Centenarian was combat engineer in WWII
Although he originally had a draft deferment, George Wray got pulled into World War II as a combat engineer at 28.
He trained with the Army’s 188th Combat Engineer Battalion and went overseas in 1944. The engineers learned upon their arrival in England that they would be attached to Gen. George Patton’s 4th Armored Division, which was moving east across France.
“They were rebuilding bridges and roads at that point,” said his niece, Carol Micklow, “after everything was destroyed after D-Day.”
Mr. Wray’s battalion built bridges across the Moselle River and, later, across the Danube River.
Part of its job was to clear the roads of German mines and anti-personnel devices.
The battalion was then called into action against the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge.
George A. Wray of Irwin died Sunday, June 3, 2018. He was 102.
Born in Altoona on April 26, 1916, he was a son of the late James and Minnie Luemma (Heacox) Wray.
Mr. Wray was working in Western Pennsylvania when the Army called. From Belgium, the 188th moved east and saw more combat action in Germany, witnessing the liberation of several concentration camps.
“He remembers that he gave somebody a chocolate bar, and they gave him binoculars,” Micklow said.
Mr. Wray returned to the United States on the RMS Mauretania but was sea sick for most of the voyage home, she said.
“They just dumped him New York, discharged him and said, ‘Go home,’ ” she said. “He never went on another boat after that.”
Somebody in Altoona told him about job opportunities in Pittsburgh, so Mr. Wray went to work for the Westinghouse Corp. in East Pittsburgh. He retired after 42 years as a production coordinator.
Micklow said her uncle had no explanation for why he lived so long. “He said he was lucky,” she said. “The last six months, it’s just been him and me. I got pretty close to him. He was a wonderful man.”
Mr. Wray was preceded in death by his wife of 71 years, Clara Ellen Wray; and two brothers and a sister.
He is survived by his daughter, Janice E. Wray of Level Green; and nieces, Carol Micklow of Allison Park, Bonnie Hopkins of Altoona, Janeen Swope of Derry, Roberta Summers of Hoffman, Ill., and Suzanne Grimme of Harrisburg.
A funeral service will be held at noon Thursday in New Hope Presbyterian Church, North Huntingdon. Interment will follow in Union Cemetery, Irwin. The William Snyder Funeral Home, Irwin, is in charge of arrangements.
Memorial contributions may be made to New Hope Presbyterian Church, 12727 Lincoln Way, Irwin, PA 15642, or the charity of one’s choice.