In Memory of
U.S. Army Air Corps Corporal
Orley Ray Colestock
Hecla, South Dakota
Brown County
January 9, 1918 - September 26, 1942
Died in an Airplane Crash near Newcastle, Indiana

Orley Ray Colestock

Orley Ray Colestock, commonly called Ray, was born in Hecla, SD on January 9, 1918 to Orley and June Colestock.  His family members include four brothers and one sister (Norman, Luella, Aivind, Clayton and Willis).  He attended Hecla High School and graduated in 1936.  His interests included tennis and other activities. He was in the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937 and worked for a time at Pactola. Then he attended State College at Brookings.  He was never married and had no children. Ray was remembered as a good student and was well-liked by most everyone who knew him.

Orley enlisted in the service on June 12, 1941, and studied airplane mechanics at Chanute Field, Illinois. Then he was stationed at Sheppard Field, Texas, and then went to Lowry Field in Colorado, “where he took a special course in power turrets and gun sights.”  His military occupation specialty was airplane mechanics and he received his “silver wings from the Bombardier School at Baton Rouge, Louisiana.” Here is an excerpt from a letter that he wrote from his last station at Baer Field, Indiana, to his brother Clayton, postmarked just a day before Orley’s death:

We were suppose to follow today, but the weather wouldn’t permit. The Captain saw me 
and told me I was now officially Bombardier/Navigator; so I have to work fast. I am now
in crew 8 (my lucky number, remember those fortunes we got that night?).... I think we
will leave this morning.  I have to navigate the course up there.... Well Clayton, I must
close wishing you all the luck in the world.  Tell everyone “Hi” from me when you go
home.  Maybe I will write you from Maine.  Keep ‘em smiling...

Ray was en route to Maine, as part of the 437th Bomb Squadron, 319th Bomb Group, when his plane exploded in the air and crashed in a pasture after “circling the area several times.”  All of the crew was killed. Orley’s body was returned to his hometown of Hecla for his funeral and burial.  He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal and the Purple Heart.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Courtney Pray and Shannon Daly, Honors U.S. History, Groton High School, Groton, SD, April 21, 2002. Information for this entry was graciously provided by Evelyn Colestock, sister-in-law of Orley’s.