USS Johnston (DD-577)

Johnston on the day of her commissioning. US Navy photo in the collections of the US Naval History and Heritage Command.

Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down

The USS Johnston (DD-557) was a Fletcher-class destroyer, commissioned on 27 October, 1943, under the command of Lt. Commander Ernest Evans. Johnston first saw action off Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, bombarding targets before the invasion in February, 1944. Redeployed to the Solomons, Johnston sank a submarine in May, before heading for the Marianas in July. She expended 4,000 rounds of 5" (127mm) ammunition supporting the troops ashore, before she was assigned to protect escort carriers during the invasion of Peleliu in September. Johnston was still with the escort carriers a month later, when the US invaded the Philippines. On the morning of 25 October, Johnston and the rest of her group were surprised by the Center Force of the Japanese Fleet. Evens reportedly told his crew "A large Japanese fleet has been contacted. They are fifteen miles away and 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." They certainly did, and the Johnston charged the Japanese line multiple times. She inflicted heavy damage on the cruiser Kumano, and landed hits on a Kongō-class battleship. Johnston, in return, took three 14" shells from Kongo, and a number of 6" shells from either Yamato or a light cruiser. She hid in a squall to make emergency repairs, before reengaging in an effort to draw fire off the other ships in the group. She took several more hits, before her remaining engine gave out, leaving her an easy target. Johnston went down about 10:10, with a Japanese destroyer firing into her sinking hull, to make sure, but the survivors reported that the Japanese captain saluted Johnston as she went down.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: At Johnston's commissioning, Evens quoted John Paul Jones, telling the crew "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."