Patriot, Chapter 1919
Army, WWII, Pacific
John Evan was born in Minneapolis,
Minnesota in 1914, the second of seven children born to Austrian immigrant
Mike Evan and Marie Elavsky had first met onboard the
ship bringing them to America (about 1910-11), and married shortly after
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
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
John went through training carrying a wooden
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.”
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.