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Thursday, November 17, 2011
TFH 11/17: 1LT Bernard J. Ray, USA
On this day in 1944, the United States Army was engaged in intense fighting with Nazi German forces during the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. At least 12,000 valiant Americans perished in combat during the battle; we suffered around 33,000 casualties in all.
The 4th Infantry Division had been fighting on the European mainland since D-Day, June 6, 1944, when they were the first unit to hit Utah Beach at H-Hour. Their D-Day victory and service as France was liberated embodied the division's motto: Steadfast and Loyal. One of the division's regiments, the 8th Infantry, is known as the "Fighting Eagles", and aspire to satisfy their motto of Patriae Fidelis - Loyalty to Country.
During the Hürtgen battle, one Fighting Eagle officer, when his unit was pinned down by intense enemy fire and defensive obstacles, sacrificed himself so that the forces of liberty could charge forward. That man was Bernard J. Ray.
*RAY, BERNARD J.
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company F, 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division. Place and date: Hurtgen Forest near Schevenhutte, Germany, 17 November 1944. Entered service at: Baldwin, N.Y. Birth: Brooklyn, N.Y. G.O. No.: 115, 8 December 1945. Citation: He was platoon leader with Company F, 8th Infantry, on 17 November 1944, during the drive through the Hurtgen Forest near Schevenhutte, Germany. The American forces attacked in wet, bitterly cold weather over rough, wooded terrain, meeting brutal resistance from positions spaced throughout the forest behind minefields and wire obstacles. Small arms, machinegun, mortar, and artillery fire caused heavy casualties in the ranks when Company F was halted by a concertina-type wire barrier. Under heavy fire, 1st Lt. Ray reorganized his men and prepared to blow a path through the entanglement, a task which appeared impossible of accomplishment and from which others tried to dissuade him. With implacable determination to clear the way, he placed explosive caps in his pockets, obtained several bangalore torpedoes, and then wrapped a length of highly explosive primer cord about his body. He dashed forward under direct fire, reached the barbed wire and prepared his demolition charge as mortar shells, which were being aimed at him alone, came steadily nearer his completely exposed position. He had placed a torpedo under the wire and was connecting it to a charge he carried when he was severely wounded by a bursting mortar shell. Apparently realizing that he would fail in his self-imposed mission unless he completed it in a few moments he made a supremely gallant decision. With the primer cord still wound about his body and the explosive caps in his pocket, he completed a hasty wiring system and unhesitatingly thrust down on the handle of the charger, destroying himself with the wire barricade in the resulting blast. By the deliberate sacrifice of his life, 1st Lt. Ray enabled his company to continue its attack, resumption of which was of positive significance in gaining the approaches to the Cologne Plain.
First Lieutenant Bernard Ray, age 23 at his death, rests in Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, NY.
Lieutenant Ray's legacy persists today. The 8th Infantry Regiment continues to defend our liberty still as part of the 4th Infantry Division, home based at Fort Carson, CO. 1st Battalion/8th Infantry is part of the division's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team; 2/8 is part of the 2nd HBCT. The 4th ID has sent warriors to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
To all our brave fighting men and women who have lived the principles of Steadfast and Loyal and Loyalty to Country we give our eternal thanks.