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Monday, December 7, 2009

Gordon Keith Ray and Pearl Harbor

I would like to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor with the story of one Lake County soldier and his family.

It was on the evening of December 7, 1941, while the Ray family was having dinner in their Diamond Lake home, when the music on the radio broke with the news of Pearl Harbor. Their son, Gordon Keith, was stationed at Schofield Barracks not far from Pearl Harbor.

In the spring of 1941, Gordon Keith Ray (1919 - 2006), known as Keith, had finished his senior year at the University of Illinois and received a commission in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. When he left home that July, his father Gordon, wrote in his diary: "this seemed like the end as we returned to an empty house, but Keith never let us down."
This photo of Keith on furlough was featured in "The Ray's" newsletter, May 1944.
Dunn Museum, Ray Collection, 96.1.56

At the end of August, Keith was told that he was being assigned to a new post. He wrote to his father: "I don't know when the boat will sail; they're keeping it secret."

Gordon wrote back: "I hope you don't have to go to Hawaii, but if you do, take it on the chin, and trusting God."

As fate would have it, Keith was sent to Hawaii. The Ray family was devastated to hear the news of the attack on that December evening.

Gordon wrote in his diary: "We could only wait for news to come, but the days passed and no news came. Everyone tried to console us by saying that 'no news is good news,' but it didn't satisfy our anxiety."

On December 16, the Rays sent a cablegram to Keith, but there was no reply. Three days later, the U.S. Government broadcasted on the radio that anyone who had not heard from the War Department should be assured their boys were O.K.

Still, the family prayed for news from Keith.

It was Monday, December 22 at 8:30 a.m. when Gordon and Marie Ray received a telegram from their son saying, "Am all right, why not?"

The same day they received a letter from Keith written on December 9:

"Dear Folks, I don't know when you will get this, but I thought I'd drop you a line to let you know that I'm still kicking. We seem to be in a war and are working 24 hours a day. I'm really doing things, but I'm afraid I can't tell you anything now. When I get home, I'll have some real stories to tell of air raids, blackouts, and defense work in the field. Lots of rumors, but not much war. Don't believe everything you hear from Washington or Tokyo. They both tell a lot of lies. Love, Keith."
Victory photo collage at the Ray Brothers' resort, 1943. 
Dunn Museum, Ray Collection, 96.1.51.

The Ray Brothers resort on Diamond Lake was a popular hang-out for picnics, dancing and the community to gather. In 1943, the "V" for Victory photo collage of local men who enlisted was displayed prominently at the resort.

On May 2, 1944, Keith came home from the war. He wasted no time filling up on Ray Brothers' hamburgers, shakes and pies.

December 5, 1944, almost three years to the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, G. Keith Ray married Betty Gridley at the Gridley home in Libertyville. 
Betty and Gordon Keith in early 1945. 
Dunn Museum, Ray Collection, 96.1.61

Keith received an honorable discharge in October, 1945. He went on to become a professional engineer, and received international recognition as an authority on the design and construction of concrete pavements for roads and airport runways.

You can view the Dunn Museum's Ray Collections at our online host site, Illinois Digital Archives. Click on the links: Gordon Ray Photographs and The Rays Newsletters

1 comment:

Hope said...

Thank you for these stories!