Raymond E. Alexander
Biography: Raymond "Ray" Eugene Alexander was born February 10, 1912, in Fairfield, MO, in the township of Alexander, which was named after his great, great grandfather-a local judge and pioneer. The son of B. C. Alexander and Edith McKinzie, Ray spent his boyhood in Missouri before moving to Colorado, where he graduated from East High School in Denver. He grew into adulthood as the Great Depression struck, but was proud that he always managed to secure work. He was already finding success as a salesman, his lifelong career, when the war came calling the 30 year old.
Service Time: Ray entered the Army in Denver on January 6, 1943, and was eventually assigned to Company C, 607th Tank Destroyer Battalion. The unit spent most of 1943 at the Desert Training Center in southern California, moving to Camp Cooke late in the year and remaining there until they left for England in April, 1944. Company C landed at Utah Beach in Normandy 18 days after D-Day and within a day was firing on German Forces. The battalion suffered casualties with every step as it crossed northern France, skirting around Paris, on its way toward Germany. The unit was attached to the 90th Infantry Division through most of the summer and fall of 1944 but was re-assigned to the 95th ID in early November, prior to the final battles for Metz, France.
Ray sometimes told a story of a harrowing crossing of the Moselle River near France's border with Germany. This is most likely the Nov. 13 episode briefly mentioned in the unit histories in which 2nd Platoon of Co. C brought bazooka teams and supplies across the river to support an infantry battalion. The boats took heavy fire that sank several of them. Ray said he made it to the muddy bank and found a spot in which to conceal himself during the barrage. At first light, he emerged and realized he'd become separated from his platoon. He wandered up a road, he said, and was challenged in English. Soldiers aimed their rifles at him and demanded the password. "Damned if I know what the password is!" he shouted. "He must be a G.I.," one of them said, laughing, and let him pass.
He took part in the tough, two-week siege of the German stronghold at Metz, for which the battalion drew praise from Lt. Gen. George Patton, who wrote in a commendation letter that the soldiers showed "individual courage, skill, endurance, and determination" in the fight and "added luster to the glorious history of American arms." Just a few days after the battalion pushed into Germany, two M-36's of Ray's platoon rolled down a street in the little town of Lisdorf. A window shutter flew open, and a German bazooka team fired down on the lead destroyer. While the blast failed to knock out the machine, it struck Ray. Evacuated, he would be totally deaf for a time and would never regain hearing in one of his ears. Promoted to Corporal, he worked six months as a clerk stateside before receiving his honorable discharge Nov. 15, 1945, at Fort Logan in Colorado.
The photo above is 3rd Section of 2nd Platoon, Company C. It was taken in France in September of 1944. Ray can be seen in the back row on the far right.
Post Service Years: Ray settled in Portland, Oregon, where his mother and other family members lived, and he met a young woman living in a rented room in their home. He married green-eyed Nebraska native Arlene Schmeckpeper in 1947, and they raised three children: Barbara, Ronald and Bruce. Ray returned to his old profession, selling movie-theater advertising for Alexander Film Co. He and Arlene retired in Las Vegas for two decades before moving back to the Portland area to be near family. He died in 2010 at age 97.
We would like to thank Ray's grandson, Jesse, for providing the text and photos used in this tribute.