In a span of 27 years my Martin hero, Ray Houston Martin, lived in a time of hardships most of us have never known. This is his story:
Ray Houston was born September 27, 1916 in Ida, Louisiana to Walter Houston Martin and Emma Pearl Bain. President Woodrow Wilson was elected to his second term of office in the fall of that year. The following year the United States declared war on Germany and became a participant in WW I. Ray’s father’s draft registration is dated September 1918 however, he never served. WW I lasted until the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 when Ray was three years old.
By 1929 the stock market had crashed and Ray’s father, Walter, who had worked for Gulf Oil, now had diabetes and lost one of his legs. Unable to provide for his family, Walter became despondent and by the 1930 U. S. Census he was listed as a patient at the Central Louisiana State Hospital in Pineville, Louisiana. His wife, Pearl and their four unmarried children lived with her father. Walter remained at the mental hospital until his death in 1937.
Ray, being the eldest son in the family, worked, wherever he could trying to support his mother and siblings. He worked in the timber industry, the petroleum industry as well as for the CCC.
The United States declared war on Japan with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Times were difficult for all American families and sacrifices had to be made. Gas was rationed, auto makers stopped making autos for private use, scrap metal and rubber were collected for the war effort and jobs were almost impossible to find. However Ray managed to find happiness with his fiancée Mary Craft of Leesville, Louisiana.
On June 4, 1942 Ray enlisted in the Army. His records show he was single with dependents, namely his mother and siblings. In a letter to his mother on July 19, 1942, he speaks of money for her and saving good tires.
In this letter he says that he’s “fit as a fiddle” but that it is hot there. Apparently he received a check from his mother that he says he returned to her by air mail. He encourages her to get out more and possibly go to Leesville for a visit. Then he tells her that she should start getting $22.00 about the first. He had applied for her as a dependent of his; however the government denied it, so he was having that amount withheld from his check and sent to her monthly. He states that he has had more money since he had been in service because he doesn’t go any place to spend it.
Then he goes into receiving a letter from the finance company regarding car past due car payments. He needs to make payments or they will repossess it. He says will tell them that he is but he isn’t. Then he suggests they take the tires off and put on some old “rags” if she doesn’t use it. He signs off by telling her to tell all hello; to take care of herself and that he will write more next time.
In a later letter he again wants the tires changed out (remember rubber/tires were difficult to come by during the war) and to sell them for $10.00 each and keep the money.
On March 29, 1943 Ray was killed while serving in North Africa.
I have tried to obtain his war records from the National Personnel Records only to be told the repository they were stored in had burned and that I should write again requesting a Final Pay Voucher. I did and the final payment voucher stated he was in Tunisia, North Africa.
In Ray’s short life he had lived through some historic events that occurred in our country that had had five Presidents: namely Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt. It was not until May 10, 1948, when Harry Truman was President, that his body was being shipped home by rail to Vivian, Louisiana for burial on July 9, 1948 at Bethsaida Cemetery in Ida, Louisiana. His body was accompanied by S/Sgt. William H. Nance.
Thanks for Ray and so many other young men who have served, who gave their lives or are presently serving in order that you and I may live in a free America.