World War II Veteran Emil Evans talks about his time spent in Germany, being in combat, and coming to terms with it after the war.
LESLIE BOGGS: Uh, let’s begin where and when you were born.
EMIL EVANS: September the 19, 1923.
LESLIE BOGGS: And where were you born?
EMIL EVANS: Kentucky.
LESLIE BOGGS: Kentucky.
EMIL EVANS: Around Adair County.
LESLIE BOGGS: So what year did you come to Carroll County?
EMIL EVANS: World War II. You know, we get into the war. The was asking for people to go to– to work on the shipyards. That’s where I wound up, in the shipyard.
LESLIE BOGGS: OK.
EMIL EVANS: Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: So did you come to Carroll County– did you move to Taneytown when you came to Carroll County?
EMIL EVANS: No.
LESLIE BOGGS: Where–
EMIL EVANS: Brooklyn.
LESLIE BOGGS: Oh, OK, OK.
EMIL EVANS: Yeah. Curtis Bay. Curtis Bay there in Brooklyn there. We spent years in that area.
LESLIE BOGGS: OK.
EMIL EVANS: Of course, that was close to shipyards, you know.
LESLIE BOGGS: So what year did you start your service in– were you in the army?
EMIL EVANS: Army engineers.
LESLIE BOGGS: And what year?
EMIL EVANS: 1940.
LESLIE BOGGS: And could you tell me–
EMIL EVANS: ’42, [INAUDIBLE].
LESLIE BOGGS: I’m sorry.
EMIL EVANS: Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Did you– could you tell me about your service, your training?
EMIL EVANS: Well, we, uh– I went to Fort Knox, Kentucky. And they shipped me from there to Fort Lewis, Washington on a train, seven days and four nights or something like that. It was a long time getting there of course. As we had done, we were pulling over for all the freight. Troop transport didn’t have no priority over nothing. Freight was a wonder. That was ahead of everything. Tanks, guns, you know what I mean. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Can you tell me how long your training took place?
EMIL EVANS: I think it was nine weeks.
LESLIE BOGGS: And where did you go after there?
EMIL EVANS: I come back to Boston, Massachusetts on the– on the train, another train, seven days and four nights, something like that. And I boarded a ship and went to Glasgow, Scotland. And from there, my company was already there in Salisbury. Of course, we went into Glasgow. It was just part of the deal, you know. And they sent trucks out from Salisbury and picked us up and took us into Salisbury. And we was there for training for I don’t know how long, quite a while, eight or nine months, something like that, before we hit the beach.
LESLIE BOGGS: Tell me about your experience hitting the beach.
EMIL EVANS: Well, I know I was pretty sick when we got off the ship. Sea sick, you know. But we got off, and– without any problems and headed up around to France. Shoot.
LESLIE BOGGS: What part of the beach– which beach did you land on?
EMIL EVANS: Omaha Beach. Yeah. Omaha Beach. We just pulled in there, and we stayed overnight. That’s about all. And we got that off. In fact, we was on the Victory ship. And they run the– they run the boat right up on the land. We were– we was on the ship, and they just ran the bow of the ship right up on the sand bar. And we walked right off.
LESLIE BOGGS: So you didn’t have any casualties?
EMIL EVANS: No. So far, we didn’t.
LESLIE BOGGS: And then after you landed on Omaha Beach, where did you go from there?
EMIL EVANS: I went up to, I guess, somewhere in the neighborhood of Saint-Lo. Aachen, Saint– Saint-Lo, [INAUDIBLE], Saint-Bernard. And then from there, from Aachen, we went into– I mean, from Salisbury, we went into Germany. Aachen. And that was– that was a pretty rough battle too.
LESLIE BOGGS: Which battle was that?
EMIL EVANS: The Battle of Aachen. That’s the German first town. And they wasn’t going to give it up easy. In other words, we had the 97th division, the 29th, 78th. I don’t know how many divisions trying to take Aachen. But we– we got it. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: So as you travelled through France–
EMIL EVANS: Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: –did you come face to face with the enemy? Did you have to have combat with the enemy or–
EMIL EVANS: Oh. Well, we was in combat was the whole time. The whole time we was in France, we was– we was in the combat with the front. That was that part of it. Of course, there wasn’t nobody behind us but us. Of course, now that’s– we had the 2nd army division, the 97th division, 78th, the 3rd army. We had plenty help. But it was still a little shaky. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: So how long were you in France? Were you there for several months?
EMIL EVANS: I got discharged from France. I didn’t get discharged. I got sent back to the States and got discharged. The war was over with. Yeah. See, we got out on points, on points. So many points, you were automatically out of the army at that time. So I had four. And I didn’t get out– I wasn’t the first one, but I was near the top. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Can you tell me about any of the men in your unit that you established a special bond with?
EMIL EVANS: With what?
LESLIE BOGGS: A special connection, a special friendship with, any men in your unit that you became close with throughout the– your time in Europe? Anyone in particular that you were close with that you shared a special bond?
EMIL EVANS: No, not really. Mostly whoever’s in the outfit. That’s the only thing. We didn’t get to [INAUDIBLE] with too much people. They– they didn’t allow that, because we was pushing for the front, you know? Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: So you were– you were in a battle in Germany. And how long did that battle take place?
EMIL EVANS: Aachen?
LESLIE BOGGS: Yes.
EMIL EVANS: Aachen was the first town we– we hit them. [INAUDIBLE] Holland. Well, we pulled– pulled patrols across the German lines. I don’t know. Just– maybe once a week. Of course, there was about– we was all going to cross the German lines. It wasn’t nothing but a barbed wire fence and a black top road, and you was in Germany, [INAUDIBLE]. And we went into Aachen and finally took Aachen. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: And what did you do after that battle? What occurred after that battle? Was that the last battle that you had to fight in?
EMIL EVANS: Well, we just– we just pushed on. Come to– well, we came in to Magdeburg, [INAUDIBLE], and we got on the German autobahn and we headed into Berlin. And of course, the war was pretty well over with when we was going to Berlin. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Tell me about Berlin. What did you see there, and what was your experience in Berlin?
EMIL EVANS: It’s a bombed up place. Wasn’t– wasn’t too much left of it. You know what I mean? Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Did you– did you come face to face with any of the German soldiers?
EMIL EVANS: Oh, plenty of them. Yeah. Oh, we was– the whole autobahn was covered with German soldiers. They was coming this away, coming and surrendering, you know? Oh, yeah. Uh, and in fact, civilians– we got acquainted with some of the civilians in there, running restaurants. And she– the lady that fed me– fed us– uh, she asked me how many eggs I wanted, and I held up two fingers. She fried me two eggs, glass of milk. Of course, they had the cows, you know. And just stuff like that. It went on all the time. Yeah. A lot of stuff you just don’t think– you think later. But by the present time, it’s hard to concentrate on what was the next day, you know Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Do you have anything that you would like to share with me that really stands out in your memory of the war? Any experiences?
EMIL EVANS: The whole– the whole thing. We didn’t– not– not really. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Can you tell me about the countryside of Germany? Was it– I mean, was it all– was it all landscape, like in the countryside? And then you went from town to town, and they were, like, bombed out? Or–
EMIL EVANS: When we went in town, we went through the plains, Saint-Germain, all them towns was just flattened from aeroplanes. We’d sit– we’d sit and watch maybe 100 planes go over, bombers. And we knew where they was going. They were all heading to Germany, somewhere in Germany. That– that town was going to get tore up. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Did you see any concentration camps when you were in Germany?
EMIL EVANS: Yeah, yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Can you please explain your experience of the concentration camps?
EMIL EVANS: We had– we ran into some Polish– Polish concentration camps. And we freed them. And a whole lot of cremation was going on in Germany because they didn’t have no place to bury them. They just– just liked to burn them, you know? Put them in the oven. Oh, yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Do you remember which concentration camp you went to?
EMIL EVANS: No. We didn’t never– never remember nothing like that. We just probably went straight through it. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: And I’m sure it was very shocking to see.
EMIL EVANS: Yeah. It was shocking from the first start. So the next day, it didn’t make no difference to us, because we was there every day. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Do you have anything that you would like to share with me regarding your experience of World War II?
EMIL EVANS: Not really, no more than what I told you. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: OK. So what year did you come back to the United States?
EMIL EVANS: ’45.
LESLIE BOGGS: And at that time, how old were you?
EMIL EVANS: 19.
LESLIE BOGGS: And what did you do when you–
EMIL EVANS: I mean, I was 19 when I went in the army. Now I come out– I was in two years– two years, six months, 14 days, I was in the army. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: And so when you returned, what was life like for you?
EMIL EVANS: Oh, all– almost– just another day. That’s all. You can’t– you can’t place every day, because everybody’s glad to see you and all this kind of stuff, you know? You’re glad to be back. What else are you going to do?
LESLIE BOGGS: Did you go back to Kentucky?
EMIL EVANS: Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: And how long were you in Kentucky for?
EMIL EVANS: Well, I got married. And we moved back to Kentucky. But we didn’t stay too long, because she had a sister here in Dundalk, Baltimore. And my wife wanted to come to Baltimore. I said, OK. If you’re ready to go, we’ll go. We just packed up and caught the train. Back to Baltimore, we came. Dundalk.
LESLIE BOGGS: So did you– when did you move to Carroll County?
EMIL EVANS: Carroll? I don’t know. I just got acquainted with somebody.
LESLIE BOGGS: Did you come to Taneytown? Is that where you–
EMIL EVANS: No.
LESLIE BOGGS: Tell me about your life in Carroll County.
EMIL EVANS: Life in Carroll County?
LESLIE BOGGS: Yes.
EMIL EVANS: Oh, it’s been pretty good, pretty– pretty nice life, yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: So where do you live in Carroll County now?
EMIL EVANS: Taneytown.
LESLIE BOGGS: And that’s where you’ve been ever since you moved to Carroll County? When you came to Carroll County, have you been in Taneytown the whole time? Or did you–
EMIL EVANS: Well, I’m there with my brothers, with my daughter. No, we had– I’m trying to figure out. We was in Brooklyn, you know, Curtis Bay area. And we finally moved up to Carroll County with my daughter and son in law. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: So tell me what you like about Carroll County.
EMIL EVANS: Pretty nice county, yeah, for heading down to live.
LESLIE BOGGS: Do you live, like, on a farm or–
EMIL EVANS: Uh, just a small place. I think we got about seven or eight heads of cattle and 10 or 12 acres of land. And that’s it. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: And tell me about your community. Do you– are you involved with your community?
EMIL EVANS: Not too often much, no. Uh, whatever we– really, it just seemed like maybe we had too much to do to get out and get in the community [INAUDIBLE]. You know what I mean? Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: So do you have, like, any events or annual events that you like to get involved in in Carroll County, like the 4-H Fair or anything like that?
EMIL EVANS: No, no, no. We never– yeah. I hardly ever went to a fair. All of us had something to do.
LESLIE BOGGS: Well, tell us– tell us what you had to do.
EMIL EVANS: Well, we had something. My wife– she– she had things planned out. We had to go to the other place with her. You know what I mean? And then I had to– I was raising the garden and working in the garden and working this, this, building a fence. We was strictly out on the farm, you know? Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: And do you have grandchildren who live in Carroll County?
EMIL EVANS: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: And tell me about them.
EMIL EVANS: Well, my daughter’s [INAUDIBLE]. She got a– she got a daughter, a granddaughter in Seattle. And I got a granddaughter and grandson in Spokane. And I got them scattered everywhere. I got 11 grandchildren. And ain’t none of them hardly with us. They’re gone, you know?
LESLIE BOGGS: So when you came to Carroll County, did you find work here?
EMIL EVANS: Oh, yeah. I was working in DC all the time.
LESLIE BOGGS: And what did you do?
EMIL EVANS: Just– well, I bought a house on [INAUDIBLE] Road. And from there, I went to DC to work, all over DC, Alexander, Fairfax, wherever– wherever the company would send me, you know? Baltimore. I worked in Baltimore, while the [INAUDIBLE] company would send me somewhere else. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: So how do you feel about Carroll County today? Has it changed quite a lot since you’ve moved here?
EMIL EVANS: I don’t say it’s changed too much. No. It’s not the same thing. Close. I don’t know how much change it is. I don’t get in that part. Other parts, I get in. Yeah. About the same thing.
LESLIE BOGGS: Do you have family that comes and visits you from outside the county?
EMIL EVANS: Feel good?
LESLIE BOGGS: Do you have family that will come to visit you?
EMIL EVANS: Family?
LESLIE BOGGS: Yes.
EMIL EVANS: Oh, yeah. Well, not too many. I don’t have too many families here. Out in Dundalk, and they come out to stay overnight, stuff like that. You know what I mean. But mostly, we’re out there by ourselves.
LESLIE BOGGS: Now after the war, did you stay in touch with anyone from your unit?
EMIL EVANS: Oh, yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Could you tell me about them?
EMIL EVANS: Hard to say. A boy named Artusio from Bolero High. He– he wasn’t back here too long till he passed away, just stuff like that. Friends. I wasn’t no– somebody called and told me so and so passed away. You know what I mean? And here, I’m still kicking.
LESLIE BOGGS: As you look back on your experience of the war, what is it that you want us to remember what you went through? I mean, what– what is it that you’d like to share with us that you would like for us to– to remember?
EMIL EVANS: You want me to tell you what– that ship ride was the roughest I had, on the Victory ship. I went across the Atlantic in January. I mean, that waves was taller than the ship was. Of course, I– I didn’t get out of the bunk for about seven days. They– my friends all would go to the PX and bring me candy and crackers and kept me alive. Then somebody would go to get the food. Of course, food didn’t– didn’t go with me, because you’d been so sick and weak, you just couldn’t eat straight food. You had crackers or something that– very seldom you drunk anything. That’s the way it went, went with me anyway.
I was– they left me on the ship for seven days before they moved me when we got to Scotland. They didn’t move me. And finally, I finally come to and then got out on the deck. And they had a ship. We had– had fruit from Seattle, Washington. Seattle. Fruit. Apples. I looked at them, and I seen the longshoremen down there. They’d drop a bucket, drop a carton of apples like this, and they’d all– hey, if they can do that, I can just go down there and bust me a crate. And I started eating apples. And I began to come out of it. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: So how do you feel about the war? Do you– I mean– I mean, what are your thoughts about World War II? Are you glad you served? Or–
EMIL EVANS: Well, I’m glad I served. Yeah. Yeah. It’s something that you’ll never forget. It’s stuff you’ll just be thinking sometime, yeah, I went there. You know what I mean? Somebody was– you always had somebody wounded or something. You know. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: And did you receive medals?
EMIL EVANS: I had a pretty good chest full of them.
LESLIE BOGGS: Why don’t you tell us what type of medals you received?
EMIL EVANS: Mostly all good conduct medals. You know what I mean? I got home. My son– they liked to look at them medals, you know. And I– I had them in a bag. So the next thing I know, he had them all. I don’t even have any of them now. They all disappeared.
LESLIE BOGGS: Does he have them, like, on a– in a– in a case or–
EMIL EVANS: No, no, no. I had it all loose. Yeah, I had them and put them– I finally put some of them in a case. But they got away too. Grandchildren always wanted to see it. And they’d know where they was at. So they’d just go get them and get them. That’s the way it went.
LESLIE BOGGS: Can you tell me what type of medals you received?
EMIL EVANS: Well, I didn’t get no Purple Heart, just the good conduct medals. That’s all. You know? And an overseas medal and certain battle medals for the battles. And it all was there, you know. Oh, yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Can you tell me anything specific about– about the battles? I mean, anything that really stands out in your mind that you’d like to share, like anything?
EMIL EVANS: I just know I was there. That’s about it. Oh, yeah. You– when you’re moving [INAUDIBLE], you dug a fox hole pretty fast from going to one place to another. And you get down there. You end up on the ground too– too much. If you’re on patrol, you’re out in front. And then main bodies of men is behind you. Then you have a contact line in between them and us. When I run into the enemy, if it’s night or day, we always had a signal. And that went on till we got barrelled in. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Did you meet any of the French civilians? Did they greet you and–
EMIL EVANS: Oh, plenty of them. Oh, yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: I’m sure that they were–
EMIL EVANS: Plenty of them.
LESLIE BOGGS: –very thrilled.
EMIL EVANS: Oh, we ate more of the apples and more tomatoes than I’ve ate ever since because they’re coming with apples, peaches, everything for us to eat. I was on the truck, and they were almost hanging on the truck giving it to us. Oh, yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: So they were very grateful you were there.
EMIL EVANS: Oh, yeah. They were a great bunch. Holland, the same way. Belgium was– they was good too. Belgium, Holland. They was all good. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: And then in Germany, some of the civilians greeted you with food?
EMIL EVANS: Yeah. And we– I was in a German restaurant. We stayed in a restaurant. And we slept over in the corner. And this old lady– she fed us. Yeah. She kind of looked just like my mother. So when we got ready to leave, she– she had a sandwich and everything ready. [INAUDIBLE]. She was a German. So I had a whole pocketful of German marks. I mean, German prisoners– we– when they had marks, we just took them all, put them in our pockets. I don’t know how many dollars I had in German marks in my hand, in my pocket. You know?
So I just pulled a whole handful out and handed it to her. And she– I thought she was going to kiss me. She– she almost– she almost– and so we– we left [INAUDIBLE]. Yeah. Stuff like that happened every day.
LESLIE BOGGS: Tell me about the weather that you had to endure.
EMIL EVANS: Uh, well, the weather was about like it is here. It rained, sure. A lot of the time, it rained every– for a week. And showers, hard showers. And sometime, it’s pretty stormy. Yeah. But it didn’t make no difference to us. We moved anyway. Oh, yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: And you were there through the winter as well?
EMIL EVANS: The winter. Aachen. In Aachen, it was four below zero. And you out in it. And we was staying in a little town down in Germany in the [INAUDIBLE]. And I– I was pulling patrol up about a mile from [INAUDIBLE] at a road intersection in the night. And I heard something coming around the– coming– toward the gas cans. The [INAUDIBLE] kicking and knocking. And I– gee, I stepped from behind the tree because I was– I was ready to blow them apart. Stepped from behind the tree, and out stepped a mentally retarded woman. Yeah.
And she– she was talking to herself. And I could tell she– something was wrong, you know? So I stepped out the side of a tree. And the MP– they would patrol the road all the time, up so far and then turn back. And she come up– I– I tapped her on the side of the head. I talk about [INAUDIBLE]. Stood up the side of a tree, and she stayed there. MPs come by. And I stopped them. And I said, hey, I got a woman over here. And something’s wrong with her. Oh, yeah? She said, I’ve been– they said, I’ve been looking for her. Her family had been looking for her three or four days. Now she’d been outside in three zero weather. Cold too, brother. Yeah.
So I said, bring her out. They had a destination so far up the road and then to turn around and come back. And they picked her up and took her back to her family. They said her family was really tickled to death to get her because she was mentally retarded anyway. You know? Yeah. And I [INAUDIBLE] I didn’t shoot her. And– but I– I got called up over it. Oh, yeah. I was on guard, and my company commander sent word for me to come to headquarters. Well, to headquarters I went. And he said [INAUDIBLE], but he went around me. He said, never let it happen again. I said, I hope it never will.
So stuff like that, you know? Oh, yeah. So I was– I was kindly on the glad side that I never did shoot the old girl too. Because I had plenty– plenty excuse to do it. But I didn’t do it.
LESLIE BOGGS: Well, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us today. I’m so grateful you’re here to be able to talk to us and–
EMIL EVANS: Oh, yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Is there anything you’d like to add as we close?
EMIL EVANS: No more than the war that’s over with. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Well, thank you so much for your service.
EMIL EVANS: Thank you. Of course, it was a lot of– a lot of stuff that, uh, I’d have to think for a while for what happened, you know? And it’s not everything, you know. I told you something. Maybe I thought about it when I wake up in the bed. You wake up in the bed, and you’re fighting– still fighting a war. I come out. My wife– I had almost beat her to death. I wake up in the fight. And I’m in bed. I come down just– that went on for a long time. And finally, I kept working till– because she could tell when I got restless. And I was restless for a long time.
LESLIE BOGGS: Sure.
EMIL EVANS: Yeah. But I finally got over it.
LESLIE BOGGS: And you had support here through your family and loved ones.
EMIL EVANS: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: And that helped.
EMIL EVANS: Yeah. Stuff like that. Of course, you think– you’re there. You went back home to your mother and your dad, and everybody’s done, you know? And you could just imagine where they went on Sunday. They all went to church on Sunday. You know? You think it’s in your head yourself. Yeah. But it wound up pretty good. I made it through. Still here.
LESLIE BOGGS: Well, you fought for freedom.
EMIL EVANS: Yeah. 91. Be 92 in September.
LESLIE BOGGS: Wow.
EMIL EVANS: Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: That’s amazing.
EMIL EVANS: My mother lived to be 102 and 14 days.
LESLIE BOGGS: Well, you might pass her.
EMIL EVANS: She passed away too. Yeah. My father– he passed away at 77. An earlier date, you know. Of course, I was somewhere overseas. [INAUDIBLE]. I hardly ever seen any of them, you know. They asked me if I wanted to go home, and I said no. Forget it. I said, I’m going. I’ll just have to turn around and come back. And I don’t want that either, because I know when I get there, it’ll be hard to leave. And the best is just to stay right where you’re at. [INAUDIBLE]. Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: Well, thank you so much.
EMIL EVANS: Thank you.
LESLIE BOGGS: I appreciate it.
EMIL EVANS: Yeah.
LESLIE BOGGS: It’s a pleasure.