MOUNT VERNON — In remembering our war heroes on Veterans Day, numerous individuals are remembered for having fought in battles or for their successful leadership. In the case of Mount Vernon’s Ray Cameron, the skills learned as a machinist apprentice would earn him and his company a Presidential Citation for their troop support in World War II.
Ray Cameron, 89, grew up in southern Ohio near Wilkesville, northwest of Gallipolis, working on the farm with his father and two brothers. After graduating from Wilkesville High School, his family moved to Columbus where he landed a job in concrete masonry. He later worked in a factory making insulation coating for electric wires and would later work as a machinist apprentice for the Pennsylvania Railroad.
It was in 1941, when Cameron was introduced to his future wife, Este. After the U.S. Army drafted him on Feb. 1, 1943, Ray and Este were married in March 1943, at Linden Church of the Nazarene in Columbus. Cameron was stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison near Indianapolis, Ind., and later at Texarkana and Camp Bowie, Texas.
“These soldiers were almost all overseas material,” said Cameron of the troops at Camp Bowie, which at one time numbered nearly 80,000 men. While stationed there, he studied armor repair, working in the small arms section. “Our company fixed anything in the service. We would take pistols, rifles and bazookas off the battlefield,” he explained.
In January 1944, he and thousands of other troops were taken to Staten Island, N.Y., where they were shipped to Belfast, Ireland. “We set out in a convoy of four lines of ships as far as you could see,” said Cameron. “It was reported that there were about 400 ships. It was the largest ship convoy ever known.” And the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean was one he will never forget.