C. Ray Kues Jr., 74, played key role in 1945 battle

June 01, 1999|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

C. Ray Kues Jr., a computer programmer who played a pivotal role in a daring World War II assault, died May 28 at his Hereford home of a heart attack. He was 74.

Born in Baltimore on May 14, 1925, Mr. Kues built a career as one of the earliest computer programmers, working at the Internal Revenue Service, Sperry Univac (now Unisys Corp.) and the Social Security Administration.

"Ray was a natural with computers; he understood quickly and he could teach," said Joseph V. Schweiker, a former co-worker at Sperry Univac, now retired to Midlothian, Va. Mr. Schweiker said Mr. Kues, had he been born 40 years later, was "the type" who might be running a successful software company today.

In a one-page autobiography compiled in November, Mr. Kues omitted all references to his working life, preferring to describe his military exploits.

Mr. Kues -- a short, slight, bespectacled 19-year-old Army scout -- was serving with the 27th "Wolfhound" Infantry Regiment of the 25th Tropic Lightning Division when it undertook a siege on Japanese positions on Luzon, in the Philippines, in early 1945.

During the siege, Mr. Kues penetrated enemy lines, setting up the capture of Lone Tree Hill, a key patch of high ground. An account published in the magazine World War II last year praised Mr. Kues for his daring.

The combat was so harrowing that Mr. Kues suffered periodic nightmares for years.

He earned a Bronze Star and a Combat Infantry Badge, but not the Purple Heart that many of his fellow soldiers thought he deserved. In May 1945, he was hit in the shoulder by an 8-inch shell canister dropped by a Cessna plane delivering supplies to the troops trying to take Lone Tree Hill. Though the impact left him with back problems for the rest of his life, he returned to combat within a matter of days.

"He was very brave," said J. T. Jones, a fellow scout in Company G of the 27th Infantry who was Mr. Kues' pen pal for 50 years.

Mr. Jones, a retired postal worker in Louisville, Ky, wrote an affidavit in April in support of a new application for a Purple Heart for Mr. Kues, "but I don't think he got around to sending it to the Army. He deserves the Purple Heart for what he suffered. He was the essence of a military man."

The third of eight children born to a Highlandtown pipefitter, Mr. Kues grew up in the 3900 block of Hudson St. and delivered bread and newspapers to help his family.

After graduating from Patterson Park High School in 1943, he was drafted into the Army and was sent to New Caledonia in the South Pacific for training.

After his discharge in February 1946, Mr. Kues began working at the Internal Revenue Service, where he was introduced to computers and met Doris Schulze, whom he married in 1950. The family settled in Towson in 1950 and moved to Hereford 25 years later.

There, he indulged his fancy for Arabian horses, clearing trails through the brush around Gunpowder Falls State Park and doting on a gelding named Lance. He also remained active in the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

He left thousands of papers on the Pacific war that he collected from the Army and from soldiers he met at reunions of his regiment and division. At yesterday's visitation, Doris Kues displayed three thick scrapbooks of his keepsakes.

"There's more at home," she said. "He was very methodical. He had enough military papers that I could write a book."

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at the Lemmon Funeral Home, 10 W. Padonia Road in Timonium.

Mr. Kues is survived by a son, David Kues of Hereford; a daughter, Nancy Sewell of Stoneleigh; three sisters, Rita Opar of Rosedale, Marion Kurilla of Essex and Marlene O'Connor of Highlandtown; four brothers, Irvin Kues of Rosedale, Edwin Kues of San Diego, Clifford Kues of Westover, W.Va., and William Kues of Highlandtown; and two grandchildren.

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