A son’s debut biography focuses on his father’s service as a World War II pilot.
Donald N. Evans was born and raised in a small town in Utah, the son of a farmer. His father descended from a long line of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who originally settled rural Lehi. Don was a prodigiously talented athlete—he was an all-state high school player in both basketball and football and a member of the varsity tennis team at Brigham Young University. Don was deeply in love with his high school sweetheart, Laura Jeanne, but on the other side of the Atlantic, war was ravaging Europe. In anticipation of the draft and stirred by patriotic duty, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Two months later, Don was called to duty and would eventually serve as a pilot in France and Belgium, stationed in Normandy, Chartres, Laon, and Chièvres. Author Kenneth D. Evans, Don’s son, stitched together this loving biography from sundry sources. They included his father’s brief memoir of the war, hundreds of love letters exchanged between Don and Laura Jeanne, and public records that the author scrupulously examined. Don’s eventful experiences overseas climaxed in terror—he was shot down over the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge, captured by enemy soldiers, and forced to march more than 200 miles under the most grueling conditions to a prisoner of war camp. He was subjected to days of intense interrogations, and back at home, Laura Jeanne was roiled by an official letter acknowledging that he was missing in action. The author impressively pulls off what is generally considered rare—a historically rigorous portrait of a subject for whom the writer harbors infinite affection. He also includes an endearingly intimate account of his own motivations: to fill in the gaps left by his father’s reticence regarding the war and fully understand the man he came to appreciate as a hero. Wisely, he lets Don tell his own story when he can: “I thought about the mess I was in, and wondered how I’d ever get out of it. Mostly, though, I thought about Laura Jeanne and Christmas Eve back home—wondering if we’d ever see another Christmas together.”
A skillfully crafted war story that’s both touching and historically captivating.