Repairing submarines in Hawaii during World War II was quite an “about-face” from Dick Ray’s logging background.
The John Day resident served in the U.S. Navy from August 1943 to March 1946, achieving the rank of motor machinist third class.
Growing up during the Great Depression, Ray’s family moved from place to place, following logging jobs and living in logging camps.
He started driving truck when he was 14. He recalled building plank roads with 12-inch wide and 4-inch thick boards on logging roads to keep trucks from getting stuck in the mud.
“We didn’t build very many of them since they cost $1 a foot,” he said.
Ray was attending Coquille High School when WWII broke out.
He took a pickup load of seniors to Portland to the air base to register for the Air Force.
“I was the only one who didn’t pass — because I was colorblind,” he said.
He went back to working in the woods with his dad, but one day called the recruiting office to ask why he hadn’t received any draft papers.
“They said my dad requested a six-month deferment to work,” he said. “I wasn’t having any of that. The next day, I received my draft notice.”
Ray joined the Navy with boot camp at Farragut Naval Training Station in Bayview, Idaho, and diesel mechanic school at Iowa State College in Ames, Iowa.
“I volunteered for submarine service and was sent to school in New London, Connecticut,” he said.
He later traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii, shipping out from Treasure Island Naval Training Station in San Francisco Bay, California.
There were 5,000 soldiers and 100 sailors as well as Coast Guardsmen on board, he said.
“Most were heaving before they got out of San Francisco Bay,” he said. “I kept my lunch.”
He said some of them were sent to Majuro Airfield, others to Midway and the rest to Honolulu, which was his stop.
There, he worked on a submarine base for a year.
His high school classmate went on three successful war patrols in the Navy.
“They were flying so high,” Ray said. “They were a gung-ho outfit. When he left again, they never came back. They don’t know what happened to them.”
At one point, Ray was given a choice to go on war patrol.
“One out of four wasn’t coming back,” he said.
He chose instead to return to New London.
Traveling on the Skipjack submarine to Connecticut, his sleeping quarters were in a torpedo room.
In New London, he taught new students about submarine service.
“Every day we would take a load of students out to Long Island Sound to practice diving and surfacing,” he said. “It was a perfect place to train because the water had a depth of 100 feet.”
He said submarine pay was good with 50 percent more base pay and 20 percent for sea duty.
“Instead of $60, I was paid $118 a month,” he said. “It was about as far away as you can get from logging life.”
In March 1946, Ray returned to Oregon.
His parents bought a 10,000-acre ranch east of John Day while he was in the service, and he went to work for them as a ranch hand.
He bought a log truck in 1970, driving until his retirement at age 62.
In 1991, Ray attended the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii with his wife, Evelyn.
“It’s unbelievable how it’s built up,” he said. “I couldn’t find the submarine base where I worked.”
He and Evelyn live at Valley View Assisted Living Facility in John Day.
Ray had two brothers who have passed on, one who served in the Army and the other in the Air Force.
One of Ray’s grandsons made five tours in Iraq during his 14 years of service in the Army, and another grandson is in the Coast Guard in North Carolina.
When asked what he learned from his time in the service, Ray said, “You learn to obey orders without question. You learn to respect your elders. It wouldn’t hurt anybody to spend a year in the service.”