Raymond Leon Bray--born on 1 April 1918 at Greenville, Tex.--enlisted in the Marine Corps on 13 September 1940, and after recruit training at San Diego, Calif., was assigned to the Marine Detachment at the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, N.J. Late in July 1942, Bray, now a corporal, joined the 1st Parachute Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force.
On 7 August 1942, the 1st Parachute Battalion went ashore in landing craft on the island of Gavutu, Solomon Islands. The first wave, Company “A,” reached shore unhindered but the defenders then opened heavy machinegun fire. Companies “B” (to which Bray was attached) and “C” came under heavy fire while still in the boats. The leading wave pushed forward and secured a small beachhead, but was pinned down by intense fire from prepared positions. Company “B” pushed toward the left to gain Hill 148, from which much of the enemy fire came, and took it by late afternoon.
The objective did not fall without cost. Cpl. Bray attacked a fortified machinegun emplacement that blocked the marines’ advance. Charging alone, he plunged through the opening of the position and engaged the Japanese in hand-to-hand combat. Other marines rushed to support him and soon overcame the opposition. Bray, however, died as a result of a grenade explosion later that same day. For his “daring, aggressive, and gallant conduct,” Bray received the Navy Cross, posthumously.
(DE-709: dp. 1,450; 1. 306’0”; b. 37’0”; dr. 13’9” (mean) (f.); s. 23.6 k (tl.); cpl. 221; a. 2 5”, 6 40mm., 6 20mm., 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.), 2 dct.; cl. Rudderow)
Bray (DE-709) was laid down on 27 January 1944 at Bay City, Mich., by the Defoe Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 15 April 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Mattie M. Bray; ferried down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, La., where she was delivered to the Navy on 1 September 1944; and commissioned there on 4 September 1944, Comdr. James A. Heatherington, III, USNR, in command.
Departing New Orleans on her shakedown cruise soon thereafter, Bray steamed through the hurricane that sent Warrington (DD-383) to the bottom and conducted a fruitless search for survivors. The destroyer escort completed her shakedown training in the vicinity of Bermuda and joined Escort Division (CortDiv) 12, Atlantic Fleet. By mid-January 1945, the warship was operating out of Norfolk, Va., training prospective destroyer and destroyer-escort crewmen. She, however, was frequently called upon to go out on antisubmarine patrols against real or imagined U-boats. During that time, Bray also made voyages to the New London area, where she assisted submarines in preparing their crews and received antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training herself.
While operating in Chesapeake Bay on 19 March 1945, the warship dispatched a damage control party to assist the rapidly sinking Heroic (AMc-84). The party successfully patched the gaping hole in Heroic’s hull and saved the minesweeper. In April 1945, she rendezvoused with Franklin (CV-13)heavily damaged by bombs during strikes on the Japanese homelandand escorted her into New York. Missions similar to those occupied her until late July when she entered the Charleston Navy Yard for conversion to a high-speed transport. On 16 July 1945, she was redesignated APD-139. After completing conversion late in September, Bray was assigned school ship duty at Miami, Fla.
That duty continued until 7 December 1945 when she arrived in Green Cove Springs, Fla., to begin the deactivation process. Bray was decommissioned on 10 May 1946 and was berthed with the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She remained in reserve for nearly a decade and a half. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 June 1960 in anticipation of her sale to Ecuador for service as a floating power plant. After those plans failed to go through, she was sunk as a target on 26 March 1963.
Raymond A. Mann
13 December 2005