Ralph Wendell Anderson was born on April 28, 1922, in Clarksburg, Ross, Ohio to Fay Anderson and Gail Crabb Anderson. The Anderson family lived on a farm during that time. Ralph was the youngest child. He had two older brothers and two older sisters. In 1930, the Anderson family moved to Deerfield Township, Ross, Ohio where Ralph’s father worked as a garage mechanic. Ralph would attend the school there. A few years later, the family would once again move. They settled in Colerain, Ross, Ohio. Ralph would graduate from high school in 1940. On August 26, 1941, Ralph would enlist into the Army Air Corps as a private at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio.
Ralph received his basic training at Sheppard Field, Texas. He would later meet up with the 325th Bombardment Squadron of the 92nd Bomb Group at Barksdale Field in Louisana in March of 1942. They were then moved to MacDill Field, Florida, then to Sarasota Army Air Field, Florida in May 1942 for training. Ralph met his crew around this time. Also during this, he was promoted to a staff sergeant. Then in August of 1942, flew to RAF Bovingdon (AAF-112) in England. On January 6, 1943, the squadron relocated to RAF Alconbury (AAF-102). All the while, Ralph was flying many missions during these transitions. The group’s final relocation was to RAF Podington (AAF 109) where it remained until the end of the war in Europe. He served as a top turret gunner for B-17F #42-30803 with Hale’s Crew. The crew would include:
- 2Lt. George C. Hale - Pilot - Nebraska
- 1Lt. Everett D. Smith - Co-Pilot - New Mexico
- 2Lt. James M. Kelly - Navigator - Arkansas
- 2Lt. Paul H. Hughes - Bombardier - Indiana
- SSgt. Ralph W. Anderson - Top Turret Gunner - Ohio
- Sgt. Louis B. Madison - Ball Turret Gunner - Oregon
- SSgt. Loyd C. Quarles - Right Waist Gunner - Alabama
- SSgt. William G. Lilienthal Jr. - Left Waist Gunner - New York
- Sgt. Donald L. Wilson - Tail Gunner - Mississippi
- SSgt. Frank C. Lockman - Radio Operator - Wisconsin
Ralph’s final mission would take place on December 1, 1943, during a bombing mission over Monschau, Germany. After taking off from AAF-102 in the morning, they headed towards Leverkusen, Germany. However, due to equipment malfunctions, the lead bomber decided to head towards the secondary target, Siegburg, Germany. They would drop their load over the city then immediately head west. That is when flak fire started firing at the bombers above. Two hits struck the bomber’s ball turret and #2 engine, setting the entire inside of the bomber ablaze. The bomber continued to fly in formation for about three minutes before it drifted below the clouds and exploded at an altitude of about 15,000 feet. The main section of the bomber landed in Monschau, Germany. Of the ten crew members, only one survived. Sgt. Wilson, the tail gunner, had been blown out of the tail section. After landing, he was captured by the Germans and became a prisoner of war. For Ralph, due to his position in the plane, it is likely he was caught in the fire that started in the midsection of the bomber. Due to this, he was unable to escape and was most likely killed by the explosion in mid-air.
Ralph is interred at Browns Chapel Cemetery in Clarksburg, Ohio.
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 smartphone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen's name and read his/her story.
Ralph, thank you for your service,
Wikipedia - 325th Weapons Squadron, 92nd Operations Group