Retired Coast Guard Cmdr. Ray Evans, 92, was laid to rest Wednesday with full military honors in Lakewood, Wash. Evans was the final Coast Guard survivor of a rescue of a group of Marines pinned down by machine gun fire during the Guadalcanal Campaign in September 1942, where he earned the Navy Cross.
Among those who attended the memorial service was Dorothy Evans, his wife of more than 70 years; his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and Coast Guard Vice Commandant Vice Adm. John Currier.
Members of the Marine Corps Security Force Battalion Bangor performed a three-volley salute at the funeral, signifying the bond Evans and the Marine Corps have shared since World War II.
Evans and Medal of Honor recipient Douglas Munro were coxswain and crew of Higgins boats that were responsible for transporting Marines to and from Guadalcanal. In the Second Battle of the Matanikau, part of the Guadalcanal Campaign, after successfully taking Marines from the 1st Battalion 7th Marines 1st Marine Division ashore, the two Coast Guardsmen returned to their previously assigned position.
Almost immediately, they learned that conditions ashore were different than had been anticipated, and the Marines were surrounded by enemy Japanese forces on the beachhead. It was necessary to evacuate the Marines immediately. Both men volunteered for the job and brought their boats to shore under heavy enemy fire, then proceeded to evacuate the men on the beach.
Evans remained at his post during the entire evacuation. He maintained control of his boat with one hand on the wheel and continued to fire his weapon with the other until the last boat cleared the beach.
When the majority of the Marines were in the boats, complications arose in evacuating the last men, whom Munro realized would be in the greatest danger. He placed himself and his boats in such a way that they would serve as cover for the last men to leave.
“I saw that Doug was facing forward, and I was standing up by the coxswain looking back. I saw this line of waterspouts coming across the water, and I yelled at Doug to get down,” Evans had recalled during an oral history. “He couldn’t hear me over the engine noise, and it hit him. It was one burst of fire. And that’s how he died. And that’s how it happened.”
Munro remained conscious long enough to say four words: “Did they get off?”
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