Interview with Delmer Clive Gray    (back to WWII Project)

DG: My name is Delmer Clive Gray.

JW: And when were you born?


JW: And where were you born?

DG: At Cedar County, Missouri. That is approximately twelve miles south and east of Eldorado Springs, Missouri. That's a hundred miles south and east of Kansas City, or 70 miles northwest of Springfield, Missouri. So that would give you --

JW: That lets us know. What was your parents' names?

DG: My mother was Myrtle Ann Mayberry, the daughter of Eulis L. Mayberry and Ann Marshall Mayberry. They were both born in Missouri.

JW: And what was your father's name?

DG: My father's name was Clive Verner Gray. He was born January the 14th, 1889, in Pope County, Missouri.

JW: And what did he do for a living?

DG: What did he do?

JW: Uh-huh.

DG: Well, he started out as a farmer and then he went from Missouri down to Dewey, Oklahoma, worked at a Dewey Portland cement plant. I was only about a year and a half old then. And then he got a job at the Missouri Kansas NKT Railroad, building cabs. He was a carpenter building cabs for the engines.

JW: Was that also at Dewey?

DG: That was in Parsons, Kansas. And then we lived there for about five years, then he got laid off, so we moved back to Missouri, back to my grandfather's farm in Missouri. That's the same farm where I was born. And lived there and I grew up there and I wanted to join the Navy. My mother wouldn't sign the papers for it. I graduated from high school.

JW: What year did you graduate from high school?

DG: In 1938.

JW: And where?

DG: In Missouri. We lived on a farm and I can't remember what county it is, it's in Missouri, St. Claire County, that's what it was.

JW: So this was a county high school?

DG: It was Rosco High School, which is a part of Osceola, Missouri, now. Rosco was just a small school. There was only 50 some pupils in there. There was twelve of us in my graduating class.

JW: So you graduated in 1938?

DG: '38, yeah. 2

JW: Okay. And you wanted to join the Navy right out after you graduated?

DG: No. I wanted to enlist in the Navy, my mother wouldn't sign the papers and she said that's too long, six years I'd had to sign up, said you might not like it. So she talked me into joining the CCCs, so I went in the Cs for a year.

JW: And did they send you someplace?

DG: I went to Bowling Green, Missouri, where I was in CC Camp.

JW: What did you do there?

DG: Oh, we did a little bit of everything. I dug fence posts, I dug fence holes and put up fence for farmers for awhile. And we set out sod along a highway, different things. And then I worked in the kitchen for awhile, helped cook. I liked to bake, so I helped the baker. We used to bake 50 pies at a time and I loved that.

JW: That paid $20 a month, didn't it?

DG: Well, paid $30 a month, but I only got, I think it was $5, the rest of it went to my mother.

JW: Well, that was pretty helpful in the Depression.

DG: Yeah, that was back in '39, see. And I finally got to go in the Navy on November the 8th, 1940. And I went to Great Lakes, Illinois, for five weeks training. Then I got back, went on leave, went home, and then went back to Great Lakes. And had orders to go to Portsmouth, Virginia, to go aboard the USS ARKANSAS, which was built in 1912.

JW: It was older than you were?

DG: It was really old. Had an old cage mast. Right after I went aboard, we got underway and left Norfolk and went to Cuba. That was my first foreign port.

JW: Was Cuba fun in 1940? Was Cuba a fun place in 1940?

DG: Yeah, it was, it was nice then. They had sidewalk cafe, you could go ashore and sit there in the shade, have a cold drink. And let's see, we were patrolling, the ARKANSAS was in Combat Three, that was the ARKANSAS, the NEW YORK and the TEXAS battleships. They were in what they call Combat Three, and we would take turns going out to sea. We'd have three "tin cans" with us and we'd just make a little loop out in the Atlantic, we'd go out past Iceland and make a loop and then come back in. And once in awhile, the ARKANSAS did go to England and to Scotland, this was back before the war, before we got in the war. And then sometimes we would come back and we'd anchor up in Newfoundland, in the bay up there. And we was up there, let's see, I guess that was in '40, 1941, in early 1941. And the ice was so thick that salt water froze. And we had some "tin cans" there with us and we'd get underway, we'd have to go out and break the ice and they'd follow us out because they couldn't break that ice. 3

JW: Was the ARKANSAS slow? Was it a slow or a fast ship?

DG: Oh, yeah. Well, see, eighteen knots was as fast as--

JW: As fast as it would go?

DG: I mean when it'd get up to eighteen knots, boy, it would--

JW: You could hear it churning?

DG: Yeah, and it was kind of rough, too. But I was on the ARKANSAS, was anchored in Casco Bay there in Portland, Maine, when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor. We was anchored there that Sunday.

JW: What do you remember about that day?

DG: Well, I was on a 72. I don't remember the hotel, but I had a room in a hotel.

JW: What is a 72?

DG: 72 hour leave. It was what they called, you know, they had overnight liberty, or had 48 hours, 72 hours pass.

JW: So you were in a hotel in Casco Bay?

DG: Right, in Portland, Maine.

JW: And how did you hear about it?

DG: On the radio.

JW: You had the radio on?

DG: Yeah, uh-huh, and couldn't believe it.

JW: Did you know where Pearl Harbor was at the time?

DG: No, I didn't.

JW: Lot of people didn't.

DG: But I found out about it. Soon as they started talking about it, they told where it was.

JW: Did you know that-- Did you instantly know that your life was fixing to change?

DG: Well, I remember this sailor that I joined the Navy with. He was an old buddy from Missouri and we joined the Navy together, went aboard the ARKANSAS together, went on liberties together. So we were there in the room, he was asleep and I'd got up and gone down to get a paper and I found out about it and went back up. "Hey, Scotty, you know we're at war? Japs just hit Pearl Harbor." "Oh," he says, "we could whip them before breakfast."

JW: You'd think you could, the size Japan was and the size of the United States.

DG: But then I left the ARKANSAS and I went to Solomon's Island, Maryland, and that was a base for amphibious ships.

JW: What was your job when you were on the ARKANSAS? What was your job? 4

DG: I was in the office, I was in the executive office there. I was a yeoman, and my job was mainly handling liberty cards. And when people would come in and want a pass for 72 or special liberty, why, they'd fill it out and turn it in to me and I'd take it up to the Captain for his okay. And I'd handle, they had to turn their liberty cards in and I had to check them and put them back in. That was my job. And so everybody treated me pretty good there because I was taking care of their liberty.

JW: You were the giver of a good time?

DG: Oh, yeah. I could go over to the galley and they'd give me a piece of pie.

JW: Good job.

DG: Yeah.

JW: So when you left the ARKANSAS, you went--

DG: I went to Solomon's Island, Maryland.

JW: Is that for more training?

DG: That was an amphibious base. I went down there, actually, I was among the original crew that went down there and set it up to train. They'd come in there, the crews, and we'd make up crews for the amphibs, and they'd come in there and do their training. Send them down to Little Creek, get their advance training, then they'd go to sea. And I was down there for, oh, I don't know, maybe a year. Gee whiz, this is behind the scenes, so I put in for a transfer to a mine sweeper. I didn't know what a mine sweeper was. And went aboard that, I was transferred. Since I was one of the senior yeomen there on the base, why I did get first chance and so I went aboard this mine sweeper.

JW: Did it have a name?

DG: It was YMIS 58 is what it was. And we headed for the Mediterranean, and got over there, we went to Africa first, went to Oran, Africa, and then Algiers.

JW: And were you sweeping mines?

DG: Not right then. Then when we left Africa, we were going to invade Sicily on July the 10th, this was in 1943. It was July the 10th, and we swept the channel into the beach so that the landing forces could land troops there, so Patton could take his Army in there. We were there all during, until Patton had taken over the island of Sicily. And then we headed for Anzio, Italy, swept the channel in there so they could go in and put troops ashore.

JW: In both places, did you encounter mines?

DG: Oh, yeah. And took those mines, they were anchored and we'd go through and we'd cut the cable and they'd float, come to the surface. And they was supposed to deactivate so they would not explode once they're floating, but that didn't always work out that way. So you never knew. 5

JW: And did frogmen cut the cable?

DG: No. Mine sweepers would drop a-- I forgot now what they called those, but they were on a cable and they was down below the surface ten feet or so, whatever depth you set them at, and we'd sweep in there and cut the cable and they'd pop to the surface.

JW: So a mechanical device cut the cable?

DG: Yeah.

JW: Okay. And then it would pop up?

DG: Yeah. See, they were on a cable, thick, thicker than my finger, that cable is. And the sweeper would drop a cable over the side, they'd have a cutter on there and it would go and catch that cable and pull it into the knife and cut it, and it would pop to the surface. And sometimes, there'd be mines floating all around and you couldn't dodge them and they'd hit the side of the ship, thump, thump, thump. Your heart in your throat because if it would go off, you're gone.

JW: A mine sweeper isn't a very large vessel, is it?

DG: No, it was a 135 feet, the YMS. Now, the AMs, they were 220 feet, they were a good size. We only had about 35 on this crew, in our crew. But the AMs, they'd have about a 100.

JW: You were on a ship small enough that if a mine accidentally hit you, that it's over?

DG: I have seen, when we'd be steaming in formation, when I say formation, you're sweeping the channel out. And there'd be one ship here and you'd be behind it, but you'd be over sweeping a wider swath, because you'd want to clear a lane into the beach.

JW: Like mowing the grass?

DG: Yeah, that's right. But I have seen, when we'd be going in like that, the ship ahead of us hit a mine, it's gone. We'd steam right on past.

JW: Just keep going?

DG: Yeah, just keep going. You don't stop to pick up survivors because you don't know what's--

JW: Right. Well, how did you locate the mines in the first place? Was that sonar? Were you using sonar?

DG: Yeah. We had sonar, but when you was coming into a beach, like going into Sicily, when we invaded Sicily, you knew there was mines there coming in because you were coming into the beach. And so wherever there was a port, they mined it, and we'd clean that channel out so that they could go in. And then in Anzio, they did the same thing, and that Anzio was wicked.

JW: I always heard that.

DG: They went in to Anzio, put troops on the beach there. And if they 6 could have, they'd have taken them off the beach and brought them out. But the Germans had them pinned down, the Germans and the Italians had them pinned down. And we was sitting off out there, we were more or less kind of watching the action, we'd done our job. And there at Anzio, they had some big guns on a flat car that was back in a tunnel that would come out of that tunnel and fire out toward at the ships, and then they'd scoot back in the tunnel and reload the big gun. I don't know how big that gun was, but it was a monster when it would come out.

JW: And so hopefully y'all were anchored just past the range of those big guns?

DG: No, we weren't. But they were firing over us, they was wanting to get the big ones out there. And they kept trying to hit it and they couldn't, so finally, what they finally did, they knocked out-- When it came out, they knocked the track out so it couldn't go back in and then they could knock it out.

JW: Well, they have one of those guns at Maryland today. I read on the Internet that one is at the Proving Grounds in Maryland, on display. And a man from Fort Smith is the one that transported it from Italy.

DG: Might have been the one that we--

JW: Might have been. I plan on checking that out one of these days.

DG: Do you remember what the size of it-- Was it a 120 millimeter?

JW: I don't remember, but it's all-- it's all on the Internet, easy to find. But it was one heck of a gun and there was more than one.

DG: Yeah, yeah.

JW: But it was the same deal on the track, and it took a long time to figure out how to outsmart them.

DG: It did a lot of damage, that gun did, before they knocked that track out and it couldn't go back in that tunnel.

JW: That's what I've heard.

DG: And the planes would come over and drop bombs. And we picked up, we were anchored just off of an LST, I think it was, and they dropped a bomb on that and I mean they hit them dead.

JW: Hit the LST?

DG: Uh-huh. There was three sailors I think it was, might have been more, we picked up three sailors off of it. They were the only ones that survived that ship, because when the bomb hit, man, it went-- and the only way they were safe is because they were taking a shower, they were in the shower. And when it hit, they wound up in the water and we picked them up, and I gave one of them a blanket around him.

JW: Well, that went on for weeks and weeks?

DG: Oh, yeah. Well, when we went in to Sicily, it was July the 10th of 1943. And then Anzio was in February the following year, but both 7 places, they were shooting.

JW: That was a hard job both places.

DG: We had the same job. And they'd take out-- ships would sink around us, and we'd pick up survivors sometimes and sometimes we couldn't pick up survivors, if they were bombing. And you didn't know whether it was a bomber going to get you or a submarine, so you didn't stop to pick up survivors because if you stopped to pick up survivors, then you were a dead duck because they'd get you, too.

JW: But that's a horrible thing to have to think about.

DG: Yeah.

JW: That's a horrible decision to have to make.

DG: Well, I wasn't a captain, so I didn't have to make that.

JW: Lucky for you. Well, what happened, what ultimately happened at Anzio?

DG: Well, they finally cleaned them out. Well, we finally got some clearer weather and planes could come in and give them a little relief there until they bombed it out and moved on and went up and took Rome. Next, we went to southern France. Hate to even mention southern France because it was like a picnic because there wasn't much to that. Just went in just like-- didn't even get shot at, it wasn't like Sicily and Anzio.

JW: Right.

DG: We stayed there in southern France and turned the ship over to France. We turned a bunch of ships over to France. And me being a yeoman, that was my job, I had paperwork to do to transfer the ships to them.

JW: That was still under your-- that was your job?

DG: Uh-huh. Then I flew back to the States, got 30 days leave, this was in '45. And then let's see, I went to a DE that was going down to-- This was in New York, I went in to New York and checked into the base there in Brooklyn.

JW: The Brooklyn Naval Base?

DG: Yeah. And they said, "Well," said, "I don't have an assignment for you just yet. You got a place to stay?" I said, "Yeah, I'm staying in a hotel over there in the city." "Well," said, "just check in with me every morning."

JW: Now, was the war still going on or is this after the war?

DG: This was after the war in '45.

JW: I see. It was after the Germans had surrendered?

DG: Yeah, uh-huh.

JW: And the Japanese--

DG: The Japanese hadn't. 8

JW: They hadn't? Okay, I see.

DG: No.

JW: Remember the name of the hotel you were staying in?

DG: No, I don't; that's too long ago.

JW: Long time.

DG: Yeah. But I'd call in every morning, and after about a week, call in, he says, "Well," said, "How'd you like to go aboard a DE and ride it down to Florida?"

JW: What's a DE?

DG: It's just a small "tin can" really, I mean destroyer. Only it would carry a smaller complement, little bit smaller, don't have quite the armament of "tin cans", not quite as fast.

JW: Okay.

DG: So I rode it down to Florida, went into Jacksonville. And all those DEs were going up the river, up the St. John's River, to Green Cove Springs, going out of commission, they were mothballing them. And got up there, they sent me back down to the MELVILLE, was a destroyer repair ship that was anchored down there in St. John's River in Jacksonville. They sent me down there, they did. And when the DEs would come up the river, they'd tie up alongside, we'd repair them, get them all set up, then they'd go on up to Green Cove and be mothballed. And then the MELVILLE, they finally got everything mothballed they was going to and they sent the MELVILLE to Norfolk to be decommissioned. And so I got transferred to a cruiser that was in the Brooklyn Naval Yard, I was back where I started. Got up there and they sent that-- that was the PHILADELPHIA.

JW: That was the ship you were transferred to? That was the name of the ship you were transferred to?

DG: Yes, a cruiser. Sent us down to Philadelphia and went down there, went in the navy yard.

JW: Let me stop you. The cruiser's name was PHILADELPHIA or they sent you to--


JW: That was the name of the cruiser?

DG: Yeah.

JW: And then they sent you to Philadelphia, the city?

DG: Yeah, the cruiser went down there. And because it was going to be decommissioned, I stayed down there.

JW: You were a little like an undertaker, weren't you? Riding all these ships?

DG: Yeah, all these ships going out of commission, I threw all of them out. Then from there, got transferred to the HELENA, brand new 9 cruiser that was just being commissioned up in Quincy, Massachusetts. I went up there to put that ship in commission, and they finally went in commission in August of '45. About the time we went in commission, well, the Japanese surrendered, the war was over. And so here they'd built up the fleet, had all these ships, they didn't know what to do with them.

JW: Well, in May of 1945 when the war in Europe was over, do you remember, was it a day of celebration or just another work day?

DG: No, I'm trying to remember where I was. I think I was-- I'm not sure, but I think I was in New York. Fact, I'm pretty sure I was.

JW: You'd think there'd been a big celebration.

DG: Oh, yeah, there was. But I can't remember, I can't remember, I was getting transferred back and forth so many times, I don't remember now.

JW: Well, on the day that Japan surrendered in August, was that a big day for you?

DG: Oh, yeah. That was really a big day because the war was over, period. When Germany surrendered, it was, well, I will say it was over for us. There was a few ships on the Atlantic side that they sent them around, but I didn't have anything to do with any of those.

JW: Well, where were you when Japan surrendered? Were you in Quincy, Massachusetts?

DG: Uh-huh.

JW: Do you remember how you found out about that?

DG: I was putting the HELENA, USS HELENA, a heavy cruiser, into commission. And when we went on our shakedown cruise and come back in, and they'd cut the crew back, and I was one of the senior ones on there, so I put in for--

JW: You'd been in for six years by this point, hadn't you?

DG: Yeah.

JW: That's a long time for a young man.

DG: Trying to remember now, I made a cruise to England and to France. I can't remember what ship I was on then. But then we went back to the States and I put in for recruiting duty. And let's see, wait a minute, though, that was, yeah, that was in '47.

JW: What did you do between '45 and '47?

DG: Well, I can't remember. I cannot remember that ship. I made a cruise and I can't even remember where we left from, but I remember us going to-- This is bad.

JW: Well, this is 60 some years ago we're asking you to remember.

DG: But I can't remember the ship, but I do remember we went to England, then we went to France, and I think we went to Italy. 10

JW: Well, with the war being over, it sounds to me like you decided to stay in the Navy.

DG: I did.

JW: You weren't interested in getting out and going home?

DG: No.

JW: So you must have reenlisted somewhere in there. I see.

DG: Oh, yes, I did, I reenlisted. My six years was up, but I reenlisted. Well, I had to. To make that cruise, I had to reenlist because while we were in England or overseas, my enlistment would have expired so I had to agree to reenlist. But then we went over there, we came back. And anyway, when we came back, this was '46. Went over there, I can't remember, can't remember what happened in '46, what I did.

JW: Well, if nobody was shooting at you, maybe you didn't have to remember.

DG: Well, I went aboard the MELVILLE. I was on the MELVILLE in '45 down in Florida. And then when it went out of commission, I hit a blank there somewhere.

JW: That's probably normal, that's long ago.

DG: I thought I could remember all that, that's why I wanted to get all this, because I'm beginning to get forgetful, but I just can't remember.

JW: Well, in '47, where were you?

DG: I went to Kansas City for recruiting duty.

JW: So you were in downtown Kansas City at a recruiter's office?

DG: In the Federal Building, 12th and Grand.

JW: And did you stay?

DG: That's where I met my sweetheart. I met this little gal, she was borned and raised here in Fort Smith.

JW: What was she doing in Kansas City?

DG: She was living with her aunt, working at Emory Bird & Thayer Department Store, as assistant buyer in sportswear. That little gal, she had auburn hair, curly, hanging down the middle of her back. Oh, I fell in love with her.

JW: You just walked in the department store and there she was?

DG: No. I met her at a restaurant and bar, where you go and eat sometimes, and she was there. Saw her and it was love at first sight, far as I was concerned.

JW: Then how long did it take for you to convince her it was love at first sight for her, too?

DG: Well, let's see, I used to kid her all the time. I had just bought a '49 Mercury, they came out in September of '48 and I bought 11 that '49 and it was brand new, I'd had it about a week, I guess. And my first date I had with her, and I used to kid her all the time, I said you just married me for this car.

JW: That was a pretty nice car in 1949.

DG: Oh, yeah, it was. And anyway, we got married. In '49, we got married, but I got orders to go to Guam, to Deputy High Commissioner flags in staff (?), admiral staff, out in Guam. And so I had to go to San Francisco, to leave from Frisco, and she flew out there to marry me. She took that car.

JW: I see where this is going.

DG: We were married for four days, we was in the Mark Hopkins Hotel there in Frisco, and I went aboard ship headed for Guam. And we got married on the 10th of January. And on the 15th of January, I went aboard ship headed for Guam. And then she flew out there the 10th of May, and I picked her up at the airport there in Guam. So we were separated from the 15th of January until the 10th of May.

JW: That's pretty rough for a brand new marriage.

DG: Yes, it was.

JW: I was gonna ask you if this Guam assignment was one that you couldn't take a wife with you, and so you answered that question.

DG: Yes.

JW: What'd she do with the Mercury?

DG: Well, it was shipped over there to us. And then after she got there the 10th of May, in September, well, by the time she got there, I knew I was going but we were going to Honolulu because the Deputy High Commissioner's office was gonna move up there. And we got up there and wasn't anything for us to do up there.

JW: In Honolulu?

DG: Yeah, in the Deputy High Commissioner. I mean it was just a paper command only, so we got up there and I went over to Consur Pack?, I was Chief Yeoman by then. And I went over there, I got nothing to do over here since these commanders got me just typing papers like a typist all the time. And so this Lieutenant over there, he said, "I need a chief over here", so he transferred me. I got orders to go to work for this Lieutenant, he was a Mustang. I don't know whether you know what Mustang--

JW: No, I don't.

DG: He was a Chief Yeoman. And when the war broke out, he'd been in the Navy for years and they gave him a commission and they called it Mustangs. And so he was a full Lieutenant, but I went to work for him there. And this was, well, it was late 1949. And then in 1950 when the Korean War broke out, I was there. And Ken was in hospital, so I had the admiral breakdown of all the chiefs that had been on Hawaii three years or more. 12

JW: When you say Ken was in the hospital, was that your boss?

DG: That was, yeah, the Lieutenant, yeah.

JW: Okay.

DG: And so I was running that section and so I had to work and I had orders for all-- See, the Korean War broke out in 1950, Ken was in the hospital, so it was my job to give the Admiral bodies for the Korean War.

JW: And from that list, he's going to pick who gets to go to Korea?

DG: And I gave a him a list of all the chiefs that'd been in Honolulu. See, back then, I don't remember now how many different commands there were in there, but the chiefs, they'd serve three years and one command, see like con sure pipe (?), and comsub pack, and then there was the base. And so they put in three years and transferred over there, and some of them had been there for twelve years or more. And most of them had in enough time to retire from the Navy. So I started writing orders and get their orders, and boy, they'd come up there, "I want to retire, I want to put my papers in and retire." Said, "You can't do it, you've got orders to go."

JW: Well, you didn't get many pieces of pie out of that job?

DG: No, I didn't. I was on everybody's list.

JW: Well, you know, if you could be in Honolulu for the rest of your life, who'd want to retire. But then if somebody says you're going to have to go to Korea, might be--

DG: Especially when they were shooting at them over there.

JW: Right, right, right.

DG: They didn't like that, but they couldn't retire, couldn't put in their papers to retire.

JW: Right, not at that point.

DG: So then I left-- Well, my daughter was born there at something? General.

JW: In Honolulu?

DG: In Honolulu. And she's 57 years old now.

JW: I' sure she's glad you just told everybody that.

DG: She gave me three granddaughters and a grandson, and I've got ten great-grandchildren.

JW: That was a good deal.

DG: The only fly in the ointment was I lost that little redhead, she was only 53 years old, she had a heart attack. We were here in Fort Smith when that happened. I thought my life had come to an end then.

JW: And you just had the one daughter?

DG: We lost a boy and a girl, we couldn't have anymore, and so that's all I have. 13

JW: Did you ever to go to Korea?

DG: No, I stayed right there in Honolulu. And when I left Honolulu, I had orders to Washington, D.C., and I went to the Pentagon, put in three and a half years there.

JW: What was your job there?

DG: I was in the operations, Naval Operations, and I was Chief Yeoman. Then when I left the Pentagon, I went to Spain, to the Embassy in Spain, at Madrid, Spain. And when I left Madrid, I went back to the Pentagon and Chief of Naval Operations again. And that's where I was when I retired, retired from the Navy.

JW: What year was that?

DG: That was in 1960, had 20 years to the Navy. Went to Tampa, Florida, went to work in the post office down there, put in 13 years in the post office. My wife, Mary, she wanted to move back up here, so I thought, well, I've got 13 years in the post office, over 13 years, got 20 years in the Navy, that's over 30 years service, Federal service, so I put in for 30 years. Said you can't do it, said they changed the rules, I missed out by two weeks. They changed the rules two weeks before I went to work for the post office. And the rule then, I'd have to stay until I was 65. Well, I'd had to put in another 10 years. So Mary wanted to come back up here, so I resigned from the post office, went back up, I got a pension and I got all that money that I'd paid into retirement, I got $5,000 from the post office, just what I had put in, I lost the other half that they put in. I had to give it back to them, well, I didn't gave it back, never got it. But anyway, I resigned from the post office and we moved back up here and this was in, we got here in December, it was actually November '73, because got up here December the 1st of '73.

JW: Did your wife have family here and she wanted to be close?

DG: Well, yes. Her mother was living here and then, course, her father was dead. Her father died while we were in Honolulu.

JW: So what did you do when you moved here?

DG: Well, when we first moved here, really didn't need to work because I had pension and I had sold property, our house down in Florida, and I had the $5,000 from the post office.

JW: You're in your early 50s?

DG: Let's see, when we came here, that was in 1973.

JW: You were about 54?

DG: Yeah, that would be-- Let's see, we got here December '73, it was after my birthday in '73. And so Mary and I started working on geneology, we were both interested in our forefathers. I traced mine back, my great-great-great-granddad Gray, Stephen Riley Gray. And so that's all we were doing, we started going up to Huntsville and found family up there that had a geneology library. We started going up 14 there and doing research. And the guy that had the library, his dad had a grocery store in Huntsville, and he gave him space in the grocery store to set up the library. And his dad wanted to retire and turn the grocery store over to him, so he had that library and it was kind of tying him down there a little too much. And we'd been going up there for quite awhile, and so I worked out a deal with him to take the library, bring it from Huntsville down to here. And we set it up there on 12th Street, by the old-- 701 North 12th. It was a big old two story house that furniture man, I can't think--

JW: The McCloud, the Angus McCloud house?

DG: No.

JW: The Ayres house?

DG: It was on 701 North 12th. And the old man that had that property, he died in 1934 and he had a furniture factory here of some kind, but I can't remember now which one it was. But anyway, we set up the library down there. And when we bought this house, Mary, my wife, Mary, said she'd always loved that old house and we got a chance to buy it, so I bought it and set up the library in it. And so we had that I guess, oh, let's see, '73, bought it down there some time in '74 and set it up. I don't remember just when, but then we were going along and doing just fine and Mary got sick, took her to Sparks. Well, she had a heart attack in the emergency room there at Sparks. They brought her around, she had another attack and brought her around. Then she had another attack and they couldn't bring her back, lost her, she was 53 years old. This was in 1975 and we moved up here in '73. I kept the library, didn't have her to help me in it, but then I got another one, a little lady there at the bottom (indicating). I married her, but she wasn't interested in geneology at all, so I sold the library, got rid of it. And I went to work for Jack Jones down here, part-time, on Towson, when he had that-- well, he started out at this furniture store and gas pumps, and I helped out in the furniture and handled the gas pumps, too. I worked for Jack for 23 years. And then Pauline's health went bad, so I told Jack I'd have to quit and we moved out here, Pauline and I did, I moved her out here. But she got Alzheimer's and then got to where she didn't even know me for about a year and a half, I guess. We were living here when she passed away. And so I've been here, she passed away in 2003, July the 16th, 2003, and I've been living here by myself ever since then.

JW: That's rough. I buried one wife, but I hadn't buried two. One is more than most men should have to handle.

DG: Well, I tell you, Mary was only 53 when she passed away, she had a heart attack. She was a diabetic. She took care of herself, watched her diet, and she had that heart attack and they said that her arteries were clogged. That's why she had the heart attack because it was too much of a load for her. And Pauline had Alzheimer's, so I lost two of them. They're both buried over here in the National Cemetery. That's where I'll be buried, got everything arranged. 15 Nobody's going to have to do anything, because when I made arrangements for Pauline, well, I said while you're at it--

JW: That's a smart thing to do. I assume, kind of do the math, your daughter moved with you to Fort Smith in 1973?

DG: Well, no. She got married, there was ten of them here, last Sunday.

JW: Lot of people in this room.

DG: My daughter and three granddaughters and grandson and four great-grandchildren rest of them, were great-grandchildren. I've got ten great-grandchildren.

JW: That's a lot of kids, I mean that's a lot of grandkids and great-grandkids.

DG: From two years up to my daughter's 57. But the Lord has been good to me. I say I can't complain, I did complain quite awhile when I lost my first wife.

JW: That's a tough blow.

DG: She was only 53 and I was 55. My birthday, I was born September the 27th, 1919. She was born November the 27th, 1921. I lost her in '75, February of '75.

JW: Well, who wouldn't complain about that, that's a tough blow.

DG: When I lost her, took me a long time.  Pauline, she was 76 when I lost her. She had Alzheimer's, so that wasn't a shock like it was when with Mary when I lost her.

JW: One was pretty instant, and one you'd had a long time to see it coming, and there's a lot of difference between 53 and 76.

DG: Yeah. And see, I took Mary up to the hospital, oh, must have been nine-- Well, we went over, my daughter was living here in town then, we went over there to eat supper, and we came home. I don't know, Mary stayed in the kitchen, help her clean up after we ate, and probably nine o'clock or better when we got home. And she put on her, well, I helped her get into her pajamas, get ready for bed. She sat on the side of the bed, says "I can't breathe." I said, "Come on, I'll take you up to the hospital." "I don't want to go to the hospital." So I picked her up and carried her out to the car, took her up to Sparks. Said she had pneumonia, put her in intensive care, and the next morning, she had that heart attack and was gone. I couldn't believe it, 53 years old. On January the 10th, we celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary. And February the 10th, took her up to the hospital.

JW: That all happened too suddenly. There's no way to prepare for that.

DG: Took me a long time to make peace with God about taking her.

JW: I don't think you can make sense out of somebody dying at 53, can't make any sense of it. 16

DG: No. That's what I kept saying, how could you do that to me.

JW: Anyone would say that, too. Well, for a man who retired in 19--

DG: 1960.

JW: 1960, you worked a whole lot more years after that?

DG: Yes, 23 of them with Jack Jones.

JW: So you've just been taking it easy?

DG: Well, yeah.

JW: You had a sick wife?

DG: Yeah. Well, course, with Mary, I didn't have to take care of her, she was gone before-- I would have loved to have taken care of her. But with Pauline, well, we moved in here in February of 2003, and well, I'd been taking care of her, we lived over there on 53rd Street. And she got to where we'd go to bed, get ready to go to bed, she'd say, "What's she doing in here?" I said, "Who, hon?" "That woman. She thinks she's going to sleep in my bed, she's got another thing coming."

JW: That Alzheimer's is horrible, horrible stuff.

DG: But then we moved, so got to where I couldn't-- she would not shower, she would not take a shower, she had to get in the bathtub. Got to where I could not lift her out of the tub. So I said, well, we've got to move. And so we moved out here, brought her out here in February and got (couldn't understand--Naps?) here in the building and I got them to come in and give her a bath every day. And I could dress her, but I couldn't bathe her. I couldn't, I couldn't lift her out of bed or anything.

JW: That's understandable.

DG: And then she passed away July the 16th after we moved here in February and she passed away in July.

JW: Of that same year?

DG: That same year, that was in 2003. So I've been here without anyone since July. That little lady that I was sitting with up there, she's only 69, she lost her husband about six years ago and she moved out here. And we're good friends and I take her to the doctors, for doctor's appointments to get her medicine, and over to Wal-Mart when we need to go shopping. She can't walk, she uses a walker to get around. And we go to Wal-Mart, we get a cart, she sits in the cart and I wheel her around and we do shopping. It gives me exercise.

JW: That's real nice.

DG: But it makes it nice, and we're going out tomorrow night, go over to our Sunday school teachers. We go to Eastside Baptist Church and our Sunday school teachers, there's about 42 in that class.  And most of them will go, like we go over to his house tomorrow night. And everybody brings something. Now all of us from here that goes, there's eight of us going over there, but we just pitch in five bucks 17 for them to pay our part and so they always have all kinds of food.

JW: That's awful nice.

DG: Good food. Trouble is I don't need all that.

JW: Well, we ought to have some pleasures in life. Well, I guess the Navy didn't do you wrong, I guess you did all right all those years in the Navy?

DG: Yeah, I put in 20 years in the Navy, got a good pension.

JW: Got out with all your fingers and toes?

DG: Yeah. Lord watched over me so the bullets didn't come my way.

JW: Well, have you got anything else you need to tell us?

DG: No, I think I've been kind of windy here with you, but I enjoyed talking to you.

JW: Well, we just want to thank you for giving up part of your young life to go over and whip the bad guys and save the world.

DG: Well, there's one guy here that was at Normandy and he got pretty well shot up. Course, you don't hear them talk about it very much, but I've heard him say, or he doesn't talk, but he's not too-- his mind is not too good now. But when I moved in here in February of 2003, and he come in, I don't remember now when he came in but he used to talk about, "I got wounded five times." And I said, "Well, you are the first soldier I ever heard mention getting hurt. They just don't talk about it." But he did, he said, "I got hit, I got wounded five different times."

JW: Well, my father was in World War II and he died when he was 55 and he didn't talk about it, it just wasn't talked about.

DG: And it's a shame, too.

JW: But I think maybe if he'd have lived another 20 or 30 years, it might have changed his mind; but I think there was a lot of guys that didn't talk about any of it until they got older.

DG: Yeah, yeah. Well, those times, they weren't too pleasant. There'd been many a day over there that I didn't know whether I was going to live through the day or not.

JW: There's boats blowing up next to you, it could have been you very easy.

DG: Yeah, when you see a ship go down right ahead of you and you steam right over it.

JW: That's rough, that's as rough as it gets, unless you're the one on the ship going under. I can understand.

DG: Or a mine hitting the ship, thump, thump, thump, thump.

JW: I can understand people not wanting to talk about it, and I don't think that the people that don't talk about it are bad. I think that's their choice and that's fine. Now it's a shame we're going to 18 miss out on some education they can throw our way, but that's their business and not any of mine.

DG: Yeah, yeah. Well, course, you get my age, you don't worry about talking about things. I've lived, I've lived a good life, Lord has been good to me, even though he put me in some bad spots a few times.

JW: But now, you can say --

DG: I'd say, "Lord, you've got to get me out of here." But when it's all through here, all back here, I retired from the Navy in 1960. Well, I've been out of harm's way for 47 years now, or soon be 47, it will be 47 June the 30th, 1960.

JW: But you had 20 years where your number could have come up about any day?

DG: That's right. Well, during the war, yeah. Well, from the time I went aboard the ARKANSAS until the war was over in 1945, why anything could have happened. And course I was never in harm's way after '45 because the Korean War, I was in Honolulu and I was sending them to in harm's way.

JW: That has a little weight to it, too.

DG: Yeah. Them old chiefs come up there, "I want to put in retirement", "You can't, you've got orders to go to Korea." And they could have retired, but they had a gravy train, or they thought they did and they did. Because when their three years was up in this command, they'd transfer over to another command, stay right there on the island.

JW: I've never been to Hawaii, but I understand it's very nice.

DG: It was beautiful. I left there, my daughter, 57 years old now, and she was about a year and a half old when I left there. And I've never been back, so that was in-- left there July the 26th, 1951, and I've never been back. But it was nice, I had some good friends out there. We had two friends there on the island, one was a Japanese, the other a Chinese. The Japanese was a judge in these dog shows, he traveled all over the States, judging dogs in shows. And the Chinaman, we called him Buddha all the time, he didn't do anything. He just lived up there on the side of the mountain, he had a beautiful home. When we left, when we left Honolulu, he threw a big party up there for us. But see, when I left Honolulu, I had a wife and daughter right with me, they went aboard ship right with me.

JW: Oh, they did?

DG: Yeah, came back to the States, went to the Pentagon. Couse, they stayed with me.

JW: Did you live in Washington, D.C., those three years?

DG: No, when we first got there, Mary and I lived in Alexander, Virginia, for, oh, I don't know, six or eight months. And we bought a new home in Rockville, Maryland, which was clear on the other side of Washington, D.C. And see, when we left, when we left Honolulu, I traded that '49 Mercury in for a brand new-- Well, I didn't trade it, 19 I sold it out there at Honolulu and then I ordered a 1951 Ford to be picked up there at Kansas City at the assembly.

JW: Right.

DG: And I come back there, got back there, and got in August the 1st of '51, and went down there and I picked that Ford up and drove it. I had 34 days, then they gave me 30 days leave plus four days travel time to go to Washington, D.C., so I had 34 days leave.

JW: You could have crawled to Washington in that length of time.

DG: Oh, yeah. So I drove that Ford around, I got a thousand miles on it there in Kansas City. Well, not just Kansas City because I drove it down here to see Mary's mother, and then we went back up there and by then, I had a thousand miles. So we got to checking and I was going back to Independence to my sister's to spend the night. Then we was going down to my other sister's who lived down in Odessa, which is 35 miles east of Kansas City, and then we was going on to Washington, D.C. I got a bunch of clothes, I had suitcases in the trunk of the car. And we was over at Kansas City driving around and it started misting rain. And we headed back out towards Independence and this was about-- I don't know why we were over there, but we were. I think just driving around seeing the changes in things. Anyway, pulled up to a light there on Independence Avenue in Kansas City. I don't know whether you're familiar with Kansas City or not.

JW: Little bit, but I can't place Independence.

DG: Anyways, we was on Independence Avenue headed back out of Kansas City towards Independence, sitting there at the light waiting for the light to change and it was misting rain, and I heard some tires squealing. I looked in the rearview mirror and here come a car. I said, "He's going to hit me", and he did, and he messed up the trunk. So next day, I was all set the next day, I was going to head for Washington, D.C. So Mary and I rushed around and I got some bids on a new trunk lid to get that fixed and took it up to the insurance company. This all happened, the lady that hit me, her insurance company was the same as mine.

JW: Well, that's good, generally.

DG: But got up there and they said, "Well," said, "Where can we reach you so we can get this squared away?" I said, "I don't know." Said, "I've got orders to report to Washington, D.C., and when I get down there, I've got to get a place to stay." They said, "Well, we'll have to have an address down there for you." I says, "Well, I can't give you an address." And besides, said, "This bid that I've got," said, "That doesn't mention any clothes." Said, "I'm going to Washington, D.C. And hauling them in that trunk like it is," I said, "If it rains, you're going to have to buy me some new clothes and suitcases and things." Five minutes later, I walked out with a check. That was the fastest I ever got. Went over and got the trunk lid replaced and painted that very afternoon, and still got a way to go, went on.

JW: So they didn't delay your trip? 20

DG: No.

JW: You were ready to go with your car all fixed. A little extra money--

DG: And i didn't have to worry about ruining a bunch of clothes.

JW: Right. Well, you wouldn't want to take off to a place you've never been before with something like that hanging over your head, a damaged car?

DG: No, no. But I had him over a barrel. I said that trunk is full of clothes, got a bunch of suitcases in there and you might have a bill in addition to this for a bunch of clothes.

JW: Well, I think it's always best if you've got the insurance company over a barrel.

DG: So that just shows that it took them five minutes to write a check to pay me off.

JW: Well, does that do it for you?

DG: Yeah.

JW: Okay.  You've said everything you want to say?

DG: I told you an awful lot more than-- Has that been running all this time?

JW: Yeah, yeah. Well, I sure thank you for your time and your story.

DG: Well, I've enjoyed talking to you. And I'm sorry I had some lapses there that I couldn't remember, but there wasn't-- I don't think for an old man 87 years old, was too bad, was it?

JW: No, no, not at all. Not at all, you did just fine.   1