Engagement with Japanese Armada
Johnston operating with the Escort Carriers in support of the Leyte Gulf Campaign when a strong Japanese force was detected moving into the area. The Japanese force was comprised of 4 battleships, 7 cruisers and 12 destroyers. In order to protect the Escort Carriers from certain destruction from the Japanese force , the US destroyers were ordered to conduct an attack on the force . Johnston valiantly closed the superior Japanese force however for the first 20 minutes of the encounter, the long range Japanese guns could reach the US ships while the US medium range guns had insufficient range to reach the Japanese force. A smoke screen was laid down by the US destroyers in an attempt to conceal the carriers and allow them to escape damage from the Japanese force. When gun range had closed sufficiently, Johnston focused on the closest Japanese cruiser and scored damaging hits. Shifting to other targets of opportunity, Johnston expended some 200 rounds of ammunition from her 5â€/38 caliber guns. With the large concentration of Japanese ships in her proximity, Johnston next launched a torpedo attack, a spread of 10 torpedoes sinking the cruiser Kumano. The Japanese battleship 14â€ guns scored three hits in quick succession on Johnston followed closely by three hits from a cruiser's 6â€ guns. The damage incurred as a result of these hits caused a loss of power to the steering engines and the three after 5â€/38 guns were rendered out of commission. With a Japanese cruiser focusing its attack on the US carriers, Johnston shifted targets to the cruiser scoring 4 hits which caused her to break off its attack and to concentrate on the destroyer. The Japanese ships now scored numerous hits on Johnston, knocking out her forward gun and rendering the bridge untenable by fire and explosion. The CO shifted controls of the ship to the fantail where he continued to maneuver and direct the ship's fighting. Ultimately the heavy concentration of enemy gunfire caused her to go dead in the water. For another15 minutes, the Japanese ships continued to mercilessly pump rounds into the now defenseless Johnston and the order was given to abandon ship. 186 lives were lost on Johnston when she sank after an overwhelming attack by Japanese forces. Her sacrifice was instrumental in saving most of the carriers and also preventing the Japanese fleet from reaching the US invasion area of Leyte. 141 crewmen from Johnston survived the sinking.