Senior Resources » Assisted Living » Veterans Interview: Chuck Olmstead talks with Lt. Colonel Ray Hensel

Veterans Interview: Chuck Olmstead talks with Lt. Colonel Ray Hensel

Veterans Interview with retired Lt. Colonel Ray Hensel of the U.S. Army, at Patriot’s Landing in DuPont, Washington. He was born in Seattle in 1924.

Answers for Elders LOGO

*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

This special answers for elders podcast honoring military veterans is sponsored by Careage. For more information about Careage, the website is This is Chuck Holmstead. I’m at Patriots landing and Dupont Washington and with me today on our answers for elders veterans interview is Ray Hensel. He retired as a lieutenant colonel in the army, and Ray I want to welcome you to answers for elders and to have you tell your story. Okay, thank you. Well, it’s good to meet you. You you told me when you walked in that you are ninety four years old. Right, one thousand nine hundred and twenty four. Born in one thousand nineteen twenty four. Yes, Seattle, Washington, born in Seattle. Right, so you’re a Seattle native. Right, Ballard part of Seattle. Interesting. Well, I’m sure Ballard at that time, probably were any of the bridges across the water there, the Aurora Bridge or any of those? Were they existing at that time? Not, they were. That came later, but the Ballard Bridge was there and also the railroad bridges there. Uh Huh. Yeah, so you could get into the Lower Queen Anne area through the Ballard Bridge. Yes, interesting nine in nineteen to Magnolia and area. Yeah, what was that area like back there in twenty four? was a mostly woods or was it residences or Ballard? Was was done? It had been a town before it before it became part of Seattle, and it at that time, if it had been a town of would have been the fourth largest town in the state of Washington. And so we had our shopping area and we had cresses and wool worms and pennies and also we had the the lodgers of the elks and the Eagles and the masons and and churches and all and we had about five elementary schools and one junior high school, James Monroe, and Ballard High School, of course. Yeah. So one thousand nine hundred and twenty four, you would have been five years old when the depression hit. Yes, you remember that, of course. I remember a little later. Yeah, Uh Huh. I was. I was fortunate in the my father was able to keep a job right on through it. Or business. What did he do as if for a living? Interesting, he and my my mother’s father, my Granddad, opened the first hamburger shop in Ballard, really down on Ballard Avenue. It was Gus and Harry’s and my dad’s, Gush and Harry’s, my Granddad, and it was the first real hamburger shops and hamburger Costa Nickel and they had Chili. And then my mother used to go over and bake pies every day and they finally the guy they got ice cream and came up with ice cream for pies too, and they kept the place for about three or four years and then might dad got it, got to go to work at the locks down there, at the Ballard locks, the Ballard locks. Now I was going to ask you, because I don’t know the Seattle history that well. When were the the Ballard locks built? Was At during that time? I think it was shortly after World War One. I believe it was liking the late seventeen or early twenties, I believe. So it wasn’t part of the CECC at that time. No, no, no, it wasn’t. It was earlier than that that the locks were built. Yes, and then then the Montlake cuts. was that a part of that whole process as well? Yes, they going into Lake Washington and yeah, Lake Washington, that cut and the Ballard locks were all part of the same project. Correct. Yes, interesting. Yeah. So what was life like for you and Ballard in the in the late s? Well, I enjoyed the place and every very and it was a primarily Scandinavian area. They Norwegian’s more I believe there were more new Norwegian people than there were Swedish people and they’re easy people to live with and we got along fine. My my family were German to my great grandparents, who did not live out in Seattle, came from Germany, and so there was a small German community like castor’s meat market, and there was a grocery store that was private, a mom and pop grocery, primarily German people and that sort of thing. But we got a long fine, no problems at all with the with all the Scandinavians. So let’s track forward ahead you, I have a feeling you graduated from Ballard High School. I graduated from Ballard High School. However, there was a little interruption the I was in the class of nine hundred and forty two and in on December the seventh, one thousand nine hundred and forty one, they bombed Pearl Harbor. So on two days later. It’s that was on the Sunday right. And so Monday we were into Ballard High and all of the seniors were talking. And so on Tuesday five of US went down and join the navy. So, as a senior, I left school and went and joined the navy. And how old were you at that time? I was seventeen, two months short of eighteen, and they would let it. Did you have to have your parents permission to do this? Yes, at seventeen, yes, eighteen you wouldn’t. But but my dad had been in in the navy and World War One, so I was always very fond of the navy. You just live hearing from my dad. And when this came we went to it and, as I say, five of US went in. We were separated after we went down to San Diego, but all five of US lived through the war. You all made it. All made it. Yeah, and so what ship did you serve on then? Well, I served on the it was a reefer ship, the largest reefer ship in the navy and no one ever knows about. was called the USS L Debrun and it we spent right from the actually, I went in the navy right in December and I was in Pearl Harbor already on February. The second wow, two months later on the ship. I was to wow and so well, I’m sure that you still saw a lot of the destruction of Pearl Harbor then and what it happens. Just an amazing thing that it was so beautiful coming into into war. There who with the water so blue and everything, and we got in foot, foot deep on the water, on the water in Pearl Harbor Oil just from the ships that in. That’s two months later. But we we had food on board the ship and I crossed the equator nine times, hitting the South South Pacific islands in this ship, our navy down down on the South Fiji, Samoa and, of course, Hawaii time and again. And then so is a refrigerator ship, much like a cargo ship, where you were hauling to carted stuff, five holes in the thing and and to the tow after holes were refrigerator and front part we’re dry foods and things like. Yeah, yeah, so you were hauling food all over the Pacific, over the place, and was it was a good ship to be on. We because we got back to San Francisco every six weeks. To get new supplies so we could go out again and back again then. So so the waters that you were in were they dangerous, but we were lucky enough. We were further south and the real dangerous. But there we were always on the lookout and I heard that one time we got hit by a torpedo that did not explode. That’s they were sure that it it the noise and everything. But so we saw planes and things, but we always had help around us. That’s got to be an incredible experience as a seventeen year old to be leaving home to go to go off to war, to go to sea. And one of the great weeks was all. Obviously, as I said, we got back every six weeks. We came in in June of forty two into San Francisco and they’re having graduation for bout at high school at the University of Washington. And what I had one guy that out of the five was still with me, Bill Jones, and we went and saw the executive Ulster could we go home for graduation and they said yes and we were the first guys off the ship since a Warsaw to get any leaving. Some of the old times are saying I couldn’t come and I my wife was having a baby. And those guys got to go to the school and we got to come and they gave us graduation at the University of Washington, not from universe right holder in high school, right and well, I would imagine, you know, you walk in there with your navy uniforms on, probably as a graduate, walking in to graduate, and I’m sure a lot of folks paid the quite a bit of attention. Yes, we got a nice clap hands. Who and they when we stepped up, of course. Yeah. Well, I don’t think the younger generation recognizes the the war effort that took place and the fact that the entire country was was involved in and what they would call the war effort, whether you were serving in the military or whether you are working at home for some sort of, you know, military project of some sort, you know, to help in the war in some way. I I was a Signalman, visual signalman. They don’t even have those in the navy anymore, the radio and everything, and they sent me down to Camp Pendleton, the Marine base down north of San Diego, and I trained with them and went in on the invasion of Guam and I was in the Beach Master’s Party. So the beach master. If you want to talk to a ship, I was a signalman and talked to the ship with visual signals. They didn’t like to use a radio because the Japanese could intercept that. And so I went in on the invasion of Guam and I then after the invasion, I got to stay at Guam for eighteen months and I had the major signal tower there and which stayed there till the war ended. Oh, and so that so that single that when you talking signal it so it is basically flags, right will lights, lights, mostly lights, mostly lights. An interesting thing after the war ended and the US Missouri pulled in to Guam and right by my signal tower, I was there and one night General Macarthur, Admiral Nimitz and Admiral Halsey, all of them five star, was down below talking and I was looking down at these three famous leaders. You are a witness to history. Yeah, and they got on board the Missouri and went to to to Japan for the for the sign of the signature. Interesting. Wow. So you ended World War Two coming back. You came back to Ballard at that time after, after the war I got married and came back to Ballard and went to the University of Washington. Just another interesting May, if I may go to the university, was the navy sent me to the University California Berkeley for two semesters and while there I met the lady days now my wife of seventy two years, Doris Trogden Wiz her named. So they I would do. And then when the war ended, I went on the GI bill to the University of Washington and three years and then I went into the army and while I was in Germany, the University of Maryland has a class classes for the troops over there. So I’ve got my bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Maryland and they had a gradual graduation ceremony at the University of Heidelberg and that’s where my great grandfather graduated from. But then after that, my after my bachelor’s degree, the army sent me to the University of Alabama for two years and I got my master’s degree and I so I have a master’s degree and I didn’t pay any of my own money for the whole thing and I feel sorry for kids now getting in debt for the resid St. Yeah, what was your master’s in and logistics? And it was masters and Business Administration. HMM. So after after the war and you’re standing the army, how much longer did you stay in the service? Nineteen years. In the army for four years. I was in the navy from December of forty one to December forty five and then I went into the army in one thousand nine hundred and forty eight and was in nineteen years. Yeah, so you did not have to go to Korea. I went to Korea after the war. I see. Yeah, so I went over the I was in Korean Military Advisory Group. I see. Yeah, so after year your time in the service, what did you decide to do? I well, first I went to work with Boeing and in an administrative job and I wasn’t too happy with it and so I went to work for the state state government and I worked for the Washington State Liquor Control Board and I was supervisor of licensing for the latter part of my tour there. I was there for for fifteen years and so I have half retirement from the state board in addition my military retirement and interest thing. Yeah, so, Ray tell me about well, I’m sure. I’m sure you’ve seen so many changes in Seattle. Oh, yes, from one thousand nine hundred and twenty four until now. Yeah, well, tell me, give me some memories. Of course, the sixty two world’s fair, you were back. Where you back in the area for that? Yes, yeah, I know I was not back, you were not back here, but one of the leaders there, Louis Larson, is. He’s still getting written up for he was very prominent in the in that and he’s a class way to mind a Ballard high. Yeah, he’s still around. Yeah, so do you get the chance to go up towards the city much still these days? Yes, well, for I would you for a while until I got my knees and couldn’t go at night. I was a rapid university Washington football fan. In fact, interesting the first game I went to was nineteen twenty eight and I was four years old and we beat Washington State College six to nothing. I’m not after I was an adult. I always had season tickets. I’m always been a wild Husky Fan. Still Them. But what was your favorite team? What was your favorite? Thirty six, one thousand nine hundred and thirty six really why? Haines Kane Logan to grass key. That was our back field. Ha Ha Hah. You still remember? Yeah, that’s right, they they. They started this season against University of Minnesota, who was number one in the country in those days. Odd to say, but that Minnesota has a great and we lost, I think was fourteen to seven, and then Stanford had been to the Rose Bowl three years in a row and we played Stanford and tied them. So then we played the University of Pittsburgh for the in the Rose Bowl and they beat us to wow, wow, but we were other than that. We won everything, so it was a good team wins. The last time you’ve been able to get to a game two years ago. Uh Huh. Yeah, still love to go there. Oh Yeah, I love me. So I’m watch it on television every game. And I think we might win a championship this year. You think so? Yeah, got a chance. We got a real we have a tremendous coach. Boy, we’re lucky to have that fellow Peterson. Haha, I callow the guy. Yeah, if they offered me my choice that I could have anyone in the country, I’d take Peterson. Would you? Yeah, have you had a chance to meet him at all? Yeah, one time. Shook hands with him one time. Yeah. Well, I’m sure you’re kind of known around there, having been there for so many years. Yeah, I don’t think so. Too many people there? Yeah, I understand. Well, tell me how you ended up at Patriot. It’s landing. What when? When you decided we were living in an Olympia? In fact, I lived in four different places when impolite. Liked each house, house, but for one reason or another that we didn’t need one as larger. We wanted to be closer to to Madigan hospital and so on, and we were living in Olympia at an airy cold Indian summer. It’s a golf course, uh Huh. And my daughters, we have four daughters, very adult daughters, and they came into dad, you’re getting old enough, you better get some place because won’t be longer you might not be driving anymore. And so days they went around and check the retirement places. You got in on January the twenty, two years ago. Hahah yeah, and I like it very much. It’s a nice we have a cottage, not a could you got a dog in the cat I didn’t want to put a dog in the cat upstairs and in an apartment. Yeah, interesting. Well, I want to thank you for your service. I want to thank you for your story. You got an incredible story and for ninety four years old, you’re doing quite well. Thank you very much. Well, take care. Thank you very much. This has been a special honoring Veterans Presentation of answers for elders brought to you by Careage. For more information about Careage, the website is


No post found!

Tags: ,

Originally published November 18, 2017

Free Senior Resources

Ultimate Guide to Bathroom Safety Cover

Ultimate Guide to Bathroom Safety

Get The Guide
Blessings for Baby Boomers

Blessings for Baby Boomers

Get The Guide

Step by Step Guide to Providing Home Care

Get The Guide

Medicare Prescription Survival Guide

Get The Guide
Get weekly tips on housing, retirement living, senior care, and more sent right to your inbox.
Get Senior Resource in Your Inbox
Boost Your Social Security Income by 76%!

Bob Carlson, America's leading retirement expert, reveals the big secret the IRS won't tell you.

Get Bob's report, FREE of charge along with a complimentary subscription to Retirement Watch Weekly, delivered to your email inbox each week along with other financial news and offers from our valued partners. We value your privacy.