They knew each other in high school but didn’t begin dating until later. The day after Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Ralph enlisted in the then Army Air Corp.
They married in May the following year, just before he was called to duty. Mother was with him during part of his training and was there to pin his wings on him when he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in February 1943.
Mother was pregnant by this time so moved back home with her folks to await the baby’s arrival. Meanwhile Ralph was sent to California to train on the B-24 Liberator Bombers.
My brother was born in July. When he was a month old, Ralph was granted a leave and came home to meet his son.
The last time my mother heard from Ralph was a postcard from Hawaii saying how beautiful it was there and they should visit there sometime.
In October, three months after my brother was born, my mother received a telegram from the War Department saying her husband had been killed, along with his crew, and they would send details later. She never heard another word from the War Department.
However, one of the mothers of another crew member asked the War Department for the next-of-kin’s addresses so she could send sympathy cards. It turned out there was one survivor and he had not told his folks about the incident that lead to the deaths. When the survivor’s mother received a sympathy card, she wrote her son asking for an explanation.
The story: The plane with ten crew members aboard was somewhere between the Fiji Islands and Australia. Ralph was the bomber pilot. Something went wrong with the engines and the plane crashed into the ocean. When the lone survivor surfaced, all he could see was the nose of the plane with a life raft attached to it. He climbed on and floated for 24 hours until a rescue plane picked him up.
My mother’s first husband is buried in the Pacific Ocean. He is memorialized at the Honolulu Memorial which is located within the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Those memorialized here – over 18,000 from WWII alone – are the Missing in Action, lost, or buried at sea in the Pacific during WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
I think of Ralph today as his son, my brother, a Vietnam Veteran and a Commander in his VFW Post, prepares to give a speech today to honor those special people on this Memorial Day.
I think of Ralph today and ALL who served and especially those who were lost defending our country, with heartfelt thanks.