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WWII pilot’s gripping stories illuminate a pivotal piece of aviation history in the 75th anniversary year of the U.S. Air Force
June 13, 2022

With the heart and humor of a young Eagle Scout
coming of age in WWII

  barbara evans kinnear
Co-author Barbara Evans Kinnear

SANTA BARBARA, CA -- The family of a U.S. Air Force veteran has preserved his history in a captivating new book, Richard Eager: a Pilot’s Story from Tennessee Eagle Scouts to General Montgomery’s “Flying Fortress (July 3, 2021, Kieran Publishing Company). A detailed account of the golden age of aviation, spanning the 1930’s to the 1960’s, told through the firsthand stories of beloved son, brother and father and heroic pilot, Colonel Richard Ernest Evans.

A bet between WWII commanders. An Eagle Scout from Tennessee assigned to pilot one of the greatest leaders of the Allied Forces. This is the story of how young Captain Richard Evans became the B-17 "Flying Fortress" pilot for Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery, Commander of the British 8th Army, during missions throughout North Africa and Italy.

Filled with humor and humility, Evans’ recollections of cadet training, combat missions and experiences with the “top brass” provide a fascinating firsthand account of a World War II pilot in both the Mediterranean and Pacific Theaters of Operations. Woven throughout the chapters, Evans interrupts his personal narrative of war to recall pivotal childhood moments with friends and family and as a Boy Scout in the Smoky Mountains. Nicknamed for his over-eagerness as a cadet, “Richard Eager” shares his stories with great optimism for the future and poignant reflections on growing up.

Colonel Richard Ernest Evans: Richard Ernest Evans was born in Knoxville, TN, in 1919, where he spent his childhood participating in the Boy Scouts of America, drilling in the Knoxville High School ROTC, learning to fly with the Tennessee Air National Guard, and visiting the Smoky Mountains with his three brothers, “Pug”, Tom and John, and his parents, William and Helen.

In his third year at the University of Tennessee, Richard was accepted to Flying Cadet School and enlisted in the U.S. Army in December 1939. It was during this training that he earned the nickname “Richard Eager”. In January 1943, Captain Evans entered combat in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, as a pilot in the 99th Bomb Group. Over the next two years, Captain Evans flew 54 missions in North Africa, Italy, and other German-held territories in Europe, and one mission in Japan. He piloted various planes, most notably the Theresa Leta B-17E “Flying Fortress”, which was “won” by General Montgomery in a bet and in which the famous Field Marshal was flown by Captain Evans on many occasions. Major Evans witnessed the end of the war in Okinawa, working alongside General LeMay.

Richard married JoAnn Nelson in San Antonio, TX, in 1944. After WWII, Richard left active duty, joined the California Air National Guard, and began a career in life insurance, working with the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. However, at the start of the Korean War, Lt. Colonel Evans was recalled to active duty as a Deputy Director of Operations for the USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC). During the Cold War, he was promoted to Colonel and commanded the B-58 test squadron. Upon leaving active duty in 1959, Richard worked with North American Aircraft Company and later consulted on the development of the B-1 and C-54. Over the course of his military career, Colonel Evans piloted a range of planes including the B-17 “Flying Fortress”, B-24 “Liberator”, B-25 “Mitchell”, B-29 “Superfortress”, B-47 “Stratojet”, B-52 “Stratofortress”, and B-58 “Hustler”.

Richard, or “Dick” as he was lovingly called by friends and family, wrote poignant letters, clever poems, and personal reflections all his life. With the encouragement of his children, Dick began writing down his boyhood memories and war stories in the last decades of his life. In a letter that is now included in the preface of this book, Dick described his intentions: “Conceived as the Twentieth Century is coming to an end, this book is written for interested and concerned young people, anxious to understand and reflect upon the kind of world they are inheriting. It is also for older folks: those who, though they may be fading, find joy and pride in recalling the young people they once were.”

Richard “Eager” Evans passed away in June 2006, and was buried with full military honors in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. He is survived by his daughter, Barbara, and his son, Donald.

When asked Your father passed away in 2006, before the book was finished. What inspired you to bring it to life now?

"It was a labor of love. My father worked so hard on his stories. They were personal, historic, and fascinating. Family members were helpful, excited, and delighted for him. The book had to be finished. The stories had to become known. Back in the early 1990s independent book authors had a hard time finding publishers. Richard E. Evans tired of locating a publisher, and age was catching up with him. When he died, I vowed that someday I would finish and publish his book for him. The background research to complement the chapters took many years to complete and that is why it took over ten years to publish, once I was able to begin the work.

A couple of other things drove the decision to publish now as well. Our WWII veterans are passing away. We have a responsibility to keep their stories alive and encourage other veterans to tell their stories. I hope this book will set an example and encourage other veterans and their families to write their own narratives. 2022 is the 75th Anniversary of the Air Force! The official Air Force Birthday is recognized as Sept. 18, 1947, which is the date of the passage of the National Security Act of 1947. Though the WWII veterans are almost gone, their families will continue to remember and write about them. Their stories reflect a brave, principled group of men and women."

Barbara Kinnear: Barbara “Bobbie” Kinnear graduated from Texas Christian University in 1967 with a BS degree in nursing science. She continued her medical career with specialties in pediatric burn care and worked as the operating room and recovery room supervisor for South Bay Hospital in Redondo Beach and later the Director of Nursing at the Santa Barbara Medical Foundation Clinic.

Barbara has served on various nonprofit boards, including Santa Barbara Visiting Nurses Association, Junior League of Santa Barbara, The Garden Club of Santa Barbara, National Charity League of Santa Barbara, Westmont College Foundation Board, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. As a proud “Air Force brat”, Barbara lived in many states throughout her childhood. Today, she is grateful to call California home. She has lived in Santa Barbara with her husband, John, since 1973. They have one daughter, Katie.

Her father, Colonel Richard Ernest Evans, instilled a deep love of family and history in Barbara from a young age. In the preface to this book, she writes, “Throughout my childhood, my brother and I would listen to our father’s accounts of his flying and travels. In my adulthood, his stories took on greater detail as he revisited memories and friendships long past and recounted his childhood upbringing with fondness. He was a wonderful storyteller.”

Barbara is honored to share her father’s words—honest, humorous, and heartfelt—through the publication of this book. She hopes her father’s stories will add a bit to history and encourage others to tell their stories as well. Find out more about Colonel Richard and Barbara at

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