Engineer CastleHistorical Vignette 014

First Lieutenant Gilbert Ray

 

 

 

 

 

Before dawn on July 7, 1944, First Lieutenant Gilbert Ray waited with his platoon in a ditch near the Vire River, France. Gilbert’s 3rd platoon from Bravo Company, and the remainder of the 105th Engineer Battalion were supporting a 30th Infantry Division assault river crossing. Ray, as a Second Lieutenant, before deploying for Europe.

At 0415 assault boats crossed infantrymen who began establishing a bridgehead on the far shore. Thirty minutes later, Gilbert’s platoon moved forward with sections of a footbridge. The Engineers raced to the river and began assembling. Shortly after 0500, with the footbridge approximately 20 percent built, two German artillery shells landed in the midst of the Engineers assembling the bridge and destroyed it. Enemy snipers started firing on the Engineers. With many of his men casualties, Lieutenant Ray rallied his remaining men and assembled other Engineers from a nearby unit. The Engineers had to complete a foot bridge so the infantry could cross the river and neutralize the German snipers and artillery. For 30 minutes, under heavy enemy fire, the Engineers assembled another footbridge and pushed it out into the river. Several times the enemy fire was so severe the Engineers had to stop working and engage the enemy. Throughout this ordeal, Lieutenant Ray exposed himself to enemy small arms and artillery fire, in order to rally and inspire his men. After 45 minutes of intense combat and construction the footbridge was complete. As the Engineers stood by to repair the damage caused by artillery fire, the infantry stormed across the bridge and engaged the enemy. Reverse of 1LT Ray’s Silver Star Medal showing the distinctive “split broach” suspension of the Medal’s WW2 design.

For his calm leadership under fire, First Lieutenant Ray was awarded the Silver Star Medal.

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