Last week we had a Memorial Service for my Aunt Hazel. She passed away this year after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. My Uncle Arnold passed away in 2001 from Leukemia. In honor of Memorial Day on Monday, we share with you their story:
The war was in full force and Arnold Lopez Gray had enlisted in the Army. After graduating from the Air Forces Navigation School in Texas on April 22, 1943, he married Hazel on July 26th 1943. It was shortly after their marriage he was sent overseas to fly combat missions against the Germans. Little did he know on his 10th mission he would have a story worth repeating for the rest of his life…
His plane was shot down over the North Sea by the Germans, and although he survived the attack he was plucked out of the icy waters by a German U-boat. He had become a P.O.W. in December 1943.
Hazel, a new bride received news of his failed mission, but nothing more. The telegram she received simply said, “Lt. Arnold L. Gray is reported missing in action.”
She had to wait until March 15, 1944, to hear that he was indeed a prisoner of war in a German camp. Actually this ended up being quite a blessing, as the German camp took excellent care of the prisoners, unlike the Concentration Camps. Unknown to the Nazis, Arnold had taken German in high school for three years. He was able to listen each day to the communiques broadcast in German over the loudspeakers. He would in turn, translate the current war updates for his fellow inmates keeping them well informed of the progression of the war. He was aptly given the name “Scoop” for his service.
After 18 months living life at a snail’s pace somewhere in Germany, the camp was liberated as the war came to a victorious end for the American prisoners of war. Arnold had survived his long captivity, and would soon be reunited with his bride.
This is his letter from Barth, Germany, dated May 10, 1945:
At last I can write you and say just what I please. I don’t know whether this will reach you before I get home, but it’s worth taking the chance. You cannot realize the joy I have experienced at being liberated, and the prospects of being with you soon. The Germans pulled out of here on April 30th, and we took over. The Russians arrived on May 2. Since then we have been impatiently waiting to get out of here…
…It has been a long time and you have not been out of my thoughts for one minute. I’ll close now, sweetheart, hoping and praying that we will be together very soon for all time. I love you with all my heart.
Your loving husband,
They were reunited and lived a long, happy life together. Their final years were lived in Florida – a state they grew to love as much as their native Rhode Island. Although separated by death in 2001 – they have been reunited together in their final resting place at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida.
It seemed fitting to see their names etched in stone together surrounded by countless veterans who, like Arnold, had given their all to protect our country at great personal sacrifice.
Thank you, Uncle Arnold, and thank you to all the military who currently protect our country in various ways. We are forever indebted to your bravery and selfless service to secure our freedom and future. Your stories are worth repeating to all who will listen, especially the generations to come!