Thursday, February 9, 2012

CPT Warren "Bing" Evans - One of the first (and few surviving) Darby's Rangers

I'm having a very difficult time doing justice to this post but I hope you will read it all the way to the end.

I encourage you to read the history of "Darby's Rangers" if you are not already aware of who they were.

From Ranger Family dot org:

Christmas at Oflag 64

"Let me tell you a story. There were two times in my 15 months at Oflag 64 Prison Camp, that I cried. One of them was the 4th of July. We were standing in an appel formation and the orchestra came out. We wondered what in the world was going on. After they were through counting us, we all still stood there. From somewhere, somebody produced an American Flag. There was a strong enough breeze to make it stand out and it seemed to be flapping at us- cocky like. As it waved in the breeze, the orchestra played the Star Spangled Banner. And I stood there looking at it. Although we heard afterwards, the Germans had tried to confiscate the flag, remarkably, they didn't interfere. That surprised us! At that moment, I was so proud! Tears came to my eyes.

The other time was at Christmas. We had a play that night, one of our small theater productions I had been a part of it, I remember- in the chorus. Later, we started to sing Christmas Carols with the orchestra and the piano. The Germans enjoyed that, too. I remember while we were singing Silent Night, the guards were singing along with us in German. So, we sang a lot of Carols.

Then afterwards, we went back to our barracks. It was deadly serious again. The spotlights were on us, rotating around. The lights were shining on our Christmas tree. Earlier we had all helped a couple of guys who were pretty adept. make a Christmas tree out of the Red Cross parcel boxes. It stood about two feet high. They had fit some branches in and had used the opener ribbons from the Wooly Beef Cans for decorations. The Wooly Beef and the Spam cans had metal ribbons about a quarter inch thick. The cans were opened by rolling up these metal ribbon keys. They were our icicles for the Christmas tree. We even had made little Santa Clauses out of cardboard and hung them on the branches.

We put the Christmas tree in the window. And of course, it was cold. But when I went to bed that Christmas night, after it was all over, I laid there in the dark in my bunk. Every now and then the spotlight would come by and the light would flash on our little Christmas tree. Because of the change in temperature and the wind outside, it would move the ornaments and make them twinkle and shine. I got to feeling kind of blue- kind of lonesome. I thought of home and what they were doing for Christmas. That night I cried myself to sleep."

-Contributed by Warren (Bing) Evans
Excerpt from "Heroes Cry Too"
1st & 3rd Ranger Battalion

From Amazon

""Heroes Cry Too," a first-person dialogue, is the story of Captain Warren Evans - a WWII 1st Battalion Ranger. It is a tale of determination and fortitude describing a poor South Dakota boy’s struggle to feed his family and just stay alive. It is a story of love between a young soldier and the love-of-his-life, Frances Wheeler - a love that would survive three years of separation and months of not knowing. It is a war epic, battle after battle laden with close calls for the hero while others die around him. And finally, it is the remarkable reliving of a seasoned soldier’s capture and the surprising prison days that followed, his daring escape, recapture, and then the giant emotional effort to survive the brutal treatment his captor’s unleashed on him. Read "Heroes Cry Too" and experience the sacrifices given so freely by Evans and a group of America's finest sons - the WWII Rangers!"

Today, as I walked through the lobby area of a small, rural country club in southern Indiana and made a turn into the bar area I knew immediately the man I was there to meet.  CPT (r) Evans sat proudly on a bar stool, smartly dressed in slacks, a white button down shirt, a red tie and a blue a vest.  He was sporting a golf style hat and had his right hand firmly gripped around a glass of, what I was soon to learn, was scotch and water.  "No ice" he said.

To back track a little, yesterday one of the sales professionals I worked, Tadd, with came to my office.  He told me he couldn't believe he hadn't thought of this before but knew of a WWII Veteran that he thought I might want to meet.  That Veteran turned out to be CPT (r) Evans.  Tadd made a few phone calls and today when I got to work he was at my office and gave me a "thumbs up."  I started jumping up and down.  I was SO excited.  Around 11:30 Tadd picked me up and off we went to meet CPT (r) Evans.

Just before Tadd picked me up I called my dear friend, LTC (r) Roy Lombardo, Jr.  When he answered the phone I asked him if the name CPT Warren Evans rang any bells with him.  Both Roy and CPT Evans are in the Ranger Hall of Fame.  Roy thought for a minute but didn't respond.  I began telling him a little more about CPT Evans.  Suddenly Roy said, "Oh, you mean Bing.  Yes I know him, why?"  I explained that I was about to meet him for lunch.  Roy told me to give his regards and ask CPT Evans if he still has the Ranger necktie that Roy gave him. 

As Tadd and I approached the bar CPT Evans, in true Ranger fashion - always aware of his surroundings, turned towards us and said, "You must be who I am waiting for."  He took off his cap, leaving his white hair tousled about.  We introduced ourselves and shook hands.  CPT Evans stood up, glass in hand but leaving his cap on the bar and lead us towards a table "over in the light."  As we took our seats I was amazed at how immediately I felt comfortable with him.

He asked if we would like to join him in his daily noon drink.  I answered that I would.  Then I said, "that's scotch, isn't it?"  He replied, "Yes.  Scotch and water.  No ice."  I asked if it was single malt scotch.  He replied, "No, it's black label - the best they have here."  I was in love!  He motioned for the lady behind the bar to come over.  Tadd and I both had what the Captain was having.

I extended LTC (r) Lombardo's regards and inquired as to whether CPT (r) Evans still had the Ranger necktie that LTC Lombardo had given him.  CPT Evans replied that he did.

We sat for an hour and a half talking as if we were old friends.  Tadd and I listened as CPT Evans talked about some future travel plans he has, his family (most of whom are deceased), his work after the military, etc.  From time to time he would talk about his time in service.  I was beyond captivated.

He mentioned that he was in five or six major campaigns during WWII.  He threw out names of European cities, rivers, roads, etc. with no hesitation.  I was in awe of this 94 year old man and how sharp he is at that age.

Then he began to talk about his time in Oflag 64, a German POW Camp.  I steeled myself for what was to come and was happy that he didn't go into great detail.  I would have listened if he had gone into great detail but I'm not sure how I may have reacted.  Towards the end of our time with CPT Evans he began to talk about the time he escaped from the POW Camp and was caught.  I was not prepared for what he had to share with us.  I imagined he was going to talk about how they beat him and the pain of that.  But it was so much worse.  He told about how the Germans took him to a Polish farmhouse nearby.  The house was occupied by a family.  They lined the family up and began, one by one, executing them beginning with the father, then each child and finally the mother. 

I sat there quietly not knowing what to say or if I should say anything at all I simply reached over and ran my hand up and down his arm.  As I did so he continued by saying that it was beyond torturous to watch as the German's executed the family but that he was never so relieved as when, finally, they executed the mother who was suffering beyond what any human should.  And then he slightly hung his head.

Although Tadd and I needed to get back to work we stayed a little longer.  There was no way we were going to leave this kind, gentle man at that moment.  We made plans to have lunch together one day next week.  Then I asked him if he would mind if Tadd took a photo of us?  He replied that he didn't mind at all.  As Tadd was stepping back from the table with the camera, CPT Evans said, "Let me get a little closer to you."  I smiled and we both moved our chairs closer together.

Me and CPT (r) Evans

When Tadd showed us the picture CPT Evans said, "Oh my!  Look at those big white eyebrows.  I didn't know they were so white."  I giggled.

Tadd and I had stopped at a local store to buy some of CPT Evan's books.  I asked him if he would mind signing them for me.  He was delighted to do so.  I pulled out the books and reached for my purse to get my Sharpie out.  CPT Evans asked me if I wanted him to use his pen.  Well, of course!  He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a small day planner.  Tucked inside the day planner was an ink pen.  Not just any ink pen.  One that his son's had made for him out of shell casings.  He's had it for years.

The copy of his book that CPT Evans signed for me with his special pen laying on top of the book.

He inscribed my book as follows, "Leta, thank you for making me feel important.  Warren Evans".  I fought HARD to keep the tears from flowing.  While I was successful at controlling the emotions I am forever changed by getting to meet this incredible American and cannot wait to have lunch with him again next week.  I'm also anxious to read his book but am in the process of moving.  I want to be able to read it without distraction so it may be a week or so.

As we said our goodbyes CPT Evans said, "I think I'll have one more scotch today.  I don't usually have two but I've got some memories to deal with."  It was heart wrenching.

I am forever grateful to Tadd for allowing me to meet CPT Evans and equally as grateful to CPT Evans for such an enjoyable foodless (LOL) lunch.

4 comments:

Jodi said...

How awesome Leta! These men and women, the generation that saved the world, never cease to amaze me! Thanks for sharing your day with us! And next week, when you have lunch with him again, please tell him there are may out here who thank him for his service and sacrifice. We are forever grateful.

ParachuteCutie said...

Jodi,

It was beyond awesome. But you know that. How fortunate are we to get to spend time with these wonderful Americans?

I will most definitely pass along your message to CPT Evans!

Jo Lombardi said...

May he be hoisting a few with his fellow heroes in Valhalla today. Rest in Peace Sir.

Jo Lombardi said...

May he be hoisting a few with his fellow heroes in Valhalla today. Rest in Peace Sir.