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Cpl. George Raymond Yohey: HQ Company, 339th Infantry


Cpl. George Raymond Yohey (Courtesy of Polar Bear Memorial Society)


George Raymond Yohey was born April 13, 1894, the second of two children born to George E. and Nellie McGuen Yohey. “Ray’, as he was called, grew up in Detroit on Congress Street, along with his older sister, Marietta, supported by their father, who worked as a carpenter. The two attended the city’s public schools, and both did well enough to ascend to college. Marietta graduated and became a music teacher, while Ray became a football star at the University of Detroit.[1] In fact, in November 1917, Ray was presented with a wristwatch by his teammates at halftime in a game against the University of Kalamazoo, in which U. of D. won 35 to 6.[2]


Ray, once he finished with his schooling, worked in Detroit as a clerk at Timken-Detroit Axle Company, and later, as a special delivery driver for the Detroit Free Press.[3] Then, when the Great War began, he registered for the Draft. His registrar described him as 5-foot-11, of medium build, and with blue eyes and brown hair.[4] He enlisted into the U.S. Army in November 1917 and reported to Camp Custer. Yohey was assigned to the Signals Platoon, in Headquarters Company, 339th Infantry, and promoted to corporal. Then, the 339th was sent to Russia.


Corporal Yohey’s company was stationed in Archangel, and remained in this city for most of the regiment’s time in Russia. However there were times in which the company’s Signal Platoon was sent out to assist combat units. In one instance, Cpl. Yohey’s platoon was supporting Company ‘M’, not far from Obozerskaya, their task to re-establish wire communications between headquarters and Company ‘M’. Unfortunately at this time, Cpl. Yohey became separated from his platoon. An after-action report noted, “George Yohey … [became] lost in the darkness of the long Russian night … and had the dubious distinction of meeting a Bolshevik personally … [who] directed him safely back to camp.”[5] Later, Cpl. Yohey was awarded the British Distinguished Conduct Medal for his service. Only Yohey and two other Signal Platoon members of HQ Company were cited for this award. Then, the 339th returned to the United States and on July 18, 1919, Yohey was honorably discharged, and returned to civilian life.


Ray returned home to Detroit and lived with his mother, Nellie, who now was a widow.[6] Then, in 1920, Ray secured a job as a stock clerk at a truck store, and married a young Canadian woman named Gladys. He continued working in the auto industry, as well as becoming an avid racer on the Harley Davidson motorcycle team, where he was known as “Kid Yohey.”[7] Gladys and Ray did not have any children, and their marriage floundered. The couple divorced and in 1930, Ray was again, living with his mother, and her new husband, Charles Myles. Ray, once he recovered from his divorce, took a job as a die-cast machine operator for Detroit’s Continental Die Cast Company, and moved into a boarding house.[8] He remarried, this time to a woman named Catherine Hurns, and the couple lived together until she passed away. Ray eventually retired, and as his health began to decline, moved in with his departed wife’s brother, Thomas Hurns and his family. Ray died February 3, 1986 and was buried in the White Chapel Cemetery.

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[1] Detroit City Directory, 1911. [2] “U. of D. Whips Kazoo Eleven By Fine Work,” Detroit Free Press, 18 Nov 1917. [3] Detroit City Directory, 1914. [4] Draft Registration Card, 5 Jun 1917. [5] Lapeer County Press, 26 Aug 1981. [6] Detroit City Directory, 1919. [7] Bozich, Jon, Polar Bear Memorial Association, 14 Jul 2022. [8] Detroit City Directory, 1950.

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