Early Life and Joining the Navy

Overseas Deployment

Postwar Service in China

Operation Crossroads and Discharged from the Navy

Post-War Life and Reflections

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Ray Felts was born in Cameron, Oklahoma in September 1926, the eldest of three children. He was 15, and on a double-date when he heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He recognized that he would probably have to go into the armed services, but he was still in high school and not eligible right away. In his senior year of high school, Felts had opportunity to go to the Capitol Page School in Washington D.C. [Annotator's Note: A Capitol Page is a non-partisan federal position for students in the service of Congress.] He worked in the folding room in the basement of the House of Representatives office building, delivering items to the Congressmen and mailing materials to their constituents. Felts graduated from both the Capitol Page School and his local high school at the end of the same year. To avoid being drafted, Felts enlisted in the Navy on his eighteenth birthday in 1944.

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Ray Felts went to Idaho for basic training, and hoped he would get to work on a submarine, but at six-foot-four his height was prohibitive. Instead, he was sent to a Seabee [Annotator's Note: the moniker "Seabee" is a play on the initials for the US Navy's construction battalions, "CB"] base in California and assigned to the 29th Battalion [Annotator's Note: 29th Naval Construction Battalion], destined for the Philippines. Felt's unit was sharing transport with Army and Marine troops on the ship, and there were so many soldiers to feed the cooks could only prepare two meals a day through the chow hall. The journey took 52 days, and ended at Samar. There, Felts was unloading lumber and 96-pound sacks of cement, and helping build huts near a landing strip on the island, when one day he was called in to the personnel office and asked about his tenure as a Capitol Page. His responses got him the job of chauffeur to the commodore. Felts ferried officers, visitors and mail to and from the ship in a weapons carrier, and worked with yeomen who distributed the mail on board. In time, training commenced for the invasion of Japan. Because of his office job, Felts had up-to-date news, and knew the atomic bombs had been dropped. Very soon afterward, while Felts and many others were watching an outdoor movie, the loudspeakers announced that Japan had agreed to the surrender terms of the Potsdam Conference. Felts' orders changed from Japan to China.

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Ray Felts' reassignment brought him to Tsingtao on the Shantung Peninsula, famous for its brewery. Felts had lost his chauffeur job, and was striking to become a yeoman. He was assigned to the 33rd Naval Construction Regiment headquarters, doing administrative work out of an abandoned school building. The mission of the 33rd was to keep the Army Air Corps landing strips in working order. Felts remembers a Marine complaining that the Seabees had come ashore, thrown up a Quonset hut, and had baths and hot meals the same day, while the Marines were still bathing out of their helmets. He also remembers that it was cold, and once, when the headquarters office went without a guard posted, vandals came in and stripped the offices of all the millwork, for use as firewood. Just coming from the Philippines, Felts was without winter clothes, and was issued an Army shirt and pants, and a Marine P-Coat and hat, and was teased about his irregular uniform. He got orders to go to Guam, and thought he would be shipped home from there, but the trip turned into a real adventure. On departure, the C-47 transport was called back because of a technical failure with the landing gear. There were fire trucks and ambulances gathering on the ground, but the plane was able to land in one piece with the help of a parachute. The next day, the weather held them up for a couple of days in Shanghai. Then they stopped at Okinawa, and Felts and six of his fellow passengers were bumped off the flight because of an overweight of Christmas mail. He never went to Guam; instead he sailed on the Okanogan [Annotator’s Note: USS Okanogan (APA-220)] from Okinawa to San Francisco and disembarked for a little rest and relaxation.

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Ray Felts got orders to go back to Port Hueneme, California where he was updating records, and noticed the Navy was sending replacements to Operation Crossroads. Felts said the government was experimenting with exposing animals to radiation on old ships. When he had enough points to go home, Felts was discharged out of San Diego on 22 June 1946. He wanted to go to college. So, wearing re-dyed Army pants and shirts, he used the G.I.Bill to get a degree in marketing.

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Ray Felts married in late 1949 to a girl he met at church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He didn't have much trouble getting back into civilian life, but feels some of the guys that had to pay their own way through college were resentful of guys getting through on the G.I. Bill. Felts doesn't think most of today's Americans realize what the veterans did for the freedom they enjoy. He said he was fortunate, and is thankful that he didn't have to shoot anybody, and is very appreciative that he got a college education out of his participation in the armed services.

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