The year was 1961. Just a few months before the start of construction on the Berlin Wall and less than a year before John Glenn became the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth, Lt. Col. Daniel A. Raymond assumed command of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District. At the time, the average cost of a new car was $2,850 and the minimum wage was $1.05.
His daughter, Barbara R. McLauchlin, will be able to relive some of those memories through an album the district uncovered and presented to her today. McLauchlin and her husband, Ben, visited the Mobile District at the invitation of the District Commander, Col. James DeLapp.
“Knowing what the Mobile District meant to him because he said it was a catalyst for so much more of his life [and] the fact that he compiled a history of everything that he did, it just means a lot. We’ve heard it in person, but I can go over it five and 10 times and refurbish my memory and especially since he is no longer here,” said McLauchlin when she accepted the album. The album is a four-inch binder chocked full of black-and-white photos, official correspondence and various event programs that document Raymond’s three-year tenure as the Mobile District Commander from 1961 to 1964.
“You are hereby designated Contracting Officer with all authority conferred by law, regulations, and directives to enter into contracts incident and necessary to the functions of your office without limitation as to amount,” Maj. Gen. Keith R. Barney, deputy chief of engineers for construction, wrote in a letter dated June 2, 1961.
Assumption of Duties of District Engineer: “In accordance with [Paragraph] 4, Special Orders No. 23, Office of the Chief of Engineers, 3 May 1961, the undersigned assumes duties of the District Engineer, U.S. Army Engineer District, Mobile,” signed by D. A. Raymond.
While assigned to the Mobile District, Raymond oversaw the beginning of several projects that have become hallmarks for the district. The projects and thank-you letters are carefully preserved in the book, including the program from the 1963 ground-breaking ceremony for the Millers Ferry Multi-Purpose Dam.
One thank-you letter, dated June 15, 1965, is from the then-governor of Tennessee, Frank G. Clement, to Raymond. “As the Chairman of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority, I wish to thank you for the assistance and support which you have given our project throughout your tour of duty in charge of the Mobil District Office,” Clement wrote.
“I am aware of your splendid cooperation and I want you to know that our Authority is most grateful…. It is, of course, my firm conviction that the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway is meritorious in every respect and that it holds great promise for our entire area…. The fact that you have given personal attention to our project, is, I think, very commendable.”
One of the most historic projects that Raymond oversaw was the continued construction of the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) facilities at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and Huntsville, Ala.
“When the Nation decides to develop a civilian space program, the Corps of Engineers is probably the world’s foremost missile engineering firm,” said Chief of the USACE Office of History, John Lonnquest. “NASA turns to the Corps to build all of its missile test and deployment facilities.”
In a letter dated July 30, 1964, Wernher von Braun, director of NASA’s George C. Marshall’s Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., wrote to then Col. Raymond on the occasion of Raymond’s departure from the Mobile District assignment. Von Braun was a noted scientist who led the team that designed several ballistic missiles. He was also the chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the superbooster that would propel Americans to the Moon. At Marshall, the group continued work on the Redstone-Mercury, the rocket that sent the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, on a suborbital flight on May 5, 1961.
“I would like to express my gratitude and that of the Marshall Space Flight Center for your dedicated effort as District Engineer of the U.S. Army Engineer District, Mobile…. You are to be congratulated for the manner in which the construction management techniques were initiated and exercised on facilities essential the space program,” von Braun wrote.
Raymond’s military career spanned 39 years. His first year of service was in the Pennsylvania National Guard while still in high school. His second year he served in the Regular Army as a Coast Guard Artilleryman at Fort Monroe, Va., before enrolling in the U.S. Army Military Academy from which he graduated and was commissioned in 1942.
During World War II, Raymond led a platoon in the 10th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division. Subsequently, he commanded Company B of the same unit, and was Deputy Commander of the same battalion at the conclusion of the war. Intermittently during World War II, he served in the Mediterranean Sea, encompassing four D-Day invasions in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and southern France.
Between the end of the war and taking command of the Mobile District, Raymond served on the staffs of the Infantry School and the Command and General Staff College, among other assignments. He earned his Master’s degree in Civil Engineering from Harvard University.
After departing from the Mobile District, Raymond served as Chief of the Engineer Personnel Branch in Washington, D.C., but after only a year in the position, he volunteered to deploy to Vietnam. In Vietnam, he was assigned as the Theater Engineer for the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, where he was responsible for building the base supporting the 500,000-strength deployed force.
His next change of station brought him back to the Southeast as the commander of the Corps’ South Atlantic Division, comprised of the districts in Wilmington, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Mobile, Ala. From that assignment, Raymond served as the Deputy Chief of Engineers, from which he retired as a major general in 1975. Among his awards are three Distinguished Service Medals, two Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars for valor, and a Purple Heart.
Raymond died in 2010 at the age of 92. “As the District Commander, then Lt. Col. Raymond established a legacy for us to follow,” said Mobile District’s Deputy Commander, Lt. Col. Landon Raby. “He set the standard in Mobile of what a premier district looks like. During his tenure, the locks and dams that were built and the NASA construction work are projects with which we are still involved. They are projects that are still productive and successful today and are truly a testament to Maj. Gen. Raymond’s lasting legacy.”