Skip to main content

Archives at The Museum of Flight

Opray Family Papers

Identifier: 1999-09-25
The Opray Family Papers is comprised of World War I and World War II era materials, including a scrapbook, newsletters and newspapers, and assorted ephemera.

The bulk of the collection is related to World War II, primarly consisting of a scrapbook. The scrapbook has been disassembled for preservation reasons. Items have been attached to the pages using tape and/or glue and often have a one or two word typed description. The contents were likely collected by Joe Opray, a member of the 635th Tank Destroyer Battalion, during his 1942-1945 service and have been kept in original order. The scrapbook includes photographic postcards of Camp Hood (Texas), where Opray trained, and other locations, such as Belgium, France, and England, as well as clippings and informational leaflets. The scrapbook has several pages with envelopes glued on, which are captioned as holding assorted foreign paper currency, including from France. There is also paper currency from the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Mexico. Many of the envelopes are blank and none hold coin, though they are captioned as such. Additionally, there is Nazi paraphernalia, including German military patches, armbands, one of which has a swastika on it, and a mine marker flag. The scrapbook also holds military records, including General Orders No. 20 issued May 9, 1945 and is a proclamation of the war's end, and a May 29, 1945 commendation from Colonel John C. MacDonald to the 635th Tank Battalion regarding their service during the war. Additionally, there are fifteen (15) black-and-white photographs which depict a prison camp in New Ulm, Germany, and unidentified people in Lombach and Offenbacher, Austria.

Additionally, there are nineteen (19) issues of the Stars and Stripes newspaper, issued from June 12, 1944 to April 23, 1945. The newspapers cover general World War II news and events. Some issues are incomplete. There is also a small amount of ephemera, including four (4) World War II era maps and a poem, "A Hitch in Hell..." written by Joe Opray in March 1943.

At the end of the collection are several 1919 issues of The Dirigible, a newsletter that was printed aboard the USS Zeppelin, a large passenger liner that transported members of the American Expeditionary Forces back home after the conclusion of World War I.


  • 1919-1945


Language of Materials

All materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. For more information contact us.

Conditions Governing Use

The Museum of Flight (TMOF) Archives is the owner of the physical materials in the archives and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from TMOF archives before any publication use. TMOF does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.


0.75 Cubic Feet (1 flat box)


Joseph E. Opray (1919-1992) was born in Oregon and served in World War II with the United States Army 635th Tank Battalion. The collection contains primarily World War II era materials including a scrapbook, several issues of the Stars and Stripes newspaper and assorted ephemera, including a poem, "A Hitch in Hell" by Joe Opray. There are also issues of the 1919 newsletterThe Dirigible from theUSS Zeppelin as it brought troops home from World War I.

Historical Note: The Dirigible

The name of the newsletter The Dirigible is a play on the name of the ship -- the USS Zeppelin was named after Ferdinand von Zeppelin, founder of the Zeppelin Airship Company, but the vessel upon which this newsletter was printed was actually a passenger liner. The USS Zeppelin was originally launched in June 1914 by the German shipping company Norddeutscher Lloyd. The ship sailed very little after its launch, however, because of the outbreak of World War I. At the close of the war, the ship was given to Great Britain as part of Germany's war reparations, and the ship was placed under the management of the White Star Line. The ship was subsequently loaned to the United States Navy, who renamed the ship theUSS Zeppelin and assigned her to the New York Division of the Cruiser and Transport Force. In this capacity the ship transported over 15,000 members of the American Expeditionary Forces back home from Europe during the course of 1919. At the end of 1919, the ship was returned to the British, who sold it to the Orient Steam Navigation Company in 1920. The ship was at this point retrofitted as a passenger liner and renamed theSS Ormuz.

It is not known which member of the Opray family served aboard the USS Zeppelin, but handwritten on the back of one of the issues is the following note:

"For Mary - These papers were published aboard the [USS] Zeppelin while bringing troops home from Brest, France after the first World War - in 1919 - The[USS] Zeppelin was taken from Germany at the close of the War as a payment of damages to the United States. Daddy had charge of the meals aboard ship, buying their supplies and planning the meals."
Biographical Note: Joseph E. Opray Joseph E. Opray was born in January 7, 1919 in Oregon. Opray enlisted in the United States (US) Army in March 1942 and began his training at Camp Hood (Texas). Opray was assigned to the 635th Tank Battalion which was deployed to England in February 1944. He survived the war and returned to the US. Opray died July 5, 1992.

No further information is known.


Biography derived from collection materials.


No further accruals are expected.

Existence and Location of Copies

Materials from this collection have been digitized and are available at The Museum of Flight Digital Collections.

Separated Materials

The following material has been separated from the archival component and is kept in Objects storage:
  • Four (4) German insignia pins

  • One (1) silver pendant

The following material has been separated from the archival component and is kept in the Library:
  • Two (2) issues of Yank Weekly, November 12, 1944 and April 22, 1945


Guide to the Opray Family Papers
Completed - Level 3
L. Zaborowski, J. Parent
2014, 2018
Description rules
Language of description
Edition statement
2nd Edition

Revision Statements

  • 2018: This finding aid has been revised to reflect updated DACS and Museum of Flight standards.
  • November 2018: Finding aid migrated to ArchivesSpace.

Repository Details

Part of the The Museum of Flight Archives Repository

9404 East Marginal Way South
Seattle Washington 98108-4097

The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
Contact us with a research request