Ronald T Luckey was born on 1 Oct 1922 in Ogden, Utah. His parents, James Willis Luckey (1874 -1924) and Elsie Tonks Luckey (1894-1979) were born in Illinois and Idaho or Utah. His father worked as a ticket agent for the railroad, he died on Oct 19, 1924 from a cerebral hemorrhage, his mother worked as a secretary after her husband’s death. Ronald had 1 brother Willis (1917) who died of pneumonia at age six in 1922 and two sisters, Virginia (1916) and Elsie (1921).
According to 1930 census his family was residing in Salt Lake City where his mother was a secretary. She later married again, Mr. Ivan Bell, and they all moved to Morgan City Utah. Ronald graduated from Morgan City High School.
He enlisted on 22 Dec 1939 and trained at Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois in the Army Air Forces and transferred to Hamilton Field in Novato California with the 35 Pursuit Group. On 1 Nov 1940 Ronald was sent to Clark Airfield in Luzon, Philippines. On 1 Oct 1941 the Pursuit squadrons at Clark were reorganized into the 24th Pursuit Group, Ronald was attached to the 20th Pursuit Squadron. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor the squadrons in the Philippines were on alert and intercept missions as the Japanese moved to take over the Philippine islands. Japanese began attacks on the forces in the Philippines after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941 until MacArthur was driven from the Islands in March 1942. Troops held out for another month before their surrender and the events of the Bataan Death March where approximately 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war were marched 65 miles to camps, thousands dying along the way. MAJ William Dyess from the 21st Pursuit Squadron shared some of the events when the troops surrendered at Bataan on 9 Apr 1942. “the sick, starving, and hopelessly outnumbered defenders of Bataan surrendered, and there began one of the most disgraceful chapters in the history of modern warfare–the Bataan Death March. Dyess, one of the survivors of that nightmare, later wrote an official report of the Bataan fighting, the Death March, and his escape from his captors nearly a year later. “Had the Americans and Filipinos known the fate that was in store for them,” he wrote, “though beaten, hungry, and tired from months of hardships in the last hectic days of combat, never would they have surrendered. The Death March followed a zigzag course across the island of Luzon, under the blazing tropical sun and along roads choked with dust from Japanese convoys. Dyess tried to keep his men together, since any too weak to walk were shot or beaten to death by their guards. The men were given no food for three days, and then only a mess kit of rice–all they were to have for six tortured days. At the end of the first day, the prisoners were allowed to drink from a filthy carabao (water buffalo) wallow. Any thirst-crazed man who made a break for one of the artesian wells along the road was shot. Several times, Japanese truck and tank drivers ran over stragglers.
On one day, Dyess’s group marched continuously for 21 hours. When they were allowed to rest, some 2,000 men were jammed into pens designed for a tenth that number, where many died or went out of their minds from exhaustion and thirst. Those who survived finally arrived at Camp O’Donnell, where Dyess was held for two months in indescribable filth and crowding with no medical attention and little food. He estimated that 2,200 Americans and 27,000 Filipinos died at O’Donnell from malnutrition, disease, and calculated brutality.”(1)
The prisoners were moved to the Cabanatuan Prison Camp in June of 1942, during this time Ronald, as well as many of the captured were listed as missing in action by the military. Records indicate that TSGT Ronald Luckey died from Malaria in that camp on July 22nd 1942. Ronald survived many brutal days on the death march and at the prison camps, but he could not overcome a disease that so many of his fellow servicemembers succumbed to with no treatment provided from the Japanese, who also lost many Soldiers to the same disease.
His gravestone is at Ogden City Cemetery, there is a memorial at Memorial Grove Salt Lake City and the American Memorial in Manila, Philippines.
TSGT Ronald Tonks Luckey gave his life in the service to our nation. His sacrifice will never be forgotten.
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org ). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 400,000+ of the US WWII fallen here on Fold3. Can you help write these stories? Related to this, there will be a smart phone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen's name and read his/her story.
(3) Ancestry.com- Census 1930
(4) Newspapers.com- Morgan County News July 6, 1945
(5) Newspapers.com- Salt Lake Tribune July 7, 1945
(6) Findagrave.com- Ronald T Luckey
(7) Ancestry.com- Utah Military record card