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Personnel

S/Sgt

Ralph J. KALBERLOH

Army Serial Number: 37722249
Assigned to the 100th Bombardment Group
Location:
Unit: 350th Bombardment Squadron
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Position: Tail Gunner
Beginning Date of 100th Service: Unknown
Time of Service at Thorpe Abbotts: Unknown - Unknown

Additional 100th Service Notes

Status: POW
MACR: 12044
CR: 12044
Comments: 3 FEB 45 BERLIN (FLAK)

Comments and Notes

Memo 1:
CREW

2ND LT WALDO J. OLDHAM P POW 03 FEB 45 BERLIN
2ND LT CARL D. DUNN CP POW 03 FEB 45 BERLIN
2ND LT ROSS F. PURDY NAV POW 03 FEB 45 BERLIN
F/O HOWARD R. LEACH BOM POW 03 FEB 45 BERLIN
CPL WILLIAM E. CHARLTON ROG POW 03 FEB 45 BERLIN
CPL PATRICK J. TOOLEY TTE POW 03 FEB 45 BERLIN
CPL RICHARD G. CHAPPLE BTG POW 03 FEB 45 BERLIN
CPL TOM E. RAMSEY WG POW 03 FEB 45 BERLIN sn# 15328980
CPL RALPH J. KALBERLOH TG POW 03 FEB 45 BERLIN

350TH SQDN.. CREW, AS ABOVE, JOINED THE 100TH 08 JAN 1945

MACR # 12044, Microfiche #4417 A/C #44-6092 "Dixie's Delight"

IT IS POSSIBLE SEVERAL OF THE ABOVE MAY HAVE BEEN EVADEES RATHER THAT POWS.
According to John Miller (information from "Wally Oldham") three crew members did evade capture
for varying lengths of time but eventually all were captured. Sgt Ramsey was an evadee for 8 days until his feet froze and he
could go not further. He spent almost 3 months in a POW camp and was liberated on April 28, 1945

EYEWITNESS: "The right wing of A/C #44-6092 was hit by flak at 1129 hours just before the turn at the I.P. As the formation turned left, this aircraft continued on course or veered slightly to the right. No#3 engine was burning and the aircraft was losing altitude. One (1) chute was seen to leave immediately after the aircraft was hit. All the others followed immediately after this first chute. The aircraft continued flying, apparently under AFCE control, in an ever decending curve until it struck the earth and exploded. Chutes were seen to be drifting toward Berlin."

MISSION TO BERLIN by SGT TOM E. RAMSEY (mpf 2002)

AWAKENED IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS OF FEBRUARY 3, 1945, WE KNEW THE TIME HAD COME FOR OUR FIRST REAL BOMBING MISSION. FROM HOWARD LEACH( BOM): "IT WAS 3:30AM, AN ORDERLY ENTERED OUR BARRACKS TRUNING ON THE ONE OVERHEAD LIGHT AND BLOWING HIS WHISTLE. IT WAS HIS DUTY TO AWAKEN THE CREWS SCHEDULED TO FLY THAT DAY. OUTSIDE, WE COULD HEAR THE COUGHING OF THE ENGINES AS THE GROUND CREWS STARTED PREFLIGHTING THE AIRCRAFT SCHDEULED TO FLY. WE HURRIEDLY DRESSED AND MADE OUR WAY IN THE DIM LIGHT TO THE MESS HALL FOR THE 0400 BREAKFAST BEFORE REPORTING TO THE BRIEFING BUILDING. FLIGHT CREW WERE GIVEN FRESH EGGS IN PLACE OF THE USUAL POWDERED EGGS. ASSEMBLED HERE WERE THE OFFICERS OF 38 CREW TO FLY THAT DAY. IT WAS A MOST DRAMATIC DAY IN THE LIVES OF NERVOUSLY AWAITING THE APPEARANCE OF THE BRIEFING OFFICERS. A CURTAIN WAS DRAPED OVER ONE CORNER OF THE ROOM CONCEALING THE TARGET FOR THE DAYS MISSION. THERE WAS LITTLE TALK, THE VETERAN CREWS WHO HAD ATTENDED OTHER SUCH BRIEFINGS WERE OBVIOUSLY NERVOUS. FOR SOME IT WAS TO BE THEIR LAST MISSION AND RETURN TO THE STATES. ALL THEY NEEDED WAS A "MILK RUN" TO BRING THEM SAFELY HOME. THEY REMEMBERED THE DECEMBER 31 HAMBURG RAID AND MISSING 109 COMRADES. WE WERE TOO GREEN TO GRASP THE TENSION IN THAT ROOM. SOMEONE YELLED ATTENTION! BRINGING US TO OUR FEET AS COL. JEFFREY ENTERED THE ROOM FOLLOWED BY OTHER OFFICERS INVOLVED IN THE BRIEFING INCLUDING MAJOR'S CROSBY AND VENTRISS. WITHOUT ANY HESITANCY HE ANNOUNCED, "GENTLEMEN, THE TARGET IS BERLIN AND THE CURTAIN WAS DRAWN REVEALING THE MISSION. THRE WAS A VOICE IN THE BACK, "OH MY GOD!" OPERATIONS OFFICER LT COL JOHN WALLACE THEN PROCEEDED TO SPELL OUT THE DETAILS. WE WERE TO BOMB THE RAILHEAD IN THE CENTER OF BERLIN NEAR THE TEMPELHOF AIRDROME."

AFTER BREAKFAST WE SSEMBLED AT THE PLANES AND AWAITED THE ARRIVAL OF THE OFFICERS. THE GROUND CREWS WERE ALREADY LOADING 50-CALIBUR AMMO, BOMBS AND READYING THE PLANES FOR TAKEOFF. THE OFFICERS SOON ARRIVED AND WE TOOK OFF AROUND 0715 HOURS. THE MISSION INCLUDED 1003 HEAVY BOMBERS WITH 10,000 MEN ABOARD PLUS FIGHTER SQUADRONS FOR SUPPORT. THE 100TH WAS SELECTED TO LEAD THE 13 COMBAT WING COMPOSED OF THE 100TH, THE 95TH AND THE 390TH BOMB GROUPS. MAJOR ROBERT ROSENTHAL LED THE 100TH. I CAN ADD NO FURTHER DETAILS EXCEPT THAT THE BRIEFING OFFICERS STATED THAT FLAK WOULD BE MINIMAL OVER THE TARGET, WHICH WAS THE RAILHEAD AND GOVERNMENT CENTER IN CENTRAL BERLIN.

NOTE FROM SGT RAMSEY: JUST GOES TO SHOW YOU WHAT OFFICERS KNOW OR CLAIM TO KNOW. BERLIN WAS ONE OF THE MOST HEAVILY DEFENDED TARGETS IN EUROPE! AS WE FORMED UP OVER THE CHANNEL, I RADIOED THE COCKPIT AND ASKED PERMISSION TO PRACTICE FIRE OUR GUNS. IT WAS AT THIS TIME THAT CHAPPLE DISCOVERED THAT THE BALL TURRET AMMO HATCH HAD COME OPEN, CAUSING BELTS OF 50-CALIBUR AMMO TO SPILL OUT AND FLAP AGAINST THE BALL . HE WAS ORDERED TO CUT THE AMMO LOOSE AND TO REMAIN IN THE BALL TO TRACK ANY ATTACKING AIRCRAFT. WHEN WE RAN INTO HEAVY FLAK NEAR AND OVER THE TARGET, I CALLED FOR CHARLTON TO MAN THE RIGHT WAIST POSITION, WHICH HE HAD BEEN ASSIGNED TO DO. I HAD OBSERVED SOME UNIDENTIFIED AIRCRAFT IN THE DISTANCE BUT THEY DID NOT APPROACH OUR GROUP. I THEN NOTICED CHARLTON LYING ON THE FLOOR OF THE RADIO ROOM JUST FORWARD OF THE WAIST AREA. I THOUGHT AT FIRST THAT HE HAD BEEN HIT, SO I CALLED IN THE INFORMATION. I LEFT MY POSTION AND WENT TO ASSIST HIM., DISCOVERING THAT HE HAD SOMEHOW LOST HIS OXYGEN MASK. WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF LEACH, WE FINALLY GOT HIS MAKS BACK ON AND ONCE REVIVED WITH OXYGEN, HE APPEARED UNINJURED. AS WE FLEW THROUGH THE INTENSE FLAK, THERE WAS A LOT OF PILOT AND CREW EXCHANGES OVER THE INTERPHONES. I LEARNED THAT WE HAD LOST AN ENGINE OVER THE TARGET. DURING THIS TIME, LT COTNER'S SHIP EXPLODED IN A GREAT BALL OF ORANGE FLAME.

I CONCUR WITH WALLY OLDHAM THAT THE EXPLOSION TOOK PLACE FORWARD AND TO THE LEFT OF OUR SHIP. WHEN THE EXPLOSION OCCURRED I INSTINCTIVELY DROPPED DOWN BEHIND THE ARMOR PLATE THAT COVERED THE AREA BELOW THE WAIST POSTION. AFTER WE FEW THROUGH THE DEBRIS I STOOD UP AND DISCOVED THAT MY AMMO RACK, POSITIONED AT EYE LEVEL AND TO THE RIGHT HAD TAKEN A DIRECT FLAK HIT. I WOULD SURELY HAVE BEEN KILLED HAD I BEEN STANDING AT MY STATION. AT THE SAME TIME, CHAPPLE ENCOUNTED FLAK HITTING THE BALL TURRET AND HE HURRIEDLY EXTRACTED HIMSELF FROM THAT POSITON. THE TURRET SUBSEQUENTLY TOOK A MAJOR HIT THAT WOULD MOST LIKELY HAVE KILLED HIM HAD HE REMAINED THERE. TOOLEY LEFT THE UPPER TURRET TO TRANSFER FUEL AND UPON RETURNING, FOUND THAT HIS STATION HAD BEEN DAMAGED AS WELL. I DON'T RECALL WHAT HAPPENED TO KALBERLOH'S TAIL POSTION, BUT HE VACATED HIS STATION DURING THE BOMB RUN. WITH ALL OF THIS GOING ON WE STILL MANAGED TO DROP OUR BOMBS. CONSIDERING ALL THAT HAPPENED I'M CERTAIN SOME GREATER POWER WAS LOOKING OVER US. THE GERMANS WERE NOT SO FORTUNATE. OUR PLANES HIT THE RAILHEAD AND GOVT COMPLEX, DESTROYING MANY BUILDINGS AND KILLING OVER 2000 PEOPLE.

IT IS MY RECOLLECTION THAT WE ONLY LOST ONE ENGINE OVER THE TARGET. WALLY REPORTED A PROP WINDMILLING ON ANOTHER ENGINE BUT I THOUGHT THAT WE LOST THAT ONE AND A THIRD AFTER WE HAD LEFT THE TARGET ZONE. WE IMMEDIATELY JOINED ANOTHER GROUP AFTER LEAVING THE TARGET ZONE BUT TOOLEY PROTESTED THAT WE COULDN'T KEEP UP WITH ONLY TWO OR THREE ENGINES FUNCTIONING. DURING THIS TIME WE ENCOUNTERED MORE FLAK AND SUSTAINED ADDITIONAL DAMAGE. AS WE STARTED TO LOSE ALTITUDE, THERE WAS CONSIDERABLE CONFUSION AS TO OUR POSITION. PURDY HAD BECOME COMPLETELY LOST. FEARFUL THAT WE WERE HEADING OUT OVER THE NORTH SEA, WALLY TURNED 180 DEGREES AND HEADED BACK TOWARDS GERMANY. SHORTLY THEREAFTER HE ORDERED US TO ABANDON SHIP.

WE IN THE WAIST SECTION (ALL BUT WALLY, CARL, AND HOWARD) IMMEDIATELY DONNED OUR PARACHUTES. I HAD THE RESPONSIBILITY TO JETTISON THE WAIST DOOR, WHICH I PROMTLY DID. I WAS THE FIRST TO BAIL OUT, BUT PROBABLY THE LAST TO LAND SINCE I IMMEDIATELY PULLED THE RIPCORD. I REMEMBER SPINNING LIKE A BALL UPON EXITING THE PLANE AND THE CHUTE OPENING WITHOUT A SEVERE JERK. I NEVER SAW THE PLANE NOR DO I RECALL SEEING ANY OTHER CHUTES. APPROACHING THE GROUND, ALL I COULD SEE WAS DENSE FOREST, SO I HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO FALL THROUGH THE CANOPY. I CROSSED MY LEGS AND BROUGHT MY ARMS ACROSS MY FACE, AS I HAD LEARNED THROUGH TRAINING. I WENT THROUGH A LARGE PINE OR FIR TREE AND HIT THE GROUND WITH A THUD. I WAS UNINJURED AND THE CHUTE CAME THROUGH WITH ME. FORTUNATELY, I STILL HAD MY GI BOOTS WITH ME, WHICH I HAD SLUNG AROUND MY NECK BEFORE BAILING OUT ".
Memo 2:
POW/KIA notes: Crew had been at Thorpe Abbotts less than a month.

******************

Posted on Friday, September 18, 2020 10:00 am Posted in Health by VAntage Point Contributor 102 views

On Feb. 3, 1945, 19-year-old Ralph Kalberloh found himself serving in the Army Air Corps. He was a tail gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress, “Dixie’s Delight.” Kalberloh’s plane was part of an air armada of more than 2,000 bombers and fighters lumbering toward Berlin.

After spending more than eight hours crammed in the tail section of his plane, the tall, lanky farm kid from Hardin, Missouri, had arrived over the most heavily defended German target in Europe.

“We lost our first engine over Berlin. We lost another on our way to Hamburg which was our exit point from enemy territory. From there, we were supposed to fly over the North Sea on our way back to our base in England. Then we lost a third engine directly over Hamburg from flak, so we were down to just one engine at that point.”

As the heavily damaged plane began to lose altitude over the frigid water, the pilot had no choice but to reverse course and head back over Germany so that the nine-man crew could bail out over land. Kalberloh explained that a person could only expect to live approximately 30 minutes in the North Sea because of the water’s extremely cold temperature.

Six feet tall – had to crawl out
“In a B-17, the tail section is very tight. To get out of the plane I had to crawl out because I was six feet tall. When the order came to bail out, I took off so fast I didn’t even unplug my oxygen mask, I just tore it off the wall. When I got to the center of the plane where all the other guys were, I bailed out through the waist door.”

As he landed, Kalberloh’s parachute became entangled in the top of a tall tree. The momentum of his body and the tension of the chute’s suspension lines as he bounced up and down caused the branch to break. He dropped to the ground ? alone in enemy territory without food, water or a map.

Kalberloh had just completed his first and last bombing mission.

After five days without eating and the possibility of being captured by more aggressive German troops in the area, such as the SS, Kalberloh surrendered to the constable of a small town and officially became a prisoner of war (POW).

National POW/MIA Recognition Day – September 18

National POW/MIA Recognition Day is commemorated each year on the third Friday in September. The purpose is to honor those who served as prisoners of war and those still missing in action (MIA). This year, National POW/MIA Recognition Day will be observed Sept. 18.

Long Description
Ralph Kalberloh and Army Air Corps portrait on Sept. 11, 2020. (Photo by Barbara Kalberloh)

“We owe a debt of gratitude to our Veterans that never can be repaid,” said Patricia Hall, medical center director of Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia, Missouri. “However, those who experienced unimaginable hardships as prisoners of war and those who remain missing must be recognized ? not just for their sacrifice and bravery, but also for their dedication to our nation. I ask everyone to take time this Sept. 18, to honor these American heroes by remembering what they did for this country.”

Following his surrender, Kalberloh eventually was sent to Stalag VII-A, Germany’s largest POW camp of the Second World War. Located north of Moosburg, a town in Bavaria, there were more than 76,000 allied prisoners in the main camp (and another 40,000 in nearby labor camps) when it was liberated on April 29, 1945.

General Patton saluted us as he drove by

“Each one of those POW camps had a main street that ran down the middle of them. On that day, two tanks from the Third Army, with a jeep between them, came through the front gate and down that street. In the jeep was General George Patton. As he drove by, he saluted us.”

After returning to the U.S., Kalberloh married and had a child. He lost his first wife of 50 years to a heart attack. Kalberloh since has remarried. He and his current wife Barbara have been married for 25 years. They reside in Jefferson City, Missouri.

At 95 years old, an emotional Kalberloh explained how he felt that day in 1945 when he was liberated. “I cried,” he said through tears. “I was so happy. I’m sorry for crying. It was the happiest day of my life.”

The staff at Truman VA remembers the sacrifice and service of Ralph Kalberloh and all others who served as POWs or remain missing. Additionally, we thank all our Veterans for their service.

Jeff Hoelscher is the public affairs officer for the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital.

KIA / MIA / EVA / INT Information:

Target:
Berlin
Aircraft:
"Dixie
Date:
1945-02-03
Cause:
FLAK

Crew List

1st Crew List

Use your thumb to scroll through the results box below.

Rank Name Pos Status
LT OLDHAM, Waldo J. P POW
Lt DUNN, Carl D. CP POW
LT PURDY, Ross F. NAV POW
F/O LEACH, Howard R. BOM POW
S/SGT TOOLEY, Patrick J. TTE POW
T/SGT CHAPPLE, Richard G. ROG POW
T/SGT CHARLTON, William E. ROG POW
S/Sgt RAMSEY, Tom E. WG POW
S/Sgt KALBERLOH, Ralph J. TG POW