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Corcoran spent two years on the Navy’s USS Tidewater

Submitted photo Ray Corcoran entered the United States Navy in 1960 after graduating from Elkins High School in 1959.

ELKINS — Ray Corcoran’s time spent with the U.S. Navy not only prepared him for a long career as a firefighter, but allowed him to travel around the world to places many people only dream about visiting.

Corcoran, a 1959 graduate of Elkins High School, joined the military soon after receiving his high school diploma and left for basic training in October 1960. After completing boot camp at Great Lakes, Illinois in January 1961, he was immediately sent to the USS Tidewater, an AD-31 auxiliary ship designed to provide maintenance support to destroyers and other small warships.

“I did damage control all four years I was in the Navy,” said Corcoran. “On the ships I was on we took care of all the firefighting equipment used to fight fires. We also took care of all the pumps they used to pump water with and made sure all the fire equipment was ready to go. We also made all kinds of equipment for anything that broke down on any other ships. We also hauled supplies to other ships when we were out to sea.”

During his two years on the USS Tidewater, Corcoran visited places he never imagined he would see.

“We took a Mediterranean cruise while I was on the Tidewater,” he said. “During that time I went to many different places, including Spain, Greece, Italy and down into Cuba, where we did a lot of training. We went into a lot of different ports and you would spend a week or so in each one.”

Corcoran said during his first two years in the Navy everything went about as smoothly as it could for him. When was sent to serve the remainder of his time on the USS Amphion, however, things became much more complicated.

“On the second ship I was on is where he had some problems,” said Corcoran. “We had to go down around Cuba when the Cuban Crisis was going on and they had all those missiles down there. Plus that’s when the Vietnam War broke out, so you always knew there was a war going and wondering what was going to happen.

“Another thing was that we had a couple big hurricanes while I was on the Amphion. There were times when he had to go out to sea and anchor out so the ship wouldn’t get destroyed against the docks or something else. There were times out there with anchors down it would get pretty bad. Some of those big storms would have us dragging the anchors and you would take some pretty good rides with those big waves.”

Corcoran was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia during his entire time with the Navy and his fourth year on the water turned out to be his last.

“If I wouldn’t have gotten married, I would have still probably been in,” he said. “My last year on the ship I got married and after that I was wanting off.”

Corcoran returned to Elkins and in 1965 put what he had learned in the Navy to use by joining the Elkins Fire Department, where he spent a total of 40 years before retiring. He also worked for Kelly Foundry for six years when he first returned. Corcoran is still an honorary member of the EFD.

“I got most of my training for the fire department while I was in the Navy,” he said. “Not only did the Navy do that for me, it also taught me responsibility and how to be able to control and do the things I had to do. There are so many good things about being in the military, the things you learn and the fellowship you have with your sailor mates are things you have forever.”

Corcoran has been married to his wife Becky for 55 years. The two have twin boys, Ron and John.

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