April 15, 2005
Oroville Mercury Register June 10, 1985
by Emily J Hornaday and Kathy (Evans) Mendenhall, as told to me,
The story of WWII hero Robert Imlay Evans of Oroville, OUHS,
early 1940’s. Robert served aboard the USS Longshaw, destroyed by
Japanese fire from Okinawa, May 18, 1945. The Longshaw’s keel was
laid down June 16, 1942 and sailed a year later, June 4, 1943. Christened
by Miss E. Richards, a fine sleek destroyer. About this time Robert
left Oroville High School and joined the Navy. He wanted to fight
the Japanese for what they had done. He signed up with his friend
John Higgins, who is here it the picture with him. Robert
soon was on the Longshaw as a member of the ship’s first crew. He
and his buddies “Family” were assigned to the forward 5” gun turret.
They fired on the shores of Okinawa for 4 days, so many rounds the
barrel’s rifling wore down, reducing accuracy. At night they fired
flare shells. On that last fatal day for some reason an officer
sent Robert to the aft gun turret which saved his life, but unfortunately
he lost all his friends when the front of the ship took direct hits.
(For reason’s known only to “God” the ship ran aground. Ships are
made to fight in the open sea, but this brave crew had taken their
ship in close to protect our boys fighting on shore. Right or wrong
it happened.) Stu. She was hard aground on the Ose Reef, the Tugboat,
Arikana tried hard to pull her free to no avail. Soon the Japanese
opened fire with shore batteries the brave men of the Longshaw had
no chance to fight back. They were sitting ducks. Robert now on
the Torpedo deck saw the shells coming he told Kathy that he was
scared when they hit. 50% of his ship was destroyed. His gun mount
with his buddies gone. Captain C. W. Becker gave the orders to abandon
ship. Robert did and helped a wounded shipmate to a power can. Then
the ship blew up and knocked him out. He woke up under water and
came up in a burning sea of oil. He was hit in the hand as the Japanese
on shore were firing on the swimmers who were heading for open sea.
Empty landing craft picked up Robert and the others, of the almost
300 men on board 84 died, 95 wounded, Captain Becker was lost along
with many of the officers.
Roberts words to Kathy. “I got this medal awful easy, I feel ashamed
to take it. There were guys who lost arms and legs and their lives.
We did get 3 Kamikaze (our ship)” Which he was very proud of. Later
in his life he became more understanding of why things happen like
they do and had his Purple Hart engraved. He passed away at 70 years
Stu’s notes; More ships were lost at Okinawa than at Pearl Harbor.
On my article about the Vichy French I want to say that the ordinary
soldier and sailor takes orders from his superior and must obey
them only a few high up French wanted to fight us. It was sad so
many had to die, for the ego of their officers. Darby Miller told
me at the retreat of Dunkirk the French fought a desperate regard
action in which thousands were killed by the Nazi’s most never to
be found after the war. His brother in law, Melvin Franks was lost
there and where he is only God knows. Their gallant action saved
the lives of thousands of allied men, who made it to England to
fight another day.