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The Fighting Bob: A Wartime History of the USS Robley D. Evans DD-552

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The Fighting Bob: A Wartime History of the USS Robley D. Evans, DD-552
  • by Michael Staton
    • Merriam Press Military Monograph Series
    • Fourth Edition 2021
    • 198 6×9-inch pages
    • Full-color cover painting by Ken Beals
    • 91 B&W photos
    • 10 illustrations
    • two-view plan drawing
    • 1 map
    • 4 appendices
    • Paperback Edition - ISBN 978-1-716-18912-8 - $13.98
  • Purchase the paperback edition

Although there have been many individual accounts written about the USS Robley D. Evans (DD-552), a Fletcher class destroyer launched on 4 October 1942, no one had compiled a complete and detailed history of the ship and her men in one book. Author Michael Staton, son of one the crew members of the Evans, set out to collect any data available about this remarkable ship and its incredible men. After three years of research and writing, finally their story can be told.
    
The ship was named after a Naval officer who began his service as an ensign during the Civil War, Robley D. Evans, also known as "Fighting Bob," and he commanded one of the Navy's newest battleships when the Spanish Fleet attempted their escape from Santiago Harbor during the Spanish-American War. He had attained the rank of rear admiral by the time of his passing in 1912.
    
The destroyer Evans rendered invaluable service during World War II, including logistic support for carrier strike forces at Saipan, logistic support for the Third Fleet fast carrier task force in the Palaus and the Philippines, fire support shore bombardment for the 4th Marine Division on Iwo Jima, and escorting Third Fleet carrier forces and performing radar picket duty at Okinawa. She is credited with destroying 26 enemy planes, and rescuing six downed American aviators.
    
The Evans received the Presidential Unit Citation, the Philippine Defense Medal, the Philippine Liberation Medal, the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon with five stars.
    
It was at Okinawa where the Evans gained immortality as a radar picket. On 11 May 1945 more than 200 Japanese planes were launched from Kyushu to attack the American naval forces off Okinawa. Along with the USS Hadley, another destroyer on picket duty, the Evans fought off numerous bombing, torpedo and suicide attacks.
    
They had both set records for ships of their class in downing enemy aircraft during a single action. The Evans was credited with twenty-three which included the three which crashed aboard, four assists with the Hadley and one with the CAP. The Hadley received credit for 23 also which included three that suicided into her, the four with Evans and one assist with the combat air patrol. The Evans was saved though tragically 28 men were killed and 67 were injured.
    
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz put it best when he said, “So long as the American people can build ships like the Evans and produce sons like the officers and men who man her the country is secure.”
    
This book was written to honor the men who served aboard the Evans, and for the family of these men, that they can have a permanent record of what their husband, father, or grandfather did to help keep this country free.

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Prologue
  • Birth of a Warship
  • Patrolling the Marshalls
  • Saipan: Herding Tankers
  • Mailmen of Palau
  • The Philippines
  • The Marines Take Iwo Jima
  • Okinawa–The Final Showdown
  • Sea Pawns
  • Long Road Home
  • Death of a Warship
  • Friendships Forged by Fire
  • Bibliographical Notes
  • Appendices Life on the Evans: Drawings by crew member Ken Beals
    • General Data
    • United States Air Victories, 11 May 1945
    • Japanese Units of Kikusui No. 6
    • USS Evans Roster
Reviews

In reading my copy of this informative history, as a crew member of the Evans from 15 May 1943 until 19 September 1945, I was pleased to learn of events that I put out of my memory bank for over 60 years. Thanks to Michael Staton for an interesting ship's history, made more interesting because I was a part of it from before commissioning until the decision to decommission was made.
—E.J. Freisleben
 
Mike Staton's book, The Fighting Bob, is an outstanding tribute to his father, USS Evans shipmate James Edward Staton, and all those who served on the Evans. Indeed, it is a tribute to all those who had the courage and determination to defend our freedoms and help bring an end to the hostilities of World War II. For those of Mike's and my generation whose fathers served aboard the Evans, it will bring back a flood of memories of the times we too sat with our fathers watching old war movies, hearing about the USS Evans and its exploits, and looking to see if we could see her in action in Pacific Theater battle scenes. Those who served aboard the Evans will be flooded with a mixture of emotions as they read through this extremely well-researched and presented snapshot of the short life of the USS Robley D. Evans (DD-552)—from background on her namesake to her construction and commissioning on December 11, 1943, through her exploits in the Pacific, the fateful battle of May 11, 1945, and to her decommissioning on November 7, 1945. My father is suffering from dementia and more often than not, he doesn't even know who I am any more. When I gave him a copy of Mike's book, though, I saw his eyes light up with the memories that it was capable of bringing to the surface as he paged through it. I recognized once again the young man who, at the age of 18, literally raced to join up and do his part in defending his beloved United States. For that moment, I will be eternally grateful to Mike.
Chuck Thompson, Webmaster, USS Evans Web site

Review from the "Kamikaze Images" web site:

[This review references the first edition of The Fighting Bob which was a large format edition and the page numbers referenced in the review are different from the current edition.]
     The destroyers Robley D. Evans (DD-552) and Hugh W. Hadley (DD-774) destroyed 23 kamikaze aircraft each on May 11, 1945, as they fought together at Radar Picket Station 15. Michael Staton, son of James Staton who served on Evans, put together this history to honor the men who served on the destroyer, to have a permanent record for family members, and to remember his father. He succeeded in writing a complete history with the ship's deck logs serving as a primary source, but the book does not really capture the crewmen's emotions during the battle with kamikazes and its aftermath. The author talked with many surviving crewmen to create this ship history, but few of their personal accounts found their way into this book.
     After an extended introductory chapter on Admiral Robley D. Evans, known as "Fighting Bob," the remaining 11 chapters cover the destroyer Evans' history in chronological order. The book includes numerous historical photos, including about 50 photos taken by a crewman aboard Evans. Most of these are posed photos of different groups such as radarmen, electricians, machinists, and radiomen. The narrative does not discuss much about the general course of the Pacific War but rather focuses on Evans from her commissioning in December 1943 to her decommissioning in November 1945. Evans experienced relatively little battle action besides the mass kamikaze attack on May 11, 1945, with the focus of the destroyer's duties being logistic support. However, the destroyer did rescue six downed aviators, and Evans' gunners helped shoot down a Zero fighter making a suicide run on April 2, 1945.
     "Sea Pawns," the title of Chapter 9 about the kamikaze attacks on May 11, 1945, is a term that describes the radar-equipped destroyers sent to 16 radar picket stations around Okinawa in order to detect and destroy attacking enemy planes before they could reach the main American fleet. At 0755, radar operators reported an estimated 150 aircraft headed toward Radar Picket Station 15 where Evans, Hadley, three LCSs (Landing Craft, Support), and an LSM (Landing Ship, Medium) were on patrol. Combat Air Patrol (CAP) and destroyer guns brought down or chased off many of the incoming aircraft, but four kamikaze planes crashed into Evans, and another three hit Hadley. Evans lost 32 men as a result of these kamikaze attacks, and Hadley lost another 28 men.
     The book has four appendices, including general data on Evans, a summary of her accomplishments, a listing of U.S. victories and Japanese Units of Kikusui No. 6 that do not have much direct connection to the book's main narrative, and a roster of crewmen who served aboard Evans with arrival and departure dates. The book's last two pages have ten humorous color sketches drawn by Torpedoman First Class Kenneth Beals while serving aboard Evans. The book includes a bibliography of persons interviewed and books used, but the short background on kamikaze contains at least a couple of errors. When describing the legend of kamikaze, Staton incorrectly describes the destruction by a great typhoon of the Mongol fleet approaching Tokyo Bay, not Hakata Bay in Fukuoka (p. 74). The date of the first Kikusui mass kamikaze attack during the Battle of Okinawa is incorrectly given as April 4, 1945, whereas this actually occurred on April 6 (p. 82).
     Later in 1945, the crew of Robley D. Evans received the Presidential Unit Citation for their heroism demonstrated against the attacking kamikaze aircraft on May 11, 1945.
     In a book published in 2014 [by Merriam Press], Kamikaze Destroyer: USS Hugh W. Hadley (DD774) tells the story of the destroyer that fought with Evans at Radar Picket Station 15 against the mass kamikaze attack.
 
This was my grandfather's ship and I can't wait to read it's history.
—F.J. Woods III

The Author

As a young boy, I used to stay up late on Saturday nights with my dad and watch old war movies together. He would tell me of his adventures as a young man on a ship called a destroyer in the Pacific during the war. Intently I listened as he told me of the far off places he had been and of the people he had met. The popcorn would quickly disappear, the good guys would win the war and a happy young boy would drift off to sleep. These will forever be special memories for me. Growing older, not unlike many boys growing into adolescence, my attention went in other directions and my dad and I grew apart. Now his stories were not so interesting, the things he did not so important, and Saturday nights were special for other reasons. Looking back, I think since he grew up during the depression and matured under the pressures of war he was harder on his kids. He didn’t like the way everything seemed easier for us and didn’t think we took anything serious. After graduation, the U.S. Army was next in my life. My dad was very proud of my decision to join, he felt I had grown and was now doing my part to help uphold the American way. My reasons for joining were not to make him proud. I joined for a chance to get away and earn money for college. When Dad joined it was because there was a job to be done and he felt obligated to do something about it. In 1985 there was no great cause to join. My time in the Army did not change me much, so I thought. Returning home, I found my dad was not the tyrant I thought he was at eighteen. I remember thinking at the time how amazing it was that a man could change that much in four years. Looking back now, I realize that he was still the same man, it was I who had changed. This was also the time when my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. Never for a moment did the thought cross my mind that it would take his life. He was always so indestructible in my eyes. Though it is strange how it happened, when the Gulf War began our relationship grew stronger as we watched the events of the war through the television. We shared our fears about the war and discussed things never before approached. I finally started to understand who he really was. In the fall of 1991, Dad got worse. The doctors said there was nothing they could do. My faith that he would pull through began to disappear. On his last Christmas my gift to him was a new, American flag to hang on the front porch during the summer holidays. It was the first time I ever saw him cry and the last. He never got to fly the flag for he died on 11 January 1992. A short time after his death, my mom gave his medals, pictures, and documents from his naval years to me. I became very interested in this time of his life and the history of his ship, the USS Evans. Locating the reunion group in 1996 and attending my first reunion in May of the following year was an unforgettable experience. I cannot explain the wave of emotions that came over me from meeting the men that served with my dad on that tin can more than fifty years prior. They all treated me like family, even though few remembered my dad. (After all, it had been a long time).

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