22 September 1943 — Debden England
Ralph Hofer was born in Salem, Dent County Missouri in 1921. Because of his boyish antics and complete disregard for military discipline, the Kidd is considered by many to be America’s “bad boy” of WWII, not unlike the Silver Screen idol of the 1950’s, James Dean. With his long hair and orange and blue football jersey Kidd Hofer certainly stands out as one of the most memorable characters of the Second World War.
A gifted athlete and Golden Gloves boxer, Kidd Hofer was one of the many young American men who crossed the border into Canada and volunteered for service in the RCAF before America entered the war. Hofer who called Salem Missouri home wanted to fly a fantastic airplane such as the Supermarine Spitfire against the Nazis, who were trying to conquer the world. Ralph joined theRCAF just after his 20th birthday in July of 1941. After serving in the RCAF for two years, Hofer transferred into the USAAF .and by September 1943 was a Flight Officer in the USAAF. He was sent to Debden England and was assigned to 334 Squadron flying P-47s with the 4th Fighter Group. Members of the 4th Fighter Group were known as the “Debden Eagles”, a reference to the 4th’s Royal Air Force Eagle Squadron heritage.
On October 8, 1943 the Kidd scored his first air-to-air victory on his first combat mission when he shot down an Me 109 over the Zuider Zee and never looked back. He went on to become one of the best pilots in the 4th Fighter Group. By late April 1944 he had 9confirmed kills and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. Prior to that promotion, Ralph was the highest scoring Flight Officer in the USAAF. Hofer was known for not maintaining radio discipline and incurred the wrath of Group Commander, Col. Don Blakeslee on more than one occasion. One of his more memorable R/T quotes was "Gee ain't the Alps pretty". The "Kidd" was also one of the top strafers in the 8th Air Force with 15 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground. Hofer scored his last confirmed air-to-air victory on May 28, 1944 8th Air Force mission to Magdeburg, Germany while flying his famous P-51B Mustang “Salem Representative” coded QP-L.
The escapades of this great ace came to an enigmatic end on July 2, 1944. On a mission to Budapest, Hungary Kidd went missing following a huge air battle over the capitol city. Hofer, flying a borrowed airplane, was last seen as his squadron was being attacked by a superior force Me 109s. On his way back to Italy he spotted a Luftwaffe base near Mostar, Yugoslavia and while strafing it he was shot down and killed.
Lt. Ralph K. Hofer was buried in a common grave near Mostar with 20 other US. Flyers and remained there until 1950 when his remains along with the others were brought back to the United States. Hofer was returned to his home state and is buried at the Jefferson Army Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis Missouri
In addition to his aerial victories Kidd Hofer was awarded the DFC with 6 oak leaf clusters, 4 Air Medals and the Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm.