Group photo of the survivors from the first reunion in 1960
1 Living Survivor
Harold John Bray, Jr., Seaman 2C
The second world war began when Harold was just 14 years old. Growing up in a small town in northern Michigan, he participated in ROTC and became his squadron leader, while anxiously awaiting the day when he could join the fight. As soon as he turned 17 in 1944, Harold enlisted in the United States Navy and departed for bootcamp in Great Lakes, Illinois, shortly thereafter.
When the assignments came in, Harold found out he would join the crew of USS Indianapolis (CA-35) in Mare Island, California. Indy was a capital ship that just returned stateside for major repair and refitting, following a Japanese Kamikaze attack at Okinawa in late March 1945. Nine members of the crew were killed in the attack. A somber time, but also an exciting time for this young farm boy, who upon seeing the ship for the first time remarked, “I couldn’t believe something that big and that heavy could stay afloat!”
During those summer days, prior to the ship’s final top-secret mission, Harold kept busy learning all the ways of Navy life. “The months and days that followed were spent training, firefighting, standing watches, and learning to drink Navy coffee. While the ship was getting repaired, we lived in the barracks at the north end of the island and rode a train to the ship every day.”
Having left the frigid climate of Michigan behind, Harold fell in love with California and especially the areas surrounding the shipyard. So much so that after his years in the Navy, he would settle down in Benicia, raise a family, and become a beloved member of the police department and community, where he still lives today.
- Written by Sara Vladic