Memories of the Battle of Attu: Captain Ray Free

Captain Free (behind the scope) on Attu, directing the fire of his men operating the artillery on the beach during the Battle of Attu

Captain Ray Free shared memories of the Battle of Attu in an interview in 2000. 

Ray D. Free (1910-2002) 
Captain, Battery B, 48th Field Artillery
7th Infantry Division  

 Born in Idaho, Ray Free served his Latter Day Saints mission to Germany as a young man. After graduating from the University of Utah, he was commissioned into the U.S. Army, serving five years in the Pacific campaigns of World War II. In May 1943, he commanded a field artillery battery of light howitzers (105mm) deployed at Massacre Bay during the Battle of Attu.    

Battle of Attu_Captain Ray Free_topoMap“That was interesting,” Ray recalled in an interview in 2000. “I was right up to the front lines.” He recalled that his artillery was critical to pushing Japanese forces into the mountains. “Upon the left side I had a battery that was just pounding intermittently to keep anything from coming down from the left,” he explained. “I had one gun that was pecking away on the west mountain, because we were getting snipers from there. Then I had all the rest of them massed over the hump. I moved them forward, just a few yards at a time, as the infantry was coming along.” Ray Free was slightly wounded by shrapnel during the second week of the battle when a captured Japanese artillery piece he was inspecting exploded, having been booby-trapped. He soon recovered and was back with his men in time for the next campaign.   

After the war, Ray Free returned to Utah where he was successfully engaged in business, raised a family, and served in the Army Reserve, retiring as a major general. He also served ten years in the state legislature and was involved in numerous communities endeavors. Ray died August 9, 2002, in Salt Lake City, at the age of 92. 

Photographs from the National Archives. Quotes are from his oral history interview at the American West Center, University of Utah. Story author Ephraim Dickson, NPS.