The last time we visited with Aunt Dot last fall, she briefly told us about her and her husband. She and Bill Dray had dated through high school and wanted to marry soon after high school graduation. Her parents, however, disapproved of Bill and refused to let her marry until she was 21. Aunt Dot turned 21 on July 19, 1941, and she and Bill married on Wednesday, February 18, 1942. She remembered that they had a variety of weather on their wedding day. It was dry when they went to the church to be married, rained while they were in the church, and they came outside to find it snowing.
Doris and Bill married during the United States' involvement in World War II and after the draft had begun in September, 1940. I think it would have been a fearful time to marry and begin a family, not knowing what the future might be like. And yet who would want to miss the opportunity to marry the one they loved just because there was a war? Transcribed records on FamilySearch tell me that Bill enlisted in the Air Corps branch of the United States Army on May 5, 1942. His commitment to serve in the military was "for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law." He went to Patterson Field, as it was known then, near Dayton, Ohio. I don't know the sequence of his military service, nor when he left the United States or from where, to fight in the war overseas.
One of Aunt Dot's sisters, Polly, once told me that Uncle Bill had been wounded in the war and taken for dead. He was on a truck with other soldiers who hadn't survived, about to be transported, when someone noticed that he moved. He was removed from the truck and taken to a hospital. Aunt Polly also said that a metal plate had been placed in his head due to a wound and that he was very protective of that side of his head. I never asked anyone about this and I don't think Aunt Dot never mentioned it to me.
Not long ago I was searching newspapers local to Mineral Ridge and found an article about Uncle Bill in The Niles Standard, published on Thursday, March 16, 1944.
Pvt. William Dray, son of Mr. and Mrs. Lee Dray, 25 Wood, Niles, was seriously wounded in Italy on Feb. 13, according to a War Department telegram received Sunday. Details are unknown as yet.
Pvt. Dray took part in the early invasion operations in Africa and had been in action continuously since that time [and] although his parents had been receiving frequent letters from him, they were unaware of his direct participation in battle.
Dray, 23, had been in service two years. He took basic training as a member of the Air Force ground crew, at Patterson Field, Dayton, O. He graduated from Mineral Ridge High School in 1938 and was employed at the Ravenna Arsenal before induction.
His wife, the former Doris Meinzen, of Mineral Ridge, is in California.
Aunt Dot and Uncle Bill had been married just over two years. Imagine her alarm and concern at learning the news that he'd been seriously wounded. And then it must have been astonishing to see that it took a month to receive the news, from the day of his injury on Sunday, February 13, to the arrival of the telegram on Sunday, March 12. I don't know if Aunt Dot was in California to be with Uncle Bill or for some other reason but I have a vague memory that she went to him as soon as he was in the U.S. again.
Uncle Bill survived, of course. I remember him from my childhood through young adulthood. He died of a heart attack on January 28, 1974. I am aware that there are many World War II veterans who have lived long lives but I continue to believe that military service during war time takes a toll on an individual and soldiers return home different people than they were when they left. I believe it was so with Uncle Bill, too.
Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.