Mustin Sailors pause to remember WWII-era USS Johnston

20 July 2018

From MC2 Sonja Wickard

On patrol in the Philippine Sea, the USS Mustin (DDG 89) crew conducted a ceremony to reflect on the sacrifice of USS Johnston (DD 557) Sailors.

PHILIPPINE SEA - — Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) observed a moment of silence in honor of USS Johnston (DD 557) and her crew, holding a remembrance ceremony on Mustin’s flight deck, July 19.

Johnston, along with USS Hoel (DD 533), USS Heermann (DD 532) and USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413), played a pivotal role during World War II, specifically during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, also known as the Battle of Samar. They went up against a much larger and more powerful Japanese force.

As part of United States Navy Task Group Taffy 3, which included six carrier escorts, four destroyer escorts and three destroyers, Johnston managed to hold back a force comprised of four battleships, eight cruisers and 11 destroyers bent on stopping American forces at Leyte Gulf and halting their advance through the Philippines.

The stand, however, was not accomplished without casualties. Johnston, Hoel, Roberts and the escort carrier USS Gambier Bay (CVE 73) were lost, along with many of their Sailors, including Cmdr. Ernest E. Evans, the commanding officer of Johnston and the first to order his ship into battle.

Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Stephens, a chaplain aboard Mustin, said remembering those who have gone ahead gives Sailors a link to the past, as well as an example of what it means to be a U.S. Sailor.

“[We are] in the water where our fallen Sailors from the past are literally below us, and seeing that we’re patrolling the same waters that they were in, in a different historical context... It’s important to know their story and to be like them,” Stephens said. “The example that they left us is one not just of training, but of courage. Not just of skill, but of commitment.”

During the ceremony, Cmdr. Todd Penrod, Mustin’s executive officer, and Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 2nd Class Jared Ammon carried a flower wreath to the end of the flight deck and committed it to the waters where the battle took place.

Ammon was selected because he shares a similar Native American heritage as Evans. He said initially he was unfamiliar with Evans’ story.

“Being chosen to help lay the wreath to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice that Cmdr. Ernest E. Evans and so many members of the USS Johnston paid at the Battle of Samar was truly an honor,” Ammon said. “Immediately upon accepting the privilege to honor such a man, I scoured the internet trying to learn everything I could about him. Article after article I kept thinking to myself he was the embodiment of bravery and selflessness. His story sent a chill down my spine that ignited a whole new sense of purpose and pride in my country and my people.”

Ammon said July 19 is now a day he will always remember and treasure.

Mustin is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

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