John Evan was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1914, the second of seven children born to Austrian immigrant parents. Mike Evan and Marie Elavsky had first met onboard the ship bringing them to America (about 1910-11), and married shortly after their arrival. Initially, Mike Evan worked in a foundry until he developed health problems, after which he took up farming on the outskirts of Minneapolis (at Brooklyn Center), where he raised vegetables and marketed them in the city. In 1924 the Evan family moved to a 200-acre farm outside the little town of Arnold in Chippewa County, Wisconsin. They started a dairy operation with 20 Holstein milk cows and John and his three brothers got to do the milking, morning and night, before and after school. Years passed and that arduous work was finally eased somewhat only when electric power was extended to their area in the early 1930’s and they acquired milking machines. At the same time, a refrigerator and a washing machine made things easier for John’s mother and electric lights improved the quality of life for everybody.

John graduated from Arnold High School in the Class of 1931 and with limited employment opportunities because of the great depression he worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.), doing forestry service work. He lived in the barracks at the Camp in Clam Lake, Wisconsin and worked as a truck driver. He later worked for the W.P.A. driving a gravel truck for some time, but was back home working on the family farm in 1941 when his draft notice came. It was still several months before America’s entry into WWII when John Evan was inducted into the Army. He was sworn into service on September 24, 1941 at the Induction Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and sent to Fort Ord, California. John says, “I had been dating Ann Bozonie and she wanted to get married before I left for the service but I didn’t want to because I thought I might not come back. I asked her to wait for me and she said she would. She wrote often and sent me cookies until I came home in June 1945.”

John was immediately assigned to a heavy machine gun squad in Company M, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, and he received all of his training in the unit. The division had been activated only months before and had very little of its authorized equipment. John went through training carrying a wooden gun. After basic training, his unit was assigned to transport Japanese American citizens from their homes to train depots for further transport to internment camps. John says, “That was a terrible thing and it was hard for me to do. People were crying as they were being taken away from their homes and places of business, not knowing where they were being taken or what was happening to them.

When that assignment was over the division was sent to Camp Luis Obispo. We went into training for desert warfare in the Mojave Desert, in anticipation of being sent to North Africa. However, Japanese forces moved into the Aleutian Islands, so it was decided that we would be sent to clear them out. The biggest problem was that we were outfitted for a desert environment when, in the spring of 1943 we were diverted to the Aleutians where it was still bitterly cold. Attu Island was taken back, but we had no Arctic clothing or boots either during or after the fighting; and we had no tents or shelter from the weather. Sleeping bags were just laid out on the ice, exposed to the elements and as a result, many of the troops, including me, suffered cold weather injuries. I was hospitalized for frostbite and one of the doctors wanted to amputate my right foot. Fortunately, another doctor wanted to wait for a few days, and thanks to him I still have my foot. Tents and wood stoves were finally issued so the troops could be warm inside, but it was still wet and cold outside. After a month in the hospital I was sent back to my unit shortly before we boarded a troop ship taking us to Hawaii. There, we began training for jungle fighting and amphibious landings. Hawaii would be the division’s base of operations for the remainder of the war.”

On February 1, 1944, the 32nd Infantry assaulted Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, and after five days of combat, together with the 184th Infantry Regiment, eliminated all enemy personnel on the island. They returned to Hawaii on February 14th and started preparations for the next operation, the retaking of the Philippines. The 32nd Infantry spearheaded the first landings on Leyte and then fought in swamps, jungles and mountains in some of the bitterest fighting in the Pacific. John Evan recalls, “One day (Oct 3, 1944) after we had fought across Leyte and reached the opposite side of the island, while awaiting orders to move forward, a mortar shell landed in the middle of my six man machine gun squad. Three of my buddies were killed instantly and the rest of us were injured. I had a flesh wound in my leg and shrapnel in my hip and was sent to a field hospital set up in tents on the island. I was awarded the Purple Heart while in the hospital there on Leyte. From there, I was shipped to the hospital on Guam and after some time there I was put aboard a merchant ship headed for home (on Feb 24, 1945). It took more than a month for that ship to go from Guam to Seattle, Washington. In Seattle I was sent by train to Fort Sheridan, Illinois.”

Upon arrival at Fort Sheridan he was allowed two weeks home leave and he and Ann Bozonie took that opportunity to get married. After a few months in the training cadre at Fort Sheridan John was discharged on June 7, 1945. He and Ann moved to Minneapolis where he initially took a job with Minneapolis Moline. They had a son, Gary, in 1946 and four years later after daughter Joanne was born the growing family bought a two-bedroom bungalow. John was then working for a cold storage plant where the pay was better and he worked there for 27 years. Ann worked for Honeywell for several years, but died with breast cancer in 1962 when their children were only 12 and 8 years old.

In 1964 John Evan married Genevieve Monn. John was still working at the cold storage plant later when Genevieve developed a skin condition requiring a move to a dry climate. The children were grown and on their own at the time, so John and Genevieve moved to New Mexico and John began working in home construction. Five years later, when that job ended and other work could not be found there or back in Minnesota, they moved to Texas where he resumed working in the home construction industry until retirement in 1979. After a long illness, Genevieve died of cancer in 2003.

John’s “unplanned destiny” as he calls it, continues as he describes this way, “I married Patricia Parks, whom I had known for six years, in February 2005. In October 2005, I had a bad fall due to a fainting spell and had a pacemaker implant; and then had surgery for a blood clot on the brain that had resulted from the fall.” John’s present VA disability rating is a result primarily of his cold weather injury in the Aleutians rather that than his wounds from mortar fire on Leyte, and he reports, “ At this writing, I am in good health for someone my age (he is 95) and remain an active retiree.” He has been a member of Chapter 1919 for fourteen years and this month PATRIOT BULLETIN proudly salutes Patriot John Evan.