Oray Tims
U. S. Army Air Forces
WWII US Military
Air Base Security, 12th Air Force, 12th Air Force

He was born in Homer, Louisiana, but his family left when he was two because of "problems with the white folks there." They went to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he helped pick cotton on his father's farm. "We didn't have too much money but we had food," he recalls. Racial problems still followed the family. He remembers the Ku Klux Klan "just showing up," he says. "There was no conflict, no fights or anything. They just made themselves known." Oray finished high school in 1941, and was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Forces on March 27, 1942. He was attached to the Twelfth Air Force in an air base security unit. Although he was trained as a gunner in 155-millimeter artillery, he spent much of his time as a clerk. Oray sailed to North Africa on the USS Ancone (AP-66) in the fall of 1942. He served in the campaigns for North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. In Rome, he recalls in amazement stepping inside Saint Peter's Basilica. Oray admires General Dwight D. Eisenhower for his military acumen, but criticizes him for not allowing African-Americans combat roles. Throughout his time overseas he remembers getting letters from a female pen pal in Battle Creek, Michigan. Soldiers wrote their names and addresses at a service club, and girls wrote them letters. Oray left Marseille, France for America on June 6, 1945. He was discharged at Camp Chafee that September. Oray worked as a waiter at the Petroleum Club and at Cross Lake Inn. He recalls a supervisor at the Petroleum Club offering to pay him fifty dollars to ride in the first Holiday In Dixie parade in 1948, while sitting on a bale of cotton and eating a slice of watermelon. Oray refused, and temporarily lost his job. "In 2002, we were invited to sit and have dinner with the president of Holiday in Dixie at the Petroleum Club. That's how things changed," he recalls. Oray enjoyed his time in service. "I wished a thousand times I had not gotten out. I wished that I had stayed in and retired," he recalls of his service. He looks back on his service and his life in America in a balanced manner. "There's some bad in the best of us, and some good in the worst of us," he says. "America...It's still to me the best country in the world."