile, we steamed around with the methodical and nonchalant tankers in the South Philippine Sea sporadically rendezvousing with task groups of Admiral Halsey's 3rd Fleet as they retired from pasting Luzon and Formosa. Then, in mid-October, we returned to Manus.

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The Philippines

After a few days at anchor, they pushed us out again with the "Logistic Support Group" and to the blood and thunder boys aboard ship it was downright irritating. This time we felt thrilled in crossing west of Tokyo's longitude and had a mild scare during the second battle of the Philippine Sea when our operations brought us within range of attacking Japanese aircraft. No one objected as we ushered our vulnerable charges due east out of the area at a mean 14 knots with one tanker suffering with an engine breakdown. No air attack developed and we were soon back at Ulithi - the new fleet operating base.

While in Ulithi, Commander Bosquet N. Wev, USN, relieved Captain Camp as commanding officer. We were sorry to see Captain Camp go, yet no one more deserved the rest of his expected shore duty. A veteran of Atlantic and Mediterranean campaigns, he had trained us into our first shape as a fighting unit. His ship handling was brilliant. The maneuvering of the "Rapid Robley" was spectacular with "Fox Charlie" on the bridge and the engines at "all ahead full. " Not long after, Lt. John Gilpin relieved Lt. Commander J.R. Payne as executive officer and soon other officers were seen hanging around the coding room, in the vain hope that more orders were coming.

The DPC (Destroyer Patrol Craft) 552, as some of our young and eagers disgustedly dubbed us after another month with tankers, spent Christmas at anchor and New Year's eve doing figure eights some 400 yards off the entrance to Ulithi atoll. Once we tore angrily off to Yap in quest of a furtive submarine, and bombarded the by-passed Jap garrison. Aside from this one excursion, the duty was quiet. We enjoyed a few beer parties on Mog Mog, caught up on repairs and made ourselves ready for Iwo Jima.

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Iwo Jima

In February, Admiral Spruance, commanding the 5th Fleet, ordered the Evans alongside his flagship, the Indianapolis, for special duty. Gradually the huge armada of ships left the anchorage, each group with a particular task, and finally we headed out to sea. As our fast carriers raced toward Tokyo, the Evans, decoying as Task Force 58, headed northwest, straight for Formosa. On completion of duty assigned and with the hope that we had given the Japs a few puzzles to work out, we headed for Saipan.

Back at Saipan in mid-February, we picked up long-awaited air mail and joined the escort for the 4th Marine Division en route to Iwo. "D" Day, February 19, was cool and sunny as we took up station north of the island awaiting our turn on the firing line.

The invasion unfolded before our eyes in a manner both fascinating and horrible to see. Over the island hovered a pall of smoke into which plane after plane disappeared, then emerged after unloading bombs, rockets and belt upon belt of bullets. We could see tracer shells streaking over Mt. Suribachi and onto the land from the cordon of battlewagons, cruisers and destroyers. The dull, heavy roar ceased, punctured by the crack of a cruiser's guns close by. Landing craft with marines, tanks and supplies darted through the inferno to the beach. Destroyers and support craft moved in close to blast out specially designated enemy guns. By radio, we followed the bloody struggle as it mounted in fury. At noon the next day, the Fightin' Bob took its place in the firing line after a rugged night. The air raids and melee of ships brought many a near navigational mayhem off the shores of Iwo; to the use of surface radar goes the credit that there were only two collisions among the hundreds of ships milling about the tiny isle in the night. It was a tired crew that manned stations that day for the tedious work of bombardment. We blasted away for the remainder of the day and right on into the night, alternating on guns so men could eat and crews rest.

The hours of incessant slamming followed far into the night. Then, about 3 in the morning near the edge of a desperately held air field, the Japs counter attacked. Over the fire control circuit came the word, "all guns rapid fire, " and the Evans sent tons of steel and explosives a scant 200 yards ahead of our own front lines, helping the 4th Marine Division break up the attack. By 6 a.m., our ammunition was running low and a relief arrived at 7. We had expended over 1,900 rounds of 5-inch shells. Stacks of empty powder cases covered the decks and jammed passageways below. Blast shields had torn loose and the paint had blistered and burned on the guns. It was a weary Evans that joined the "baby flat tops" as they continued their air support from offshore.

In the two weeks that followed, we screened our carriers, picked pilots who crashed or landed in the sea and transferred pilots and mail from one carrier to another. With the cold weather, a sharp change from the warm Ulithi, beards began to appear with a lively competition in length and style. On March 8, we headed south again. By this time some of the beards had acquired a little dignity, and everyone on the Evans had acquired a new respect for the marines. We knew the hundreds of ships and planes served their part, but as we watched the battle, listened to the radio reports, a conviction grew into a new admiration - it was the marines who took Iwo.

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Okinawa

Back at Ulithi, it was hot and sticky, not like the cool, brisk weather at Iwo. Commander Robert J. Archer was awaiting us and on the 12th he relieved Captain Wev as commanding officer. We bade farewell to Captain Wev and immediately afterward his Des Div 38 flagship, the USS Hobby, pulled away from alongside. His step up to that command was a mark of his energetic ability.

The anchorage was jammed with ships with more arriving daily. The Okinawa invasion was just around the bend. In a week, the first contingent of minesweepers, shore bombardment battleships, and cruisers steamed north, and we set to work scraping and painting decks.

We were in southern anchorage, far from the pleasures of Mog Mog, our recreation atoll, and the long trips in the whaleboat were wet and salty. The boys with the beards scratched and cussed the heat, but the nights were cool. Evening movies on the fo'c'sle deck were a real pleasure. After full nights in the sack, we were rested and ready when we sortied with the jeep carriers just after dawn on the 21st.

Simultaneously from three points, the United States Navy sent long pincers to converge on Okinawa. Late in March, from Leyte, Saipan and Ulithi, task groups shoved off across the Philippine Sea. The way had been cleared by Task Force 58 and even as we neared the operating area they were raking Kyushu.

March 25th found our group in striking position. For six weeks, day in and day out, Wildcats and TBMs were catapulted off those miniature flight decks to strafe and bomb the Japanese embedded on Okinawa. From dawn till dusk, we maneuvered almost constantly, screening the carriers as they turned into the wind to launch and recover their planes. Sometimes the sea was rough, or the weather thick and a returning plane had trouble landing or a shot-up plane couldn't make it to the carrier deck. Then we whipped out of station and pulled a dripping pilot from the drink.

Jap suicide attacks grew more frequent. Bogies within striking distance were routine during dawn and dusk alerts. Only once did three kamikazis penetrate our fighter defense and come screaming into our carriers and the Evans brought down one.

Despite our constant replenishing at sea, supplies were running low. On May 2, after 42 consecutive days at sea, we dropped anchor in Kerama Retto. In that anchorage, some two hours from Okinawa, we scurried about after food, spare parts and badly needed supplies. Jap planes sometimes raided the anchorage a dozen times a day. At night, thick smoke hid us securely; in the daytime, our guns could answer back.

One evening at dusk, a CVE a mile from our berth was hit, starting several fires. The next morning, two Jap planes eluded our fighters through a maze of AA fire to score a hit on a seaplane tender. The cove at Kerama Retto had become a graveyard for battered destroyers and DEs. Each day and night brought new additions to the sunk and damaged, victims of the more intensive kamikazi warfare. Soon now, we knew our time would come.

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Friday, May 11, 1945

It was a warm morning for Okinawa. Through the early morning mists we could barely see the outline of Iheya Jima, some 40 miles north of Okinawa. Ahead of us, the Hadley, a snappy new 2200 can turned and a few minutes later we followed. Two destroyers circled four landing craft support ships on a pinpoint north of Okinawa, on Radar Picket Station No. 15.

We were tired from a rugged night. All morning from 1 a.m. till 6, we had tracked Jap planes sweeping overhead on raids to Okinawa. Our guns had been silent since the previous evening when an alert director crew had spotted a lone "Kate" sneaking in low at dusk. Quick guns gave us a splashalmost before the battle stations were manned.

At 0750, a seaplane appeared low on the water off our port quarter, showing friendly at first. Spotters identified it as a twin-float "Jake" and we opened fire. The plane commenced his suicide run, the Hadley's guns opened up, then our own 40s and 20s. One thousand yards from our fantail he blew up with a terrific explosion from a direct hit. We breathed easily again and got set for what might be coming.

Twenty minutes later, radar detected a large force of enemy planes, approaching in waves from the north. As the first wave drew near, we maneuvered to bring all guns to bear. Racing low over the water, the leading "Kate" was dropped at 6000 yards; the second "Kate" disintegrated from a direct five-inch hit at 4000 yards. The third veered away too late and caught in machine gun fire fell in flames 500 yards off the port beam. Two minutes, three planes downed.

In the melee that followed, planes dropped into the sea all around us. Somehow the Japs seemed reluctant to attack together and with a concentrated fire the main battery slewed from one target to the next.

Just before 9, the double teaming started. While the attack had been furious enough, we stood aghast at what followed. The Japs came from all angles, diving from overhead and careening over the very wave tops attempting to crash aboard. At flank speed with all four boilers on the line, we maneuvered violently, dodging planes that kept coming through. A "Kate, " buffeted by explosions, dropped a fish at 200 yards. With Capt. Archer's calm assurance on the bridge, we cleared the torpedo with a hard left rudder, and splashed the "Kate" off our stern. A "Judy" appeared suddenly out of the bright clouds in a screeching dive. At the last minute, he pulled up his nose, clearing our rigging by inches at some 400 miles per hour. His bombs missed aft, and the explosion lifted our fantail, but No. 2 gun caught him pulling away.

We got hit shortly after 9 o'clock when a "Judy" slipped through our fire, skittered across the water, and slammed into our port bow. The forward repair party put out the fire and stopped the flooding; all guns continued firing. Still the planes struck at us with an increasing fury. Plane after plane peeled off only to go roaring into the sea or disappear before our eyes in a flash of flame and smoke.

A slight lull followed one of those attacks. Then our main battery commenced firing on what appeared to be a cinch closing on our port beam. He never wavered, but riddled and flaming crashed us port side amidships. A second later his underslung bomb detonated, ripping a huge hole in the hull and flooding both after engineering spaces. Even as we switched power to the forward control board, two more plowed into us starboard and just aft the bridge. Another bomb blew up the forward fire room and adjoining engine room. Fire broke out and steam smothered the superstructure.

Suddenly the guns were silent. Above the hiss of escaping steam rose shouts of damage control parties. Rapidly flooding, with no power, the Evans dragged to a halt. Slowly the steam cleared and the attack was over. Roaring overhead were two Corsairs. Never did those planes look more beautiful.

Strangely enough, the sea was calm. We broke out gasoline pumps to slow the flooding and commenced treating our injured. Suddenly from nowhere came the roar of another kamikaze and, in a hail of shells from our port side 40 mm and two Marine Corsairs, he crashed into the sea off our fantail. That was the end of our action, and the Evans turned to licking her wounds.

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Return

With the Evans dead in the water, support craft came to our aid. That the Evans did not sink was largely due to their assistance. Our dead and wounded were transferred, salvage operations begun and we were taken in tow. Temporary repairs were made in Kerama Retto while part of the remaining crew were sent on to the States. Finally, on July 27, after an 8,000-mile tow, the Evans returned to San Francisco and berthed in Mare Island Navy Yard.

As a result of the action on the morning of May 11, 32 of our crew lost their lives and another 27 were injured, including our Executive Officer, Lieutenant John W. Gilpin, USN.

The Evans was credited with 19 planes shot down unassisted, including the four which crashed aboard, three more as assists with the Hadley and one assist with our planes for a total of 23 planes. The enemy formations totaled about 150 aircraft and were first intercepted by Marine Corsair pilots. In spite of the wonderful job done by our interceptors, approximately 50 enemy planes come through to make the two destroyers their target for the day. Several times Marine pilots, having run out of ammunition, maneuvered to force attacking planes from the Hadley and actually rode two into the sea by flying closer and closer. The whole action lasted an hour and 45 minutes. Not counting the planes crashed aboard, the two destroyers were credited with bringing down a total of 42 planes, the largest number ever reported for ships of their size during a single action.

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Decommissioning

Upon arrival at Mare Island, the first leave section set out for home and work began on the huge task of rebuilding the Evans. With the war's end came stop-work orders. On August 28, Commander J.E. Pace took over as skipper, relieving Captain Archer. Captain Archer's leadership had guided the Evans in a battle which will be remembered as one of the minor incidents of this war. With him went our personal thanks for having proudly served under his command.

As Captain Pace directed us, decommissioning commenced in earnest. The Evans was stripped to a bare hulk moored alongside Pier 24 and the official ceremony set for mid-November. When the commission pennant is officially hauled down from the stumpy mast nailed to the director scaffolding, it will mark the physical end of a great ship. She was a sturdy and reliable home for us, with a remarkable capacity for withstanding punishment. To Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation and the workers of Chickasaw go our congratulations for a job well done.

We'll leave the "Fighting Bob" soon after decommissioning to go our separate ways. As we break up a fellowship that grew under the most trying conditions we remember that many who shared that bond will never be seen again. They are buried in the waters of the Pacific, in graves of Zamami Shima, in the cemetery of Ie Shima, on Okinawa, and on Saipan, having died in the service of their country. Each may seem far from home, yet in the sentiment of Rupert Brooks, the corners of the earth where those men lie are forever America.

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