March 4, 2015
By Ken Massie
Ray Perry served in the United States Marine Corps Third Division, did duty during WW II in the South Pacific and was associated with the code talkers. Many of the code talkers were Navajo Indians and the Japs could not break this code. Ray is 93 years old and resides in Fort Gay, WV. He received his first ham radio license over 50 years ago when he lived in Scotch Plains, NJ. His call was K2KQQ, later when he moved to Cincinnati he was required to get a new call and received from the FCC the call he still has, W8GCT. Ray states he likes CW (Morse Code).
Fort Gay is just across the Big Sandy River from Louisa, Ky, the home of Ray’s ham friend Fred Jones, WA4SWF. Fred is a member of SOARA – ARES and one of our best friends. A couple of years ago Fred told me about Ray and his WWII experience. Being a U. S. Marine veteran also, I became very interested in his story. For some time I have been reading Clyde Beal’s stories in the Huntington Herald Dispatch on Sunday. He is a great writer and has very good stories, I especially like the ones about WW II veterans. I recently contacted Clyde and he agreed to do a story on Ray Perry of Fort Gay, WV. I contacted Fred and he talked to Ray and Ray agreed to be interviewed by Clyde.
Fred, WA4SWF, Michael, WB8YKS, Jim, N8TVO, and Ken, WN8F have lunch at Bob Evans, South Point, Oh or Downtown Grill, Louisa, KY once or twice per year. After I contacted Clyde the reporter, we all agreed to meet at the Downtown Grill with Ray, Clyde, and Fred. Jim, Ken, and Clyde all rode with Mike driving to Louisa.
The codetalker alphabet These words were used to represent the alphabet with the first letter of the word when translated into english. Letter: Navajo Word: Meaning:
A = Wol-la-chee = Ant B = Shush = Bear C = Moasi = Cat D = Be = Deer E = Dzeh = Elk F = Ma-e = Fox G= Klizzie = Goat H = Lin = Horse I = Tkin = Ice J = Tkele-cho-gi = Jackass K = Klizzie-yazzi = Kidd L = Dibeh-yazzie = Lamb M= Na-as-tsosi = Mouse N = Nesh-chee = Nut O = Ne-ahs-jah = Owl P = Bi-sodith = Pig Q = Ca-yeilith = Quiver R = Gah = Rabbit S = Dibeh = Sheep T = Than-zie = Turkey U = No-da-ih = Ute V = A-keh-di-glini = Victor W= Gloe-ih = Weasel X = Al-an-as-dzoh = Cross Y = Tsah-as-zih = Yucca Z = Besh-do-gliz = Zinc
Here are some photos taken during this interview. The photos were taken by Michael Love, WB8YKS. Clyde Beal’s story follows these photos
We wish to thank Ray Perry for his service to our country.
Clyde Beal: Fort Gay native’s military service involved working with ‘Code Talkers’
By Clyde Beal
Near the railroad tracks on the outskirts of Louisa, Kentucky, there is a quaint family-owned restaurant called The Down Home Grille. A few weeks ago, the dining area became the perfect location for a working lunch. What made the day extra special was the homemade vegetable soup and listening to Ray Perry share stories about his life of 93 years — stories that covered everything from riding horses with his favorite schoolteacher to working with a group of American Indians during World War II.
Perry was born at home along a dirt road near the town of Fort Gay, West Virginia, in 1921. Along with his brothers and sisters, they managed to keep the farm running without the convenience of central heat, running water or electricity.
“Mom and dad were both schoolteachers,” Perry said. “That left a lot of work on the shoulders of us kids. We milked cows, gathered eggs, fed chickens and hogs — all the stuff you’d expect on a farm during the 1930s. We had a garden to tend, and we slaughtered a hog each fall. We never raised tobacco. Mom was against the use of it and forbid my father from raising it. Mom rode a horse to school, and I was lucky enough to ride with her. I think she picked me because the horse had a bad disposition, and I knew how to handle him. She also needed someone to open and close the gates along the way.”
Most of the finer family necessities of life for the Perry family came from the Sears and Roebuck Catalog — items like shoes, clothing, household necessities. Even chickens were ordered from Sears and delivered on horseback by the mailman. When the new catalog arrived each year, the old one was disposed of one page at a time inside the outhouse.
“We even had an outhouse at school,” Perry said. “I never experienced the luxury of toilet paper until I joined the military. Even our lunch at school was usually leftover breakfast items. We lived without Twinkies and Pop Tarts, and we lived without a single school closing because of snow.”
After graduation from Fort Gay High School, Perry took typing, shorthand and a few business courses at the recommendation of his mother. He quickly found employment at Ashland Oil making fifty-five cents an hour. Perry’s future now looked bright and secure — until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
“All of a sudden the newspapers and radio were filled with the need for young men to come join the military,” Perry said. “Even that old recruiting poster of Uncle Sam made me feel guilty. He looked like he was pointing his finger right at me every time I walked by. So I just decided to enlist in the Marines.”
In less time than it takes to order a box of chicks from Sears, Perry had received an initial physical at Ashland’s Ventura Hotel, processed through the central recruiting depot in Louisville, and rode the night train to Parris Island Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in South Carolina. He was now making $21 a month.
“While at the Louisville Train Station, a Marine sergeant gave me 17 tickets for everyone taking the train to Parris Island,” Perry said. “I have no idea why he picked me, but I remember his rather stern words: ‘If you lose these tickets, the cost of replacing them will be deducted from your pay.'”
After boot camp, Perry was sent to Quantico Marine Base in Virginia for 60 days of radio communication school. The atmosphere was now less stressful. There was less marching and inspections. Even his meals in the chow hall were more pleasant.
After radio communication and Morse code training, Perry boarded a troop train to Camp Pendleton, California, where he lived in six-man tents receiving additional training.
“At California, we boarded a rusty troop ship to Guatemala Canal on our way to New Caledonia to replace heavy causalities suffered by the 1st Marine Division,” Perry said. “Our next stop was Bougainville Island where a volcano erupted one night and scared the living hell out of everyone. When I ran outside to see what happened, I saw my Jeep bouncing down the road without a driver. That was the last time I ever saw that Jeep.”
In July of 1943 Perry arrived to a most unusual assignment on the Island of Guam. He was placed in charge of six Navajo Marine “Code Talkers” who were part of a group responsible for devising a language system so secret that the Japanese never figured it out.
“I worked with those six Navajo Indians for three years,” Perry said. “They had a way of sending and receiving messages back and forth that nobody could understand. … They were a most unusual group willing to do anything they were asked to do.”
After a final assignment at Iwo Jima to establish radio communication utilizing the Navajos, Perry received his discharge and went on to graduate from Temple University in 1949 using the G.I. Bill. He graduated in three years by attending night classes and summer semesters.
For a while, Perry attended a few reunions with the 21st and 3rd Marine Corp Divisions. As their number diminished and the cost of travel increased, he stopped attending.
Perry retired a few years back from the accounting department of Proctor and Gamble after 30 years. Recently widowed, he is an avid licensed Ham Radio operator who volunteers in the Fort Gay area providing free tax assistance.
This past June, the last of the original 29 Navajo code talkers, Chester Nez, passed away at the age of 93. His story about the Navajo reservation during the early 1900s details living conditions which would not be tolerated today. The contribution to America’s freedom by the Code Talkers was so great that President Ronald Regan proclaimed Aug. 14 to be National Navajo Code Talkers Day.
Clyde Beal seeks out interesting stories from folks around the Tri-State. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have a relative, friend, or know a WWII veteran who would be willing to be interviewed for a story similar to this one, contact Clyde Beal, he seeks out interesting stories from folks around the Tri-State. Email email@example.com