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Wisconsin Soldier Crafted AMA Patch While POW

May 22, 2014

WWII Vet Ray J. Sherman Shares His Story

In 1939, Ray J. Sherman was 16 when he bought his first motorcycle with the money he had saved from his paper route delivering the Milwaukee Journal and the Rockford Morning Star in the Evansville, Wis., area, according to his daughter, Sonjia J. Short. That purchase began a love of motorcycling that would emerge many years later in an amazing way.

Sherman’s first use of the Harley-Davidson was fairly ordinary, however. He used it to serve customers along a 70-mile route. Part of the space in his side bags was reserved for a tool kit, because the bike required frequent “adjustments.”

Sherman, who joined the AMA the year he bought his first bike, also took the Harley on camping trips, rode it in turkey runs and gypsy tours and did trick riding.

“His Harley was his only transportation until 1949, when he bought his first real car,” Short says.

In 1942, Sherman volunteered for the mechanized cavalry, but was assigned instead to the infantry and was deployed to Europe after basic training.

Sherman was captured by German troops during the battle at Anzio, Italy, on Feb. 16, 1944.

During his captivity, he traded for the necessary materials and embroidered an AMA patch similar to those he had worn before the war.

Sherman, who turns 91 in June, now resides in an independent-living apartment with his wife, Lynn.

In 2010, he donated the AMA patch, along with his war diary, to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, which is part of the University of Wisconsin system.

Sherman took time recently to answer some questions about his experiences.

 American Motorcyclist:  Did you compete or just ride for pleasure?

 Ray J. Sherman:  I enjoyed just riding, but also competed in gypsy tours, turkey runs, the Jack Pine Run and stunt riding. I could stand on the seat and jump over a broomstick. And I would lean over while riding and pick up a handkerchief with my teeth. 

 AM:  When did you stop riding?

 RJS:  I sold my last Harley in 1959. But I rode friends’ bikes a few times after that. My last ride was in 1975.

 AM:  What gave you the idea to make the AMA patch?

 RJS:  I was a prisoner with little to do. I loved motorcycles and enjoyed my membership in the AMA. I knew how to sew, figured out how to embroider and was able to barter items from my Red Cross packages with other prisoners (U.S., English and Russian POWs were all in the same camp) to get the proper color threads.

 AM:  How long did it take?

 RJS:  It took weeks to acquire the materials. I am not sure, but I think it took several days [to sew the patch]. [According to his war diary, Sherman started embroidering the patch on May 11, 1944.] Amazingly, I was able to keep the patch for the duration of my captivity and my escape near the end of the war.




The Shermans were members of the AMA-chartered Madison Motorcycle Club during the 1950s. 

Sherman’s full war diary can be found here: http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/WI/WI-idx?type=header&id=WI.ExPOW&isize=M.

The May 11, 1944, entry, in which he wrote that he started working on the AMA patch is here: http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/WI/WI-idx?type=goto&id=WI.ExPOW&isize=M&submit=Go+to+page&page=34.


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