John Thomas Eversole was born in Pocatello, Idaho, on 17 April 1915 to John J. and Sarah W. (Ralston) Eversole. Upon finishing grade school in 1932, John, or Thomas as he preferred to be called in High School, entered the Southern Branch of the University of Idaho. He attended that school for two years before deciding to join the U.S. Navy in May 1934, and subsequently went on to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., that same year.
During his time at the academy “Tom” was described by his classmates as being “an excellent shipmate… buoyant of mind,” and he actively participated in fencing, rifle, boat club and football. Tom graduated from the Naval Academy on 2 June 1938 with a commission as ensign.
Following graduation, Ens. Eversole reported on board the light cruiser Cincinnati (CL-6) and served in that vessel until September 1939 at which point he was transferred to the recently recommissioned destroyer Crowninshield (DD-134). He was detached from her in August 1940, shortly before she was turned over to the Royal Navy under the “destroyers for bases” agreement.
Eversole went on to receive aviation training at the Naval Air Stations in Pensacola and Miami, Fl. He completed his instruction, and received his aviator wings on 21 February 1941. On 7 May 1941, he took up his first assignment as a Douglas TBD-1 Devastator torpedo plane pilot with Torpedo Squadron 6 (VT-6) on board the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CV-6) operating in the Pacific. Eversole received promotion to Lieutenant (j.g) on 2 June 1941.
The cataclysmic events of 7 December 1941, found Enterprise returning from an eleventh-hour delivery of U.S. Marine fighter aircraft to Wake Island, and within two months of the start of hostilities, the carrier participated in attacks against the Marshall and Gilbert Islands (1 February 1942).
On 18 February 1942, Enterprise sent out a routine scouting flight that encountered bad weather that caused difficulties for two VT-6 pilots. The carrier’s radar located one and the carrier recovered the fortunate crew just before they ran out of gas. The other, with Eversole and his crew, were listed as missing at the end of the day. The next day [19 February], however, Fighting Squadron Six’s diarist wrote: “Crew of Eversole plane found by morning search. Picked up by destroyer shortly thereafter. We feel much better.” In the wake of the happy ending, an anonymous cartoonist on board Enterprise sketched Eversole and his crew valiantly paddling their rubber boat, entitling it: “Lieutenant (j.g.) Eversole’s First Command.”
Enterprise’s air group went on to pound Wake Island (24 February 1942) and Marcus Island [Minami Tori Shima] (4 March 1942), targets ever closer to Japan itself until, on 18 April 1942, Enterprise supported the Halsey-Doolittle Raid, in which, 16 U.S. Army Air Force B-25B Mitchell medium bombers led by Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, USAAF, launched from Hornet (CV-8) bombed targets on the Japanese homeland.
Lt. (j.g.) Eversole was still with VT-6 on board Enterprise in June 1942, when U.S. and Japanese forces clashed at Midway between the 4th and the 6th of that month. In the opening act of the battle, on the morning of 4 June, Eversole and his radioman-gunner RM2c John U. Lane departed Enterprise in VT-6 and the Enterprise Air Group to intercept the Japanese carrier force approaching Midway. Eversole’s and the other 14 torpedo planes of VT-6 became separated from their fighter escorts and as they approached their objective they found themselves overwhelmed by enemy fighters and a hail of anti-aircraft fire. Eversole “pressed home his attack with relentless determination, in the face of a terrific barrage of antiaircraft fire…. His extreme disregard for personal safety contributed materially to the success of our forces and his loyal conduct was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Eversole’s plane was one of ten shot down during the attack, with only four others making it out. His remains were never recovered and he was listed as missing in action until 5 June, on which date he was officially declared to have been killed in action. Eversole was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the Purple Heart, the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp, and the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal.
(DE-404: displacement 1,350; length 306'; beam 36'8"; draft 9'5"; speed 24 knots; complement 186; armament 2 5-inch, 2 40-millimeter, 8 20-millimeter, 2 depth charge tracks, 8 depth charge projectors, 1 depth charge projector (hedgehog), 3 21-inch torpedo tubes; class John C. Butler)
The first Eversole (DE-404) was laid down on 15 September 1943 at Houston, Texas, by Brown Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 3 December 1943 and sponsored by Mrs. Sarah R. Eversole, the mother of Lt. (j.g.) Eversole, and commissioned on 21 March 1944, at her building yard, Lt. Cmdr. George E. Marix in command.
Following her commissioning ceremony at 1002 on 21 March 1944, Eversole welcomed visitors for one hour, after which, at 1300, her crew continued the process of loading provisions and spare parts. She then remained moored at the dock in Houston as further preparations ensued through Thursday the 23rd. On 24 March, she got underway steaming through the Houston Ship Channel to the San Jacinto Ammunition Depot to take on ammunition.
On 26 March 1944, Eversole departed the ammunition depot and made her way to Galveston, Texas, mooring at Pier 37. The following day at approximately 1300 she shifted to Todd’s Dry Dock Company for post commissioning repairs and to have the antenna of her DAQ radio direction-finding equipment removed. The adjustments were completed on the 30th and she moved to Pier 36 to take on more provisions.
Eversole got underway from Galveston on 7 April 1944, shaping a course for Great Sound, Bermuda, British West Indies, for her shakedown. While en route, on the 12th, she investigated a radar contact and an unidentified ship fired six shots at her, which according to her report, landed “close but no hits.” The danger passed and the aggressor was later identified as the merchant tanker Esso Springfield. Without further excitement Eversole arrived the following day at Great Sound. The escort ship and her crew underwent rigorous daily exercises and drills in the area well through the end of the month.
With her shakedown wrapping up on the morning of 10 May 1944, Eversole, then got underway that same afternoon for the Boston Navy Yard. The escort ship arrived at Boston on the 12th and moored to the dock for a post shakedown overhaul, while her crew enjoyed some much deserved shore leave. The overhaul concluded on 19 May, and the following morning [20 May] Eversole got underway for Norfolk, Va.
Following a brief daylong voyage, she arrived at Norfolk at 0900 on 22 May, and just five hours later, in company with fellow escort ship Dennis (DE-405) set out on her first wartime mission, escorting the transport Arlington (AP-74) to Colón, Panama.
Eversole arrived at Colón on 28 May 1944 and moored to the coal dock, after which, she fueled to capacity and re-provisioned. The following morning, she transited the Panama Canal, mooring to berth 18B at Balboa, Panama, later the same day. She spent the night at Balboa, and then got underway on the 30th, again in company with Dennis, and shaped a course for San Diego, Calif. The pair arrived at San Diego on the 6th of June and moored.
In company with Dennis, Eversole weighed anchor on 13 June 1944, and began the voyage to Pearl Harbor, T.H. They arrived at Pearl on the 19th and at approximately 1000 that morning Eversole moored to the dock. For several days, beginning on the 21st, Eversole conducted exercises with the submarine Needlefish (SS-379) in the vicinity of Pearl. On Monday 26 June, she left her moorings at the submarine docks in Pearl and got underway for Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands, escorting a troopship. The escort ship dropped her anchor in berth No. 1 at Eniwetok on American Independence Day, 4 July 1944.
Having re-fueled after her arrival, Eversole got back underway for Pearl on 5 July 1944 at 1600, steaming singly. She arrived at Pearl on the 11th and moored at the DE docks. Following a brief sojourn in port, the escort ship weighed anchor on 14 July, accompanying another convoy bound for Eniwetok. Her companions included the oilers Tomahawk (AO-88) and Mississinewa (AO-59), and the minelayer Preble (DM-20). They made it to their destination on 23 July, and Eversole anchored in berth C, at 0930.
Late in the afternoon, on the same day that Eversole reached Eniwetok, she got underway again to escort a convoy to Majuro, Marshalls. On 25 July 1944, just a few days into her voyage to Majuro, she left the convoy and began steaming independently back to Eniwetok, arriving the following morning, and shifted into berth B-2.
Going into August 1944, Eversole remained at anchor at Eniwetok, stirring from her moorings only in order to conduct the occasional patrol in the local area. Finally, on 9 August 1944, she got underway taking up a position as a screen for ComCarDiv 22, which included the escort aircraft carriers Sangamon (CVE-26), Chenango (CVE-28), Suwannee (CVE-27) and Santee (CVE-29). Other escorts included Dennis, Richard S. Bull (DE-402) and Shelton (DE-407). The flotilla arrived at Seeadler Harbor, Manus, Admiralty Islands, on 13 August.
From the time of her arrival at Manus until 9 September 1944, Eversole remained largely inactive getting underway only a few times to conduct some brief exercises in the vicinity of her anchorage. She waited as part of a larger ongoing build of Allied forces in the area preparing to assault Japanese forces on the island of Morotai in the Netherlands East Indies. In the second week of September preparations finally concluded and on the 10th, Eversole got underway as a screen for Task Force (TF) 77.1 bound for Morotai.
On 15 September 1944, TF 77.1 assumed its attack position off Morotai. At approximately 0515, carriers in the task force began launching planes to bomb enemy positions on the island while U.S. and Australian ground forces began landing on the island’s southwest corner. Eversole maintained her screening station as the attacks continued on through the end of the month.
Having briefly returned to Seeadler Harbor for replenishment in the first week of October 1944, Eversole got underway on 12 October with Task Group (TG) 77.4.1 steaming for the waters around Leyte in the Philippines. Upon their arrival in that area several days later, the carriers of the task group commenced flight operations while Eversole screened them. The escort ship was still steaming in this capacity as operations peaked during the calamitous Battle of Leyte Gulf that raged between 23 and 26 October.
Increased Japanese air and naval sorties against Allied forces in the vicinity of Leyte left Eversole relatively unscathed in the opening days of the battle. Her first close call occurred on the morning of 25 October 1944, while she was screening Santee. A Japanese air attack, conducted by a single plane came in from high altitude “in a suicide dive,” and strafed Santee, after which, the pilot “leveled off… and cleared the deck going from stern to bow in a blazing pillar of flame.” Moments later a torpedo wake crossed Eversole’s stern, and then another ‘fish’ hit Santee on the port quarter.
At approximately the same time that Eversole witnessed the attack on Santee a major naval and air action took place in the vicinity of the nearby island of Samar, during which several U.S. ships were sunk. According to Eversole’s commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Marix, shortly after the attack on Santee abated, he “was ordered to take charge of the U.S.S. [Richard S.] Bull (DE-402) and proceed to the area of the morning engagement off Samar.” The two escort ships then spent thirty-six hours conducting a search of the area, locating several downed pilots, but finding no survivors from any of the sunken ships.
Just after dawn on 27 October 1944, Eversole and Bull rejoined their task group and briefly took up screening stations with Santee. However, being low on fuel and needing to disembark her rescued passengers Eversole, still in company with Richard S. Bull, broke away from Santee and headed for Leyte where they arrived on the evening of 28 October and “tied up,” to take on fuel.
Due to the limited availability of oilers, Eversole finished fueling before Richard S. Bull, and decided to get immediately underway to re-join the task group, clearing the gulf at 20 knots just after midnight. Only a few hours later, at approximately 0210, she picked up a surface contact five miles distant. “In case there might be something ahead,” Lt. Cmdr. Marix altered Eversole’s course 15° to the right and set her speed to 17 knots. At 0228, sonar contact was reported 2,800 yards distant and Marix headed for the bridge. In the seconds that followed, however, a torpedo fired from the Japanese submarine I-45, (Lt. Cmdr. Kawashima Mamoru commanding) punched into the side of the ship.
“The ship immediately took a 15° list,” and then a second torpedo struck, presumably in the same place as the first. Eversole’s list increased to 30° and at 0240, Marix gave the order to abandon ship. Before leaving the ship himself, the commanding officer noticed three men “frozen on the rail too scared to move,” so he beat their fingers until they dropped into the water, and then assisted in lowering another man with a broken leg. Finally getting into the water himself, Marix went about herding the other survivors into a group on a floater net.
As Eversole sank to the bottom, I-45 surfaced and started to cruise through the debris-strewn area. Unable to clearly identify the boat in the pre-dawn gloom, several of the survivors began to shout for help, to which I-45 responded with bursts of 25-millimeter machine gun fire. However, thanks to the darkness and the rain, the gunfire failed to find any of the survivors who thereafter lay completely still until the submarine submerged and moved on. Approximately 20 minutes I-45 disappeared a tremendous explosion occurred, which was believed to be an anti-personnel bomb, and according to Marix it “killed or wounded everyone in the water.”
After languishing in the water for several hours, lights from the survivors’ flashlights attracted the attention of the escort ships Whitehurst (DE-634) and Richard S. Bull. Whitehurst screened Richard S. Bull as the latter pulled Eversole’s 139 wounded survivors from the water. During the rescue operations, Whitehurst made sonar contact with I-45 and pursued her with a vigorous hedgehog attacks, the fourth resulting in an explosion so violent that the U.S. ship’s sound gear suffered damage. Topside watchstanders noted a trail of floating “wooden damage-control plugs, various bits of deck planking, rags, bags of rice and other debris in a widening oil slick” at approximately 0°10'N, 127°28'E. On 5 November, the Japanese Navy’s Sixth [Submarine] Fleet headquarters ordered Lt.Cmdr. Kawashima to move I-45 to another patrol area. The message went unacknowledged.
Eversole was stricken from the Navy Register on 27 November 1944.
Eversole was awarded two battle stars for her World War II service.
||Dates of Command
|Lt. Cmdr. George E. Marix
||21 March 1944–29 October 1944
Jeremiah D. Foster
6 June 2019