Master Sergeant Kenneth A. Trayes

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Grouping: Master Sergeant Kenneth A. Trayes (ASN: 31112180)

Kenneth Asa Trayes was born in New Hampshire on October 25, 1918. He graduated from the East Providence High School in Rhode Island. Kenneth started working for a large textile print works and after that he became a draftsman with an engineering firm. While being a draftsman he started taking some correspondence and night school courses. On march 30, 1942 he joined the Army and was assigned to the Corps of Engineers.

On April 7, 1942 Mr. Trayes started with basic training at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. This base was founded during World War I under a different name, but was renamed Fort Belvoir in the 1930’s. It was the home of the Army Engineer School. After 2 months of basic training, Kenneth went to a staging area at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. It was also called “The Gap”, and during World War II it became one of the nation’s most important Army training camps, and served as a staging area for the New York Port of Embarkation. On July 1, 1942 Mr. Trayes left New York and went to Greenock, Scotland. He was aboard a troopship called the SS Argentina, which was escorted by Naval vessels. He arrived on July 12, and went to Cheltenham in England, where he only stayed for a couple of days.

Between July 19, 1942 and February 8, 1943, Mr. Trayes was attached to the 1st Group Regulating Station and assigned to the Office of the Chief of Transportation and the Statistics branch, based in the United Kingdom. The unit was part of the Transportation Corps, and Kenneth had important work to do in the preparation for the Allied invasion of the coast of France. At one point Mr. Trayes had fifteen draftsmen working for him, busy with the modification of the Landing Ship Tanks (LST’s), to carry railroad cars and locomotives across the English Channel to supply the troops. Landing Ship Tank (LST) is the military designation for naval vessels created during World War II to support amphibious operations by carrying significant quantities of vehicles, cargo, and landing troops directly onto an unimproved shore. The production of the LST started in November 1941 to allow the allied forces to land a maximum of heavy equipment without using any harbor facilities. They needed to make alterations to the LST’s, to permit moving the trains from LST’s to sloping beaches with a 24 foot tide. After a workable way was found, Mr. Trayes was put in charge at Penarth, Wales, to modify the first 100. Work was around the clock, outdoors, and it was the only place in the British Isles with authority for night lighting. Ken worked 20 hours a day and when Penarth was starting its second hundred, he was moved to other depots to train other crews.

In February 1943 Mr. Trayes became part of the 2nd Military Railway Service. Part of his job was to accept the rolling stock coming in from the States in sub-assembly, and oversee its safe storage and assembly. To save space during their journey to the United Kingdom, the railcars were not fully assembled. By June 30, 1944 a total of 1720 locomotives (2 different types) and 20,381 railcars (7 different types) were available in the United Kingdom.[1]

When D-Day came, Mr. Trayes was waiting his turn in Portsmouth, England. On D-Day plus 25 his team landed in France that laid down 4 “breathing bridges” with rail imbedded in quick-setting concrete. Thirteen days later, the converted LST’s each carrying 22 railroad cars each fully loaded with supplies left England on their 100 mile trip to the Cherbourg beaches. “When we saw the beaches, it was like a swarm of flies”, Master Sergeant Trayes remembers. In England, the LST’s were loaded in 26 minutes. On the beaches they unloaded in 21. By mid-October, with some added unloading facilities (including the repaired Nazi wrecked Cherbourg docks), those 20,381 railroad cars and 1720 locomotives were all in Europe. After all trains were brought ashore, Kenneth’s work shifted to seeing that supplies moved up to forward bases. At first he was on the beaches where supplies of every kind, color-coded, had been dumped. As the troops moved, he moved. From France, Belgium and Holland into Germany. Mr. Trayes got wounded in Belgium.

When the war was almost over, Mr. Trayes and other senior non-coms from outfits like the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions, were assigned to guarding German prisoners of war. Going up the gangplank one fine day in May 1945, the whistles began to blow, and the war in Europe was over. There was a strangeness in sailing home with danger past. “No convoy, no nothing”. Trains had been targets for strafing and supply depots for bombings. “It seemed as though I’d been through 1000 air raids in England alone”.

Mr. Trayes had served for almost 3 years in Europe when the war ended. He was awarded the Good Conduct medal, European – African – Middle Eastern Campaign medal (with 3 service stars; for Normandy, Northern France and Germany), World War 2 Victory medal, Army of Occupation medal, and the Distinguished Unit Badge. The Distinguished Unit Citation (badge) was established by Executive Order in February 1942. In 1966 they changed the name to the Presidential Unit Citation. This award recognized the same degree of combat heroism by a unit, as the Distinguished Service Cross does for an individual. Mr. Trayes is also registered as an honoree at the World War II Veteran’s Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Republic of France, represented by the Minister of Defense, on November 12, 2001, awarded Monsieur Kenneth A. Trayes a diplome for his service during the 1944-1945 liberation of France. The President of the French Republic on February 11, 2010, signed a decree naming Kenneth A. Trayes a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor, the highest award that a foreigner can receive from France. He was awarded his medal in Boston on July 14, 2010, by the French Consul General.

After the war, Mr. Trayes became a senior design engineer. He worked at large firms, and had some challenging assignments. With a Providence engineering firm he was involved in developing a testing machine for elastic knits so that women’s girdles were just snug enough. He also designed a “Poker Chip Manufacturing Machine”.

Work became more sophisticated, so Mr. Trayes took special college courses. During the years he worked for two divisions of United Technologies; Sikorski Helicopter Div. and Pratt Whitney Div. (Jet Engines). At Sikorski, Mr. Trayes was in the Mechanical Flight Control Section, that designed the controls that provided flight and in-flight movement and maneuvering. At Pratt Whitney, he was on the design engineering team that developed the first 747 jet engine. Mr. Trayes eventually worked for, and retired from, the Boston office of Stone and Webster as a Senior Design Engineer.

Both Kenneth Trayes and his wife, Rita, came from Nashua. They later moved to Hampton Beach and they bought their first property, with retirement in mind, in 1965. But retirement came earlier than they expected. When the bottom fell out of the aircraft industry in ’72, Mr. Trayes was one of 1200 at Pratt and Whitney laid off the same day. They thought they might retire right then.

Kenneth Asa Trayes, of Hampton, passed away peacefully on July 19, 2012 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts at the age of 93.

[1] Col. L. A. Ayers, Report Military Railway Service (p. 8/9)