Donn Pearce is an American author best known for the novel and screen play Cool Hand Luke.
Born Donald Mills Pearce in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pearce left home at 15. He attempted to join the United States Merchant Marine at 16, but was turned away due to his age. He lied about his age, registered for the draft, and was inducted into the United States Army in 1944. Frustrated by rules he considered unnecessary, he went AWOL, then three days later thought better of it and turned himself in to a Navy MP. His sentence was 30 days in the stockade. He served three days of his sentence, then was transferred to a combat infantry unit. Anticipating being sent to the front, he wrote his mother a letter. She contacted the Army, informed them of his true age, and he was thrown out of the Army. By this time, he was old enough to join the Merchant Marine.
The Merchant Marine took him to Venice when he was 18, to Spain, Denmark, France, Portugal and Bombay. Post-war Europe had a thriving black market, and Pearce became involved in counterfeiting American money. He attempted to pass some counterfeit bills to a police officer in Marseilles, and was arrested, tried, and sent to prison. Assigned to a work detail outside the prison grounds, Pearce escaped, making his way to the Italian border. The French officials had taken his seaman's papers, so he forged new ones and signed on a ship to Canada. He crossed from Canada into the United States, where he began a new career - burglary.