Coast Guard Heroes: Cmdr. Ray Evans

Ray feature

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings

“Heroes are no special people, they are just regular persons, placed in a position of peril where they rise above their fear to do the job assigned to them or what needs to be done to gain success.” – Cmdr. Ray Evans, 1998

 

Ray Evans enlistment photo. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Ray Evans enlistment photo. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Cmdr. Ray Evans was a writer, a self-proclaimed wordsmith, high school basketball and football player with a glass jaw and no affinity for boxing. He was also a Coast Guard hero and a great friend to the late Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro.

On Sept. 18, 1939, 18-year-old Evans enlisted at a Seattle recruiting station alongside Munro earning $21 a month as apprentice seamen. This was the beginning of a deep friendship between the two future Coast Guard heroes who became known as the “Gold Dust Twins”.

Seven days into a routine of mowing lawns, cleaning up and servicing aircraft at Air Station Port Angeles, Ray and Munro volunteered to fill vacancies aboard Coast Guard Cutter Spencer, then enroute on permanent change of station orders from Valdez, Alaska, to Staten Island, New York. Both Evans and Munro served aboard Spencer until early 1941 earning the Signalman 3rd Class rating during this time.

Before the war, the Coast Guard had no need of signalmen during peacetime, but during wartime, the service brought the rating back. This allowed Coast Guardsmen to be able to communicate with the Navy through light signals and running flags.

Ray Evans' award ceremony, 29 May 1943. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Ray Evans’ award ceremony, 29 May 1943. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

When word spread that men were needed aboard Coast Guard-manned USS Hunter Liggett, Evans and Munro pleaded with the executive officer of Spencer to allow them to go. When a Marine Corps unit got trapped behind enemy lines in Guadalcanal, Evans and Munro assisted in rescuing the Marines when Munro was killed.

“We just did a job,” recalled Evans in an interview in 1999. “We were asked to take them over there, and we were asked to bring them back off from there, and that’s what we did. That’s what the Coast Guard does. We do what we’re asked to do.”

After the war, Evans was awarded the Navy Cross, Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon with one battle star, Commandant’s Letter, the American Defense Service Medal with one battle star, American Campaign Medal, the European-Africa-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with five battle stars and the Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal, among others.

Ray Evans in 1992 holding a portrait photo of himself soon after he enlisted in the Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Ray Evans in 1992 holding a portrait photo of himself soon after he enlisted in the Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

He married his wife, Dorothy and in 1943 was sought out and offered a commission to become an officer in communications despite not having a college degree.

“With only a high school education and thanks to wartime conditions requiring extreme measures to provide leadership, I was fortunate to be chosen to serve in a commissioned status and to be retained with other temporary service officers in the active duty commissioned ranks,” said Evans in 2000. “I enjoyed every minute of my 23 plus years which included in excess of 12 years of sea duty.”

Evans served in the Coast Guard, retiring as a commander in 1962. He died May 30, 2013.

Tags: , ,