Ray Hively was born on February 24, 1921 on a farm near Russell, Minnesota. When World War II started, with the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Ray knew it was just a matter of time before he would be drafted into military service as the oldest of six children.
In 1942 he received his call to arms from Uncle Sam and was instructed to report to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. As Ray packed up his belongings, said ‘good bye’ to his family and friends and boarded the train heading south he was not apprehensive, but excited about the life adventure that lay ahead of him. He was assigned to work as a mechanic with the Army Corps of Engineers because, as Ray said, “Us farm boys from the country were capable of doin’ anything and fixin’ anything!” His job was to run and maintain large trucks and tractors that would be used to build airstrips and roads in a war zone.
Upon completing his basic training Ray went home for a short furlough before being shipped over seas. While he was back home in Russell he married his high school sweet heart in May of 1943. After the war they had four children together. Sadly, their first child died at birth, and his wife died after the birth of their fourth child in the early 1950’s. Ray was never one to sit around and wait for things to happen. So, he hired a young gal named Evelyn to care for his children and home and after several years Ray asked her to marry him. They had two children together and each of them adopted the others children to form a family of 6 kids. Now more than 60 years later Ray and Evelyn have more grandchildren, more great grandchildren, and more great great grandchildren than as Ray says, “I can count with my 10 fingers and 10 toes!”
Back to the War: After getting married in 1943 Ray was shipped out to New Guinean in the South West Pacific near Australia and the Philippines. As part of the Army Corp of Engineers Ray’s job was to build airstrips and roads for the U.S. Army. However, the land in New Guinean is covered with mountains and tropical rain forests. The only way the Corp of Engineers could get into the back jungles to do their work was to use glider planes. So, Ray was instructed in glider flight and flew on three missions back into the jungles to do his job! Unfortunately, the glider planes were extremely dangerous and many crashed in the Pacific and European Theater of war, and the lives of many young soldiers were lost. “Somehow”, Ray quipped, “I survived to talk about my experiences 75 years ago.” He continued to explain, “the glider planes could hold up to 4,000 pounds in weight, including the crew of pilot and co-pilot and 6-7 men. The planes were made of a wood shell with a cloth fabric on the exterior, kinda’ like the fabric on a window shade. In addition to the men we would put a small tractor in the plane that could be used to do the heavy work of making an airstrip or road in the jungle. The glider was pulled into the air by a C-47 transport plane. When the C-47 released the glider we would drop like a ton of bricks to the ground. It was spooky...but somehow I survived 3 missions!”
For Ray, the best part of his service in the Army Corps of Engineers during WWII was the brotherhood and camaraderie with his fellow soldiers. “They were my buddies! We knew each other. We worked together. We pulled together and we survived together!” Ray reminisced. “After the war several of my Army Corps buddies came up north and visited me on my farm in Russell. We had a grand old time together remembering our days in the jungles of New Guinean.”
Ray is now 95 years old and one of the few remaining soldiers still alive from the 16.1 million American men and women who served our nation during World War II. On November 11, Veterans Day, thank Ray Hively, thank a Vet for his or her service to our great nation, and thank God for America!!!