Ray Gelinne kept a journal documenting every day of his WWII life as a soldier from Oct. 21, 1944 — the day he was shipped overseas — until he returned home to to Minnesota, including his days fighting in some of the heaviest battles in Europe.
At 98 years of age, Ray Gelinne of Redwood Falls has seen a lot of history.
During a period of time in the 1940s he saw much of the European countryside as a member of the United States Army during the Second World War.
Gelinne, who was raised in Rhinelander, Wis., was called up for active duty in his early 30s, and he left a wife and young child behind as he served his country.
Gelinne, who was working in Owatonna for Montgom-ery Wards at the time he was called to serve, then traveled to Colorado for basic training. He then traveled east eventually ending up in New York where he boarded a ship headed for Europe.
The day he got on the ship was Oct. 21, 1944.
“I didn’t keep track of much until I got on the ship,” said Gelinne. “After that I kept a journal of every day.”
That journal recounts Gelinne’s experience from his arrival in England all the way through the day he returned to his family.
Gelinne arrived in England as part of a 600-member unit.
“We were split into two groups of 300,” he said. “One group went to work on building bridges. The other went to France and Germany. I was part of the second group.”
In the days following their landing in England, Gelinne and 299 others traveled across the English Channel, landed in France and then they “began running around Europe.”
Moving quickly toward Germany, Gelinne became part of a very important event in the history of World War II.
“I was part of the Battle of the Bulge,” he said.
The Battle of the Bulge is now considered Hitler’s last ditch effort to try and overcome the invasion that started with D-Day, and at first it appeared to be working.
Then the reinforcements, such as Gelinne’s unit arrived and turned the tide.
As an infantryman, Gel-inne said he always carried a rifle with him.
“I shot that gun many times,” he said, adding fortunately he never got hit.
Gelinne was able to capture moments from his perspective of the war through what he described as a camera that looked like a little black box. At his home in Redwood Falls, Gelinne showed the photo albums that include those photos of his buddies, the European landscape and the destruction left behind.
Naturally, there are several photos of him at various places along the way.
Moving father into Germany as the announcement Germany had surrendered was made, Gelinne said he and his unit changed their focus.
“We went to three prisoner of war camps,” Gelinne said. “We arrived and freed the prisoners. Then we told them to ‘go home.’”
Gelinne said most of them were from France, adding he does not remember seeing an American prisoner.
With the war ended, Gelinne was given first chance at leave, because he had a child, and so he made his way to Paris. There he was told he would have to wait a month before a ship would take him home.
So, he decided to make a side trip to Belgium to look up some of his relatives. While he was not successful in finding them, he said it was a great experience.
Gelinne boarded the William and Mary and headed back to New York the date was Feb. 17, 1946.
Gelinne returned to his family and was able to secure a job with Wards again, and that involvement, along with the success he was having, led him to Redwood Falls where he served as the store manager until he retired.
He and his wife, Lois, raised two children in Redwood Falls, and even though his wife has passed on Gelinne continues to call Redwood Falls home.
Gelinne said he considers his time serving his country as a positive one.
“It was pretty rough over there at times. I’m just glad I came out alive,” he said, adding it’s been a good life.