Ray Bauml

  • Carlson’s Raider Bauml a Giant in Eyes of Late Documentary MakerBauml photo

    During World War II, Morton College alumni Ray Bauml was part of an elite Marine unit named Carlson’s Raiders. 
    The United States was struggling on both fronts in the early parts of World War II, but Carlson’s Raiders helped the Allies start to turn the tide in the Pacific by helping the United States to an important land victory over the Japanese with a daring raid on Makin Island in August of 1942.
    Bauml’s story was preserved in storyteller Pat Mendoza’s “In the Shadow of Giants,” a documentary that premiered at Morton College in November of 2007. 
    The two lived just 30 miles apart in Colorado, but Mendoza was 1,700 miles away from his hometown of Denver when he uncovered the gem of a story about World War II that turned out to have ties right in his own backyard.  
    Mendoza, who died in August of 2012 at the age of 66, was at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 2000, with retired Army Col. Ward Nickisch, who, at the time, headed up the U.S. Army’s Central Identification Lab in Hawaii.
    “He told me the story about the recovery of 19 Marines on Makin Island in the South Pacific,” Mendoza said. “He told me, ‘Pat, I want you to tell the story.’ That’s how the whole thing got started.”
    One of the members of Carlson’s Raiders involved on the Makin Island invasion was Berwyn native Ray Bauml, who lived in Boulder, just 30 miles away from Mendoza’s home in Denver. They met in 2005 and started talking weekly.
    “We’ve become very close and talk at least once a week,” said Mendoza in a 2007 interview.  “He and his wife, Lillian, have treated me like family. Ray is a very funny man – he’s very intelligent and a lot of fun to be with. But he’s so humble about everything.”   
    Bauml attended Morton College from 1938 to 1940. He was a standout halfback on the football team and held a part-time job washing windows at the school. He was witty, humorous and a good dancer. Bauml also met his wife of 66 years, Lillian, while they were students at Morton College. Their first date was to see the “Wizard of Oz” at the movies.
    Bauml’s path to serving his country in World War II was an interesting one. He joined the U.S. Navy, but needed to attend night school to study trigonometry. The Army inducted Bauml, but he decided to enlist with the Marines.
    Carlson’s Raiders were a new elite Marine commando unit formed by Evans Carlson and James Roosevelt, son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Training was demanding and unit members knew they would face hardships and danger. Among the questions candidates faced were those on the war’s political significance. 
    Seven thousand applied, but only 1,000 were accepted. Bauml was among the first 50 accepted to be part of Carlson’s Raiders.
    Mendoza tells the story through the eyes of Bauml, who briefly appears in the documentary at the conclusion. Because of a stroke Bauml suffered several years ago, he did not wish to appear on film. Bauml, who lived in Colorado resident since 1980, died in 2011 at the age of 91.

    But Mendoza captured the essence of Bauml, retired from the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (now the Burlington Northern). Bauml is able to turn a phrase, especially when talking about battle. He says, “I never was scared, but concerned a lot.” 

    Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Chester Nimitz ordered the group to conduct a commando raid on Makin Island. The objective was to create a diversion – scramble the enemy’s plans to make them re-deploy their strengths that were concentrating on a possible attack of Guadalcanal. Carlson’s Raiders were to hit Makin hard, wreak as much havoc as possible and gather intelligence information. 
    Initially, the Makin Raid was a great “victory” and a “brilliant exploit” by the U.S. Department of Defense, but their success was not known until long afterward. During the invasion, Carlson’s Raiders nearly wiped out the entire enemy garrison. They destroyed a communications station, two planes, military installations and stores, and over 900 barrels of gasoline. 
    Thirty Marines were lost, but the raid accomplished its primary objective by disrupting enemy plans to reinforce Guadalcanal and diverting Japanese guns and aircraft. 
    “In addition to this being the story of Private Ray Bauml, “In the Shadow of Giants” is a story of honor, respect and closure,” Mendoza said.
    Mendoza, a Vietnam veteran, used images obtained by the military and photos of the island and Marines taken with Bauml’s Kodak Brownie camera, according to a 2007 Chicago Tribune story.
    “I was not supposed to have a camera,” Bauml said in the story. “But I wanted to document my experience.” 
    Mendoza spent two years narrating, writing, filming and editing his 55-minute documentary, “In the Shadow of Giants.” His goal was to get “In the Shadow of Giants” on TV, but that never materialized.
    “These men were giants,” Mendoza explained in the documentary. “They saved the world from the likes of Hitler and Tojo. When I’m around these men, it still feels like I’m standing in the shadow of giants.” 
    When Mendoza sought a venue to premier his documentary, “In the Shadow of Giants,” Morton College was a natural because of Bauml’s ties to the College. College officials were receptive to the idea and warmly welcomed Mendoza.
    Mendoza tells the story through the eyes of Bauml, who briefly appears in the documentary at the end. Because of a stroke Bauml suffered several years ago, he did not wish to appear on film. Health reasons also prevented Bauml from attending the premier.
    “It’s important that we’re able to preserve the stories of men like Ray Bauml,” Mendoza noted. “We’re losing far too many of these great guys who fought in World War II because of old age and disease. As a storyteller, I just can’t stress the importance of listening to our elders – there’s just a wealth of information out there.”

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