Date of Interview
Ray Toelle was born on 14 November 1923 in Arpen, Wisconsin. He grew up there, and graduated from Wisconsin Rapids High School in 1941. Ray worked briefly at a local paper mill before entering the US Army Air Corps in November 1943. Ray served with the 498th Bomb Group, 73rd Bomb Wing, 20th Air Force, based on the Pacific island of Saipan, and was a tail gunner on a B-29 Superfortress four-engine heavy bomber. He completed his first combat mission in November 1944, and by May 1945 had completed a total of twenty-four. While on an incendiary raid over Tokyo on the night of 24-25 May 1945, though, Ray's B-29 was hit by ground fire and shot down. He managed to parachute out of the burning aircraft, and was taken prisoner when he landed. For the remainder of the Pacific War, Ray was a POW of the Japanese. After an initial interrogation, he was held at Ofuna, a naval prison in Kamakura, by Yokohama, and for some weeks at a remote airfield near Aomori, on northern Honshu. When the war ended in mid-August 1945, Ray had been returned to Ofuna; US Marines evacuated all prisoners from this camp in early September. Because of untreated burns to his hands suffered when his aircraft was shot down, Ray spent months recovering in medical facilities: Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco and Crile Military Hospital in Cleveland. He was discharged in January 1947. Again a civilian, Ray worked in the grocery retail business for nearly thirty years, retiring in the late 1970s. He was married in 1950 (wife Helen), and helped to raise four children. Ray was active for many years in the Milwaukee chapter of American Ex-Prisoners of War, until the chapter disbanded in August 2014.
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Saylor, Thomas, "Oral History Project World War II Years, 1941-1946 - Ray Toelle" (2004). Oral History Project: World War II Years, 1941-1946. 77.