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Church was born in Henryville, Utah. After high school he ended up going to Dixie College in St. George. He knew that he was going to be drafted because he was not a full time student. He did not have enough money to be full time. That is when he realized he was going to get drafted. A student had to be enrolled in at least 12 hours to be considered full time. After coming to this realization Church went down to the local post office to enlist in the Navy. The Navy told him that while he scored well on his tests the quota for that area had already been met. That same day he inquired with the Marines. He came back the next morning and ended up enlisting with the Marines. That morning he was sworn in. After that he was shipped to San Diego. He got there about 5 days too early and since money was tight he was not able to stay at a hotel but the Marines were able to make sure he was clothed and fed. Church was in basic training for about 11 weeks. Since he had college he was placed in an 80-millimeter mortar unit. He trained with this group for a few weeks. Eventually he heard a request for volunteers to go to Guam. Church had never heard of Guam before so he was intrigued. The post sounded attractive to Church because he wanted to get out of the States and there was not a war going on yet. After 3 months on Guam Church got a call wondering if he would like to serve near the Governors office on Guam at a place called Agana. Church accepted the post. Church began special training there. The training consisted of following the Governor around doing whatever he wanted. Churchs detail had their own cook and apartment. 1 morning Church woke up to the news that the Japanese had bombed Sumay which is only a few miles from Guam. The island was bombed and strafed consistently for 4 days. On the fourth day the governor of the island received a telegram from the Japanese requesting that the island surrender. Captain MacMillan [Annotator’s Note: Captain George MacMillan, Governor of Guam] was the military governor of the island and he responded saying they were not going to surrender. They realized they had to mount a defense but they did not have much to defend the island with. They had a few rifles to defend themselves with. The Marine detachment on the island was 15 miles away from the Governors. There were maybe 8 or 9 Marines attached to the governors mansion. The Japanese realized the importance of capturing Agana because it was the capitol of the island. The Japanese landed on Wednesday 10 December at 4:30 in the morning. The militia and Churchs Marine detail formed a perimeter around the mansion which is now known as the Last Stand. The adjutant eventually came out of the mansion with a white flag tied to a stick. The Japanese landed with about 5000 troops and the island was theirs.

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Church did not know what to expect when he surrendered. There was about 5000 troops with over 4500 backups. There were 9 Marines originally tagged with the militia and they held off the Japanese for about 35 to 40 minutes. They eventually stopped because they ran out of ammunition. 1 of Church's friends, Bert, was bayoneted about 5 feet away from Church. This happened almost immediately after they were captured. The Governors aide who was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy witnessed the stabbing of Church's friend and came to the conclusion that Bert was stabbed because he had a nervous twitch in his eye and the Japanese thought that he was trying to signal something. The Japanese took Church and the captives to an old church. They sealed off the church so no one could get out. There was no food or water and they had to scrounge up whatever supplies and food they could find. They were held in this church for about 30 days. The Japanese ended up throwing a bunch of civilians into the church with them. They ended up leaving Guam on 15 January. They marched down the road to the former Navy Yard. They were put in groups of 3 and 5 and put aboard Japanese ships. When they got on the ships they kept going down to the bottom of the ship. They were put into the belly of the ship and this was eventually sealed off with a plank system. There were also holes in the planks so that the Japanese could drop supplies through. Church remembers they used to throw cigarettes down to them. He would step on the cigarettes despite the cries from the men around him. His rationale was that he did not want to feel like an animal being fed in a cage. He refused to be treated like a dog. They were on the ship for about 7 days. When they got to Japan the boat they were on was too big to fit in the harbor so they had to be put on a smaller boat and brought in.They had spotlights in the harbor to make sure no one escaped. There was also a lot of press near the harbor to take pictures of the captured Americans. They were put on a streetcar and ordered to run to a gate that was an entrance to a camp. It was winter in Japan so it was very cold. They were processed at the camp. Japanese would come around periodically asking questions and taking photos. Their first work detail was to clear a rocky mound of land near where they were staying in order for the Japanese to grow a sweet potato field. Church and his men worked on this for about 3 months.

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1 of the men working with Church was hard headed and clearly unhappy with their current predicament. When they were clearing the rock laden mound for the sweet potato field 1 day this man dropped a rock down the hill. Church was asked by the man to pick up the rock and he refused. This put Church on a blacklist which meant he had to work on his rest day which was Sunday. Church's job along with the other blacklisted men was to chip away at pile of bricks to clean them for reuse. While cleaning the bricks they found a cigarette butt and decided to stop and smoke it. The Japanese were afraid of fires in the camp and this earned them an extra hour of labor at the camp. McLean was the man who made friends with the Japanese guards and was a sort of an overseer. He had an office and had the authority to tell the prisoners what to do. He had gotten so far under Churchs skin that after the extra hour of work McLean assigned them Church got into an argument with him. Church made a comment about McLean being a favorite of the Japanese guards. McLean barked back, " When you're speaking to me, come to attention!" This made Church furious and Church proceeded to physically attack and beat up McLean. McLean screamed for help and the Japanese guards came in and broke up the fight. He was immediately put into solitary confinement. His case came to the head of the Japanese camp and there was a Japanese interpreter named Asabuki who had gone to school at Southern California before the war and who was good and fair. Church's Commanding Officer talked to Church and then to Asabuki. He explained that McLean was Navy and Church was Marine and that this would naturally cause differences. Asabuki saw through it all and knew Church was being mistreated. He eventually became a friend of Church. The sentence came down that, "All must cooperate." The trial was over. When they were walking back from the trial McLean came up behind Church and said, " We are not through with you yet." All of Church's men heard the story and when he got back he was greeted with pats on the back. Churchs commanding officer came up to him and said, " I would give a years pay if I could one time have a poke at that guy." A month later there was a group leaving for Tanagawa [Annotator's Note: Osaka area POW camp].

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The first name on the list leaving for the camp Tanagawa was Ray Church. McLean had arranged for this transfer as a way of getting revenge on Church for the previous incident. Church and a group of men left Zentsuji for Tanagawa. Zentsuji was supposed to be a model camp. At Tanagawa there were about 300 men who were captured in the Philippines. There was very little to eat at Tanagawa. After about a year in the camp the Japanese came up with the idea to seperate everyone by service. They were told 1 night that they were going to leave Tanagawa and head to Osaka. Church said goodbye to his Army buddies and left Tanagawa on a train bound for Osaka. This was a blessing for Church and the men he was with because they were able to steal food. They did not like the word steal so instead they substituted the word steal with strafe. Strafe became a regular part of their vocabulary. Church and his men would memorize important Japanese words for soap toothpaste and other essentials so that if they saw a truck with these words on it they knew there was a possibility they could steal or strafe items off of the truck. 1 time a truck carrying soap came by and they figured out how to get the soap out of the truck. Church was able to put a bunch of soap into a knapsack, tie it off, and they threw it into a secret place. Church did not go after the soap for a few days. The Japanese lined up all of the prisoners and told them that they knew 1 of the Americans had stolen the soap and that they needed to own up to it. None of the men admitted to it so they stood at attention for a few hours. Some of the men fainted because they were standing for so long. Church felt terrible about it. It was a struggle to get the soap back. Near the building where the soap was there was a soldier in the second floor of a building where they kept wounded POWs. This man who had had his legs shot off would wave a white handkerchief out of the window to indicate whether or not it was safe to pass with any contraband. If the flag was waving that meant the Japanese were searching for stolen items. If it was not waving that meant the coast was clear. 1 night Church had a bar of soap tied around his leg by a string. He came around the corner and saw the flag. Church thought this was going to be it for him. 1 of the guys with him who was in the Navy asked Church, " Do you have anything?" Church responded, "I am loaded right now with soap." Church tried to break the string and eventually he got the soap free and was able to hide it a little bit. When they had to pass through this area near the house where the soldier would wave the handkerchief they had to file through single file and salute the Japanese guards. Every once in a while they would search the prisoners. If they caught a prisoner with anything they would be ferocious in how they dealt with it.

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The men were lined up waiting to be searched. A friend, Joe Perry, who later made full Commander devised a plan to get into a fake fight as a diversion so that the guards would be distracted and Church could walk through. When he got back to where the men were he offered up the soap. This amazed the men that he was able to sneak soap past the checkpoint. That was the last time he ever smuggled soap. When the men used this soap they had to be very careful not to use it in front of anyone else or use to much to the point where the Japanese could smell the soap. Osaka was a blessing for Church and his men because they were able to steal a lot of food from the railroad depot that ran through the base. From Osaka Church went to another prison camp called Tsuruga across the bay from Korea. 1 night they were bombed by American planes. Even their barracks were bombed. They knew that the war was getting closer because initially the Americans would hit the Japanese with big bombers namely the B-29. Church and his men called these bombers ghost planes because all they could see was the vapor trail from the back of the airplane and not the plane itself. Another hint that the war was getting closer came when they arrived at Tsuruga. The Japanese were not as strict but were noticeably more quiet. They were at Tsuruga when the atomic bomb went off. It was only about 50 miles away. Some of the men claimed much later that they were able to feel the wind from the explosion. The Japanese sued for peace after the bomb went off. When the war was finally declared over Church took some of his men to a nearby creek that was about a half mile away from the camp they were at. It had been years since some of them had been able to bathe in a respectable way. While they were romping around in the stream they noticed a B-29 that was circling around them. It came over the camp. Men were screaming and hollering and finally they were able to spell out a signal "PV." They meant to spell out PW but they did not have enough material to spell it all out. The plane saw them and dropped a flour sack with tobacco and coffee. There was also a note in it. The guys were really excited. They knew they had been located. 3 days later another B-29 came and dropped canned fruit cocktail. They dropped numerous 55 gallon drums with parachutes that contained different items such as Hershey chocolates and fruit. The guys would eat as much as they could, throw it up, and then eat some more. They were going crazy after having been starved. They were not able to drop things like meat and potatoes because if they had eaten those types of food because it would've killed them after 3 years of not eating. They were told through via another note drop that they were to meet the next day in Yokahama. Church went to the train station and requested to the train station manager that they all get tickets to Yokahama the next morning.

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The train station manager said that the tracks were blown up and that passage to Yokahama would be impossible. Church told the guy to have a train there for them in the morning or he would cut his head off. They got to Yokahama and there was a band playing for them. Church had promised a fellow soldier on the train that he was going to kiss the first American girl he saw. There was an little American girl there about 5 years old and she had a donut with a glass of milk. Church ran over and gave her a big kiss. From there they had to get disinfected. Inside of the tent was DDT White. They sprayed your entire body with it so that they would become disinfected. They became completely white. They went to the barber and then were thrown into a shower to wash all of the white stuff off of them. From there they got a fresh pair of clothes. It was the first clothes that some had in 4 years. The guys were proud when they walked out with new clothes on. They were then put into groups of 25. In Tokyo Harbor there were battleships. They had to be put into groups of 25 so there was enough room on the ships. Church was put on the USS West Virginia. On the ship they were only able to eat a little bit at a time. They were allowed 3 or 4 small meals a day to get their stomachs used to food. Church was able to fly back to Guam. He saw some of his friends and paid his respects to his friends lost on Guam. On Guam Churchs Marine paperwork had been lost so before he could leave Guam he had to get a wire from Washington, D.C. explaining his situation so that he could go home. Church had to wait an extra 5 days before going home. Church feels lucky to have served with some of the bravest men he ever met. The men helped each other the best they could especially Joe Perry. They were a raunchy bunch. They had had no haircuts for 3 years. After he was in Tanagawa for a year or so Church performed a chaplains role. Sometimes the guys would pass away 2 to 3 at a time. During work detail would pass out and die. Cremation was the way the Japanese disposed of their bodies. Church would try to say a quick prayer before the bodies would be disposed. He feels that being in good physical shape before the war helped him survive the camp. He was also lucky to be able to strafe [Annotator's Note: steal] some items for survival.

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Church had different responsibilities on Guam. His first assignment was to handle anything to do with recreation. Church would handle any type of ball game that was to be played among the men. After that post he was assigned to the Governors Office on Guam. Churchs responsibilities with the Governors Office included becoming a liason to the natives or to shore or firm up relations with the locals. Church describes the locals as being very strong people. The Marines had a good relationship with them. There were a few different types of people on Guam. Church notes people of Spanish and German origin. Also there was a group of people called Bamboo Americans. These were Americans who had been living on the island and married natives. The Bamboo Americans would work and live on coconut farms. Church first learned about potential Japanese aggression after the Governors Office received a Radiogram from the Japanese requesting that they surrender. This surprised everyone because the war had barely started. The Governor responded that they were not going to surrender which was the prevailing sentiment from the soldiers on the island. The natives were courageous but they did not have any weapons to fight back. The natives were pretty well Americanized and felt the need to fight but were lacking in resources. The Japanese bombed the island for a few days before they landed the invading force. About the same time the bombing started they landed frogmen [Annotator's Note: combat divers or swimmers] on the island to scope things out. The men on Guam captured a couple of these frogmen. The frogmen landed on the island with the intention of disrupting communication by snipping telephone and cable wires. 1 of the frogmen warned of the eventual Japanese attack that was going to take place on Wednesday.

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When the Japanese came ashore they had battleships, planes, and superior equipment. Church and his men were using .30 caliber weapons. The men who defended the island were extremely brave in the face of a better armed force. Church remembers an encounter with George Tweed. Tweed was with the Navy and fled into the jungles of Guam when the Japanese came ashore. He survived in the jungles for over 2 years and was eventually rescued. According to Church Tweed fled into the jungle after the Governor appealed to everyone on the island to stay and fight. Church did not blame all of the men for not wanting to fight. Some of the Marines on the island were China Marines [Annotator's Note: Marines from the 4th Marine Regiment stationed in Shanghai during 1927-1941] and they knew all too well the ferocity of the Japanese. They knew that the Japanese would just shoot most of the people who were captured. Church had nothing but .30 caliber machine guns and 1 - 3 inch cannon. They also had a few Browning Automatic Rifles. When the Japanese initially landed they had a few guys hiding in the brush right off of the beach. These men held off the Japanese for a little bit before being overrun. The Japanese landed 5000 troops which was a lot of people to keep back. It was also tough to defend the island from air attacks. Church and a few of his men were able to make 1 plane change course and head to Saipan by shooting rifles at it. They would joke that hey shot a plane down.There was a girl named Rosa on the island who Church describes as being very pretty. They were a well off family and were well known in the city.

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Rosa was part of a wealthier bunch according to Church. Church went back after the war to find her but she had gone back to Spain after the war. Rosa was very courageous for such a pretty and poised woman. The atmosphere on Guam was very supportive to the American cause. The people there were grateful that they had a group of people looking after them and at least trying to ensure their safety. Some of the natives that helped in the initial defense of the island had no training shooting machine guns but they were willing to fight. The morning of the invasion Church saw a yeoman carrying a BAR [Annotator's Note: Browning Automatic Rifle] with desk drawer full of .30 caliber clips. He asked Church how to get the thing started. He didn't know how to use it but he was ready to fight. He had a lot of courage and he made it through too.Church was put into the local church as a prisoner when the Japanese took over the island. There was a man who helped to pass food into the church so people could eat. There was a fence that encircled the church to make sure noone would escape. There was an American of French descent, Orgeron, from Louisiana, who was in the prison. He was a ladies man who spoke good French and got to know some of the natives. 1 day some natives came and threw a half cooked chicken over the fence to Orgeron. He doesn't know what happened to Orgeron who was in the camp with him for a little while. Orgeron was from New Orleans.Churchs main diet throughout the whole time was rice, rice balls, different kinds of rice. They would strafe [Annotator's Note: steal] from the Japanese. 1 day they were able to steal a watermelon. A Japanese truck pulled up with a bunch of watermelons on it. They all surrounded the truck and kept lookout. Most of the men got caught but they were able to procure a good amount of watermelon. The wooden shack used as toilets, benjos [Annotator's Note: Japanese work for bathroom], were perfect places to hide stolen food. After strafing for different types of food they would run back to the toilet area and hide different types of stolen goods within the walls or cracks of the toilet. They would learn how to steal food in such a manner as to not get caught.

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They had to go through roll call everyday at the camp. They were all assigned different Japanese numbers. In the morning they had to recite these numbers for their roll call. 1 morning a man did not sound off loudly enough and they were all forced to sound off while taking a belt whipping from a Japanese officer. They would whip the belt across the faces of the prisoners as they stood at attention. Church got on his men to sound off appropriately so that they would not get whipped in the face and potentially lose an eye. There were 2 men who got into a fight over the sounding off at roll call. 1 was from Boston and the other was from Chicago. They decided that during 1 of their rest periods they were going to solve their problem with a fight. Church advised them against this because they were already in a weakened state. If they were to break a hand or do something worse they may never recover from it. They went out on the detail and Church reminded them again to not fight. The obnoxious guy from Boston, ""Happy" wanted an apology. The guy from Chicago seemed remorseful about it. They did not end up fighting but Church found out later that the man from Chicago who's name was Sloviak was a Golden Gloves Chicago winner. The man from Boston would have surely been in bad shape after a fight. Sloviak was quiet and nice.He came back to the Delta and met his wife. He had a visit form Sloviak years later when they had a baby daughter. Sloviak gave Church's wife an envelope with 40 dollars to buy their daughter a dress. Church wanted to stay in touch with him because he was a gentleman.The chaplain, Legrand Frank from Rittsfield, was a Captain in the Army. Captain Frank was one of the most reliable men in the camp. They would talk every night about their hometowns. Church looked to this man for religious inspiration and guidance. 1 morning Church woke up and found out that something happened to Captain Frank and that he was dead.

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They did not know the exact cause of his death since he was in halfway decent shape but initially they were told his heart gave out. Frank had left a note that he wanted Church who was a Mormon that he should take over as chaplain. Church didn't think he was qualified but ended up doing it anyway. He held prayer meetings. When anyone had any real problems they would turn to Church. He had to settle quarrels.Church also helped with the writing of wills. Before when a man would die there would be a mad scramble for his things. Church instituted a will system where everyone filled out a will so that when someone died everyone knew what they were getting. Men were dying often enough that this became a necessity.To help pass the time the men would bet on anything. Someone would say, "I bet there are more blacks in Alabama then Mississippi." The men had held on to a 1939 world almanac and would reference it whenever a bet was made. After the specific question was answered the page containing the answer would be removed so that the same bet could never be repeated.Church's duties varied greatly. Some days he would unload coal cars, unload supplies or break rocks. Any and all kind of hard labor was a possibility in his day to day.

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1 day a train loaded with bomb shells came into the camp and as it came through the camp a routine safety check found a problem with one of the cars and everything had to then be moved to another train. Church asked the guys if they should stand up and say they're not going to touch the bombs because under the Geneva convention no prisoner is to be used in the making or transporting of weapons. They were immediately clubbed and beaten for standing up. They did not have to load up the weapons.1 of Church's friends in the camp was a doctor. Myers was a doctor during peacetime. He was not one of the most popular men in the camp. He was quiet and kept to himself. He sold aspirin for 100 dollars per pill. Myers was also known for sticking up for his rights in front of the Japanese.Other items that were expensive were cigarettes. Sometimes packs would go for 100 dollars. Church said that if he was offered a pack of cigarettes or a 100 dollars he would take the cigarettes because in a prisoner environment they become more valuable then money. Church would keep little supplies of these items so that he could always be in the position to trade.Church had the top row of his teeth knocked out by the butt of a rifle. Not every 1 of his teeth were knocked out but some parts had become exposed and sensitive to the point where breathing would cause pain. Asabuki was the Japanese interpreter in the camp and was well educated. Church knew he could go to Asabuki for help with his teeth. Asabuki told Church to somehow get 400 yen. Church was able to get this money from his men since they were being paid for their labor but noone could spend it on anything. Church saw a dentist for 400 yen courtesy of Asabuki and had his teeth fixed.

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Church was able to keep his wits about him during his prisoner experience because every man he was with was in the same boat. The ability to help each other and talk to each other about different experiences helped to keep the morale up inside of the camps. Church realized that he was with a lot of good men. Also Church had a lot of pride in being American and did not want to let down the colors.Church remembers coming home as a very remarkable and touching experience. His plane back to the United States brought him back through Point Loma, California. When they saw Point Loma it was the first piece of American land they had seen in 4 years. They were immediately unloaded and taken to a hospital. When they went through town they saw shops and restaurants and men were constantly pointing out new things they had not seen in 4 years. They stayed in a hospital. Churchs parents caught a train to San Diego.Church was given a lot of 20 dollar bills to buy things in San Diego. He immediately went to a Bank of America and opened up a checking account so that he could deposit the money. After a few days in San Diego they took a train back to Delta. When Church got back to Utah he bought a movie theatre and ran it for 6 years. He ended up selling it citing television as the main cause of less profit.The first 10 years of his life back in the United States were the hardest in terms of sleeping and returning to a sense of normalcy. Church had a lot of bad dreams and still to this day he gets nervous about something or emotional about a memory. Church says that he has always been an emotional guy and that it is hard for him to think of the guys he was with and realize that only 5 or 6 of them are left today.

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Church recently made a trip back to Guam and laid a wreath down at the monument for the soldiers killed there during the war. Church remembered most of the island even though it has changed a lot. The people of Guam were really nice and were doing anything they could to make Churchs stay pleasant. Church believes that World War 2 needs to be studied in the future. The stories should be told and future generations need to know the sacrifices that people made to ensure freedom. Church also believes that museums are a great idea. They serve as reminders and beacons of knowledge for people who want to learn more about a specific subject. Church thinks monuments and museums are important. The previous summer Church went to Washington, D.C. to see the National WWII Memorial. It instilled a sense of pride in him to be able to say he was a part of that conflict. He believes it is important for the stories to be remembered.   

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