Standing 5”10” tall and weighing just 119 pounds at age 18, Ray Book was considered too thin by the Marines, so he enlisted in the Army in March 1943 and chose artillery training. Ironically, it wouldn’t be long before he was shouldering a 50-caliber machine gun that weighed 84 pounds. Later, he would become a number one man on the Howitzer.
Ray’s wiry frame carried him through two of World War II’s most storied chapters: the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, in June 1944 and the Battle of the Bulge in and around Bastogne, Belgium during the following December and January.
In the battle for control of the vital crossroads at Bastogne, supply problems sometimes left the GIs without food, the weather was cold and miserable and the Germans outnumbered the Americans five to one.
“We were surrounded,” Ray recalls. “We never knew how bad it was, at the time.”
As the war wound down, Ray’s service took him through Germany, Russia and Switzerland. After shipping home from France, while making his way back to Mt. Washington by bus, he met one final wartime challenge when the bus rolled over and crashed on the highway. There were fatalities, but Ray escaped unharmed.