Despite being 93 years old, Lorena resident Rayford Glaze can still recite his Army serial number, with prompting. He also remembers all too well what war was like from a front-row seat: Glaze was a rifleman with the Army during World War II.
Glaze was born in Coryell County in June 1924 and grew up during the Great Depression. “It was rough. People didn’t have any money,” he said. But the family raised chickens and hogs and canned preserves, so they had plenty to eat. They even had a smokehouse.
One of Glaze’s more unusual jobs was to use a stick to kill the grasshoppers attacking the crops. His father worked in the oil field until the bottom fell out. When his grandfather passed, the property they were living on was sold. They moved to Gatesville, where his dad worked at a reform school.
As for school, Glaze wasn’t much of a fan. Once he completed the seventh grade, he had had enough. “I went through the front door of the school and out the back,” he said. He worked instead, helping out on neighbors’ farms.
Like many young men, Glaze was intent on serving his country. Though his parents didn’t like it, he decided to go anyway. He was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 25, 1943, and went into active service in April 1943.
After training, Glaze was sent overseas with the 37th Division, serving in Company E of the 148th Infantry in the Asiatic-Pacific campaign as part of a replacement unit. He landed first on Guadalcanal, part of the Solomon Islands, located in the South Pacific.
Glaze received jungle training on the mostly secured island, which had been liberated by the Americans in February 1943.
First real combat
Next stop was Bougainville, where Glaze joined in intensive fighting. In early November 1943, the 37th Infantry Division, along with the 3rd Marine Division, invaded Bougainville. “That was the first real combat,” he said. “It was like a swarm of bees.”
“Our job was to help anyone who got into trouble,” Glaze said. Company E of the 148th was deeply involved in trying to secure part of the island and faced well-entrenched enemies. Many people died — both Japanese and American — in the Battle of Bougainville.
“They were just about as scared as I was, I imagine,” he said. “I thought of home. I didn’t think I was going to make it.”
Once things settled down, Glaze was tasked with helping to pick up the dead on stretchers. At one point when carrying a stretcher, he slipped and fell backward, and the body fell on top of him. “It was sickening,” he said. Since there were no baths, he tried to use coffee to get out the smell, pouring it all over himself. “It just made it worse,” he said.
The battle was over, but the war continued for Glaze. He went on to fight the Battle of Luzon with the 37th Infantry Division in the Philippines. From the Philippines, he was sent back to the States after the U.S dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. He had spent two years, three months and 10 days overseas plus an additional six months stateside.
Glaze, who had met a gal he was interested in before the war, came back home to Gatesville and married her. He and Mary Lee Burt have been married 71 years and have three daughters, six grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
For a time after he got back, Glaze held a series of different jobs before going to work at Fort Hood. He applied for a job at the VA in Waco and worked there for 30-plus years.
Things didn’t go well when he first returned home. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. When he went to work for the VA, he got badly needed help that put him on the right track.
“That was a big event for me. There were some rough incidents I had. I had so many close calls,” said Glaze. “The only way you’re going to survive this is to talk about it.”
Today, Glaze, who is a lifetime member of the VFW 2148 in Waco, is proud of his service. He received the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two Bronze Stars and Bronze Arrowhead, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Star, the Distinguished Unit Badge, a Victory Ribbon, a Service Stripe, four overseas service bars and a WWII lapel button.
In part, Glaze credits his survival of the war to his training. “That training was worth every cent they spent on it,” he said.
With no regrets of his service
He has never regretted his service, despite the PTSD he suffered, among other ailments (he lost some of his hearing during the war), and would happily serve again if called.
“If I was a young man, I wouldn’t hesitate if they needed me. I’d go back in,” he said.