Memories of 111th “Survivor” Ray Cross

Posted: January 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

Raymond Cross is one of the five known living members of the 111th Ordnance Company we have found. He is 94 years old and lives with his wife of 67 years in Michigan. Ed and I had the pleasure of talking with him by phone last month. Over Christmas, his son, Terry Cross, visited him and shared some of the photos and information from this blog. Terry posted the following “Comment” last night, but I would like to re-post it here, along with some photos Terry just sent, so viewers won’t miss it:

“I have heard so many stories that Dad never shared before–all because these photos triggered some long-held memories. Thanks to you and all the others for sharing. While many of the men were with the 111th Ordnance from Texas, my father was stationed in Iceland for almost 2 years with the 66th Ordnance. That group (the 66th) met for years in PA or OH and so dad went to their reunions, but didn’t have the money to make it to Texas for the 111th reunions. Dad came from Iceland to St. Dogmaels, Wales, and joined the 111th there.

Ray Cross at Miller Field, before he joined up with the 111th

Ray Cross at Miller Field, before he joined up with the 111th

“Dad was in the automotive section, repairing jeeps and light trucks. He was in charge of three or four other men (he was a T-3, I think–equivalent to a staff sergeant with a “T” inside it). I will try to write down some of the stories and the men he knew. Unfortunately, it appears that your father [Edward “Pinky” Johnson] and a number of men in the pictures were in the small-arms repair unit, which Dad said was in the same general area but the men usually didn’t cross paths that much. So, he’s not in the photos but he does recognize a number of folks, including the captain, the lieutenant, and especially Sergeant Gomez. He kept telling me that Gomez was a wonderful man and a master sergeant. I told him that I really doubted he was that high in rank and then the next picture proved me wrong! There he was in all his stripes!

Ray Cross, probably 1942

Ray Cross, probably 1942

“One of the photos the men sent was of a tank sitting by the side of a road. Dad remembers that very well. He thinks it was somewhere in Belgium (his memory was Liege, but I think the photo had a different label). Its gun seems to be sagging, but the German tank is actually unharmed. It simply ran out of gas. The German operator was a half-mile from the largest fuel depot in Belgium or Holland at that time (Dad described it as having barrels and barrels of gasoline) and if he had made it there he could have blown things sky high–and had more petrol to boot!

“For years I tried to get Dad to retrace his route through France, Belgium, and Holland and into Germany, but regardless of both of our efforts, we simply could not figure it out.

“Dad especially had trouble remembering the name of the little town in Holland quite close to the German border. We were thrilled when Heerlen appeared on some of the stories and photos since that was the very place Dad couldn’t recall! He said the German liked to lob artillery shells into the town and sometimes quite near their outpost. There was an old factory or mine (seems like he thought it was a glass factory, but I may be confusing my stories) that the men would sometimes use to take showers since there was still hot water and showers there. Dad said one of his most vivid memories (and he can’t tell it without bending over in laughter) was when the German lobbed a shell that hit the mine/factory and especially struck the hot steam lines. There was a sergeant from their unit in there (I think his name was Hamburg) who was taking a shower. Dad said he ran out of there across the street 90 mph and buck naked! They laughed about that for weeks, he said. I suppose the laughter was okay since the sergeant was uninjured.

“Well, I’ll share more later. Thanks again for helping me to learn more about Dad’s life and the guys he spent these years with.”

Terry told me that Ray had three brothers, and all served in WWII as well. Poor Mrs. Cross, what she went through. Sadly, one son, Doit, suffered injuries in France and did not come home, though the other three did. Here is a newspaper clipping from the hometown paper at the time (click on the image to enlarge it):

Ray Cross newspaper clipping

Margaret and Ray Cross, wedding picture, 1946

Margaret and Ray Cross, wedding picture, 1946

For Christmas, Terry created a shadowbox as a gift for his father, made up of WWII mementos and photos (some from this blog)–what a great idea! Here it is:

Ray Cross shadow box from Terry Cross

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