SILVERHILL, Alabama — On Monday, Sept. 27, Silverhill resident Ed Evans is set to leave on a week-long all-expense paid trip to represent Alabama on a multi-day tribute as one of the 2021 Purple Heart Patriot Project honorees.
“Alabama has the third largest Purple Heart population in the country and for them to select me, it’s humbling really,” he said. “I couldn’t even believe it when I first saw the letter.”
Evans and his fellow honorees are set to touch down on Sept. 27 in New York’s historic Hudson Valley for a special salute to service taking place Sept. 27-30 and returning on Oct. 1.
The trip is sponsored in part by Hampton Inn Woodbury-Harriman and Barry’s Estate Jewelry. The multi-day salute to service will bring together Purple Heart heroes representing each state and territory in the nation “to pay tribute to their courage and sacrifice on behalf of a grateful nation,” from the group’s website, purpleheartmission.org.
While there they will visit the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, West Point and other historic sites connected with the Purple Heart.
“I’m just looking forward to the comradery with all the veterans from other states,” he said, “plus the other things we’re going to be seeing and doing.”
More than 70 years after he was wounded during the Korean War, Evans still has vivid, and often painful, memories of the events.
After growing up in the Seminole community, the son of a Navy veteran, Evans joined the Army in 1948 and ended up serving in Korea from July 1950 to June 1951 as a sergeant E-6 with the 2nd Infantry Division, B Battery 15th Field Artillery Battalion.
On Aug. 31, 1950, Evans was serving as a forward observer with Company G, 9th Infantry Plus, a large raiding party, in what would become known as “Operation Manchu.”
“We were a reinforced company, and we were going to cross the Naktong River,” Evans said.
The company was set to attack at 6 a.m. on Sept. 1 when four divisions of North Koreans came across at 5 a.m. and started shelling them with mortar fire.
Evans and his fellow soldiers took position on a hill known on the map as Hill 209 and took constant fire for four full days from 5 a.m. Sept. 1 until 11 p.m. on Sept. 4.
“When they quit hitting us with mortar, we knew that an attack was imminent,” he said. “Time and time again we fought off the attacks.”
After four days of constant shelling, Evans said, out of approximately 350 soldiers only 27 survived.
“It was hell,” Evans said. “We were so outnumbered, and we didn’t have the proper equipment. We didn’t even have enough equipment to stop a tank.”
At the end of the four-day ordeal, the solders were ordered to pull back and destroy all the remaining equipment and move out.
“We were out of everything. We had no food or ammunition,” he said. “The soldiers who were wounded begged us to kill them because they didn’t want to be captured. We just couldn’t do it so we set them up with their rifles or hand grenades so they could take their own lives. That part is really hard to tell.”
Evans was awarded a Bronze Star for exposing himself to enemy fire while calling for an airdrop of food and ammo. For more than two days, Evans hid during the day and traveled at night.
“I had no idea where I was or where anyone else was, it was so dark,” he said. “I just knew that I had to keep moving and had to stay alive. I was told later that I ended up 8 ½ miles behind enemy lines and was able to make it back.”
When he finally rejoined what was then a reformed company, Evans was sent to a rest area for two weeks before going back into the fighting.
“It was somewhat disorganized and there were a lot of South Korean soldiers with us so there was a real language problem,” he said.
On Sept. 19, Evans was back serving as a forward observer when the company again began taking mortar fire.
“I got in a hole and the mortar shelling continued,” he said. “I got up out of the hole and was standing right on the edge of the hole when a mortar round landed in the hole right next to me. I don’t remember anything after that. They said I was blown about nine feet.”
When he came to, he was in a medivac hospital and was evacuated to Tokyo General Hospital where he spent three months in recovery.
“I almost lost my left leg,” he said. “I still have shrapnel in my body today. Every time I go to an airport, I set off the alarms.”
All that remains is a small scar, Evans said, and the memories. After three months, he was reassigned back to Korea.
“I wasn’t completely well, but they needed people, so I returned to Korea,” he said. “I stayed there until I rotated out and came home in June of 1951.”
Evans would end up spending 20 years in the Army, retiring as a command sergeant major in 1968, ending his service with the National Guard in Andalusia.
In addition to the Purple Heart, Evans received a number of commendations and awards, including the Bronze Star with valor, the Army Commendation Medal with three clasps, Good Conduct Medal (three awards) and many overseas service ribbons.
After retiring from the Army, Evans started his own swimming pool business. For 23 years, he and his wife Mildred served with U.S. Missions, Assembly of God, building churches. While they had a hand in building several local churches, they also traveled the country by RV building churches, he said.
The father of three children, Evans was nominated to take part in the mission by his daughters, Karla Dauzat and Marcia Evans.
In the last several years, Evans has been on a mission for municipalities and other government agencies to recognize he and his fellow wounded veterans through the Purple Heart Cities project, beginning with his hometown of Silverhill, where he and his family moved after he retired from the Army in 1968.
“I’m very proud of the fact that all of the municipalities in Baldwin and Mobile counties are now designated as ‘Purple Heart’ cities,” he said.
The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located just north of West Point, New York, at the site where Gen. George Washington first awarded the Medal for Military Merit in 1782 during the Revolutionary War.
The badge, shaped like a purple heart, was the frontrunner of today’s medal. In addition to creation of the museum, supporters of the National Purple Heart Honor Mission were instrumental in the creation of the Purple Heart Forever stamp now issued by the U.S. Postal Service, and are leading the effort in Congress to pass the National Purple Heart Commemorate Coin Act.
For more information about the National Purple Heart Honor Mission or donate to support the Purple Heart Patriot Project, visit PurpleHeartMission.org.