The number of men and women who served our country with the Allies in World War II is slowly dwindling. We would all do well to learn from their wisdom and experience. Safe-T-Plus has the distinct honor of knowing Ray Chambers, one of our customers and a World War II veteran with an incredible history.
In honor of his life and service, we’re sharing his story for Fourth of July!
Mr. Chambers grew up in Detroit, Michigan and was a boy who loved to build things. At age 7, he completed his first boat, which was five feet long and was paddled by hand. He would take it to the Detroit River on a trailer he made that attached to his old bicycle.
His craft didn’t end there — he also built a kayak in his youth that was eventually turned into a sailboat. At 14, he took three flying lessons for free — thanks to a deal where he received tickets for every gallon of gas purchased, and enough tickets could be turned in for the flight lessons.
Going Into Service
Mr. Chambers went into service with the Navy at the age of 18 — and within two months of his August birthday, he’d left home for boot camp in Great Lakes, followed by a service school in the same area, diesel school, and then second diesel school in West Virginia.
He did training all across the United States. From West Virginia, an eight-day trip by cattle car took him to Camp Shoemaker in California. After that, he went to Camp Pendleton Marine Base in Oceanside, CA to train for Navy Special Forces, which were called “Beach Parties,” with a company of 76 men. While they didn’t know it at the time, they were being trained for the invasion of Iwo Jima.
From Camp Pendleton, they boarded the USS Talladega and sailed to Hawaii for further invasion training. From there, they went to the invasion of Iwo Jima, not knowing where they were going until the day before they arrived.
The Invasion of Iwo Jima
Mr. Chambers and his company arrived at Iwo Jima in the late afternoon of the first day. All they could try to do was to dig out foxholes — but it was nearly impossible. Today, he still has a little jar of volcanic ash taken from the bottom of his boots at Iwo Jima.
On the fourth day, a Japanese mortar went off, killing two men and and hitting Mr. Chambers in the knee with shrapnel. He was hit so hard that the bone was knocked an inch out of place on the left side of his knee.
On the fifth day, they had to use a flame-throwing keg — napalm — at the base of a mountain to eliminate soldiers who were firing mortars and sniper rounds from the nearby caves.
Their job was done after 18 days, after which they headed to Okinawa. He said he thanks God for the atomic bomb — despite the destruction is caused, because it ultimately saved millions of lives, including his own and the men serving with him.
After the War
Mr. Chambers’ first wife of nine years died a year after the birth of their daughter, Pam, after undergoing a double mastectomy. Four years later, he met a woman named Mary and, after five weeks of dating, they married. At the time, he was in his 30’s and she was 17 — despite everyone telling them that it wouldn’t last, they have now been happily married for 55 years.
Together, they had three children.
Ray Chambers built the house that he and Mary share today, and he spent many years building automobiles. His hobby of building boats continued, as did new interests in motorcycles and tinkering with his other vehicles, including the motorhome for which he purchased a Safe-T-Plus steering device.
It has only been in the last three years that he has had other people work on his vehicles. His son Michael will be installing Safe-T-Plus for him.
Mr. Chambers has a few words of wisdom for others:
- Get a good education.
- Stay with God.
- Marry for love. If you’re going to get married, get married — and love each other.
On August 21, Ray will turn 89.
Thank you for serving our country, Ray Chambers!