CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES

World War II

Raymond G. Neveil

World War II Oral History Interview
US Army Air Corps, 5th Air Force
Date: August 12, 2002
Interviewer: Carol Fowler
Summarizer: Gillian Demetriou
Veterans History Project

Summary

Raymond Neveil, better known as Ray, was born in October of 1923 in Newark, New Jersey. He grew up in New Jersey. Prior to being drafted at age 19 in 1943, he worked as an inspector for the Walter Kidde company, a defense contractor in Bloomfield. It could be said that Neveil came from a military family, as his father was a World War I Navy veteran who served on convoy escort duty. His grandfather had also served in the military, as a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps, and traveled the world with the “Great White Fleet.”

Most of Neveil’s teenage years were focused on World War II. He recalled how civilian life was impacted by the war through the imposition of food rationing and domestic travel restrictions. His father worked for a railroad company, and Neveil was able to acquire a pass that allowed him to travel freely.

Neveil noted that the major topic of discussion in his home was not if but when he would be drafted. He was drafted and served in the United States Army Air Corps from February 1, 1943 to January 11, 1946. Neveil remembered that the adjustment from civilian life to regimented military life was dramatic.

Neveil stated that one of his main reasons for picking the Army Air Corps was to receive an education, as it was a technical-friendly branch. After basic combat training, where he was taught how to fire and maintain weapons, he was stationed at Gettysburg College for about five months before being transferred to the National Training Camp in Louisiana for navigational school. Neveil was not happy with navigational school, so he left the program. He was then trained for general everyday office duties and became a company clerk. Among other things, in that job Neveil wrote reports and developed a chronological historical account of his unit, the 1927th Quartermaster Truck Company, assigned to the 59th Air Service Group. Since the Air Corps was part of the Army during WWII, he served in the Army Quartermaster Corps but under Air Corps command.

Neveil had a seven-day leave and visited his family in New Jersey before being deployed overseas. He took a train across the United States to San Francisco, where he boarded the U.S.S West Point with 10,000 other soldiers and sailed to Sydney, Australia. After spending two days there, Neveil and his fellow soldiers sailed through the Coral Sea and landed in the southern section of New Guinea. On his final day on the ship, everyone on board contracted dysentery, which he recalled as a “rude awakening for a city boy.”

After landing on New Guinea, Neveil’s company traveled inland. His main job while stationed there was to receive supplies and aircraft off ships, and to transport them to the front lines, or to wherever they were needed most in the war effort. He was impressed with the U.S. military, especially the leadership of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with his galvanization of the American people in the war effort, as well as generals like Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower. Neveil recalled receiving a newspaper that headlined the German surrender, which he correctly believed allowed the military to shift forces to the Pacific front, and hopefully end the entire war, so he could go home.

Due to a language barrier, Neveil had extremely limited contact with the natives of New Guinea. Luckily, he never encountered any Japanese troops, and was never injured during his service. The overall relationship among the men in his company was good. Neveil said they bonded over counting the days until they could return home. On some of his days off, he attended multiple U.S.O. shows featuring Jack Benny, Carol Landis, Bob Hope, and Frances Langford. There were also many outdoor movie screenings he attended.

In July of 1945, Neveil and his company were ordered to Okinawa. During the trip to the island, they stopped a few times in the Dutch East Indies. They left Okinawa in the middle of a typhoon, which made sea travel difficult and dangerous, then traveled to Inchon, Korea, where they were part of the force occupying the country. One of Neveil’s most vivid memories of his service was the Japanese surrender after the United States dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For him, it meant that he could finally go home, and that the United States Army would not have to physically invade Japan.

While abroad, Neveil wrote a great many letters, mostly to his parents, grandparents, and aunt. He left Inchon in December of 1945, then returned to the United States, docking in Portland, Oregon. Neveil rode a troop train across the country to Fort Monmouth in Monmouth County, New Jersey, where he was honorably discharged as a sergeant on January 11, 1946. He had been away from home for 35 months, 20 of which were spent in the Pacific.

On his arrival home, Neveil gratefully re-entered civilian life. He took a long shower, slept in a nice bed, and had a nice meal. Neveil also renewed relationships with people who he had not seen since he entered the service.  He then set about finding a job and getting an advanced education. Neveil eventually got a job with New Jersey Bell Telephone and AT&T, rose to the rank of District Manager and remained with them for 40 years. Through the G.I. Bill of 1944, he was able to get a Bachelor of Science in management from Rutgers University.

Neveil concluded that his wartime experience changed him, in that it made him more mature and helped him appreciate the value of life after seeing the atrocities of war. He stated that he went to war to preserve our way of life. Neveil had recently returned to Australia on a trip, which he recalled as a great experience, where he scuba dove on the Great Barrier Reef. He also traveled to Omaha Beach and the Omaha Beach Cemetery on the coast of France, as well as to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, both of which he recalled as very solemn and moving experiences. Neveil told his grandchildren about his wartime experiences and has shown them photographs, as well as has spoken with other veterans.

Neveil was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre ribbon, the American Theatre ribbon, the Victory Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal for his service. He passed away on April 29, 2012 at Sunrise of Basking Ridge, NJ.