By Ryan Reed
|John W. Rayl|
In our last post concerning the proposed demolition of Rayl Cafeteria
by the Missouri University of Science and Technology, many of our readers asked, “Who was Rayl?”
Our research over the past week has uncovered minimal but interesting facts about the individual whose name is memorialized with the construction of the university facility.
John W. Rayl was born on April 8, 1920 in the Blackwater Township of Pettis County, Missouri. He was the eldest of five children to Columbus Rayl and Letha Bishop. Raised on a farm, Rayl soon found himself as head of the family at the age of 16 after the death of his father. He attended Smith Cotton High School and served as the student council president during his senior year. In 1938, Rayl was accepted to the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy to study Mining Engineering.
As a student, Rayl was active in several student organizations. Upon his arrival, he joined Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and was a member of the student council. During his sophomore year he was elected class president and continued to act as a representative for the organization. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, Rayl joined R.O.T.C where he advanced to the rank of Major and Commanding Officer of the Second Battalion during his senior year.
After graduating from MSM in 1942, Rayl joined the Army and achieved the rank of Captain with the 165th Engineer Combat Battalion with the Army Corp of Engineers. During World War II, the Army Corp of Engineers was responsible for building countless bridges and building or maintaining roads vital to the Allied advance across Europe. On July 27, 1944, Rayl and the 165th Engineer Combat Battalion landed in Saint Germain sur Seves, France. The assault was a part of Operation Cobra with the 90th Infantry Division. The operation was an offensive launched during the Normandy Campaign to gain position against German occupied northwestern France. The mission was a success and the Allied troops began liberating villages throughout northwestern France including Periers and Millieres. The following month after the invasion, the 165th Engineer Combat Battalion began the repair of airfields vacated by the Luftwaffe during the Allied invasion. On Friday, August 18th, 1944, Rayl was killed in action near the St. Andre airfield in Evreaux, France at the age of 24. He was buried at a cemetery within the vicinity of the airport.
At the end of World War II, Rayl’s remains were exhumed and transported back to the United States. On May 21, 1949, Rayl was reinterred at the Springfield National Cemetery in Springfield, Missouri. Nine years later, as MSM was in the midst of creating a new student housing complex, the university decided to commemorate the valiant action of their former graduate. On October 25, 1958 the new cafeteria at the intersection of 10th Street and Highway 63 was dedicated in Capt. John W. Rayl’s honor.