In Memory of
U.S. Air Force Second Lieutenant
Ralph Myron Calhoon
Bonesteel, South Dakota
Gregory County
March 23, 1921- January 13, 1944
Killed in Brooksville, Florida

Ralph Myron Calhoon

Ralph Myron Calhoon was born at Ideal, South Dakota on March 23, 1921. His parents' names were Edgar Leo & Artie Calhoon and he had one sister, Lola Marie Matuska. His hometown was Bonesteel, SD. He attended elementary and high school in Bonesteel. He was interested in airplanes and in playing baseball and basketball. He graduated from Bonesteel High School in 1938. He also received training at Grand Island Business College in Grand Island, Nebraska, in 1939.

He married Louise McCaskill June 30, 1943 at Blytheville, Arkansas. He was 22 and she was 20. They met while they were both working at the War Department in Washington, D.C. His son was born on January 24, 1944, after Ralph died.

Ralph trained on B26 medium bombers at Dodge City, Kansas, and B17 four-engine bomber, “Flying Fortress,” at the Air Force School of Applied Tactics. He never went overseas.  He was stationed at Orlando and Brooksville, Florida. He achieved a rank of Second Lieutenant. Ralph’s battalion was 99th Bomb Squadron and 9th Bomb Group. Calhoon was killed during a routine combat training flight about 10 miles from the army airfield at Brooksville, FL. They were training to protect a remaining formation after the loss of fighter planes.

Lt. C.H. Baldwin of Brooksville, Fla., a close friend of Lt. Calhoon accompanied the body to Bonesteel for the funeral.  In an interview with the Bonesteel Enterprise he told the story of the accident in which Calhoon and eight others lost their lives.  The accident occurred two weeks before his scheduled transfer to the European Theater. He had received his command pilot wings and been assigned his own plane and crew two weeks before, according to information provided by his son Ralph Jr.

Baldwin’s account of the accident that occurred on Thursday, January 13 about eleven o’clock in the morning follows.  “The weather was quite rough that day. There were seven airplanes in a formation flight of B17 bombers flying at an altitude of about 1000 feet at 170 miles per hour. The ship, which Ralph was piloting, was below and slightly ahead of another ship. Suddenly the two ships came together, as one either rose or the other came down. The ship Ralph was piloting burst into flames and came to the ground.”

Lt. Baldwin met Lt. Calhoon in Dodge City, Kansas, the previous summer and both were transferred to Florida in September. The Baldwins and Calhoons lived together in Florida. Mrs. Baldwin accompanied Mrs.Calhoon to Bonesteel for the funeral

Someone had once asked Ralph why he had joined the Air force.  His reply was, “To protect my family and friends by stopping the enemy from coming on American soil.”

His only child, a son, Ralph Edgar Calhoon, Jr., was born in Burke on January 24, 1944, eleven days after his father was killed. He and his mother Louise Collins reside in Hewitt, TX. One sister Lola Calhoon Fedde Matuska, of Rapid City, SD, also survives him.  At the time of his death he was also survived by his parents.

In a letter received with the approval to publish this biography, his son wrote, “Although I never got to know my Dad, I feel that he influenced the paths I took in life.”  The younger Calhoon explained that he was not able fly in the Air Force because his vision was less that 20/20.  However, he did finish ROTC at Baylor University and served in the U.S. Air Force.  He served as an intelligence officer in Europe and South East Asia during the Viet Nam War.  He is now an attorney at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Texas.  He says, “I feel that somehow I was destined to help veterans and their dependents who have sacrificed so much for our country.”  He also wrote that he had recently realized a life long ambition when he took a flight on a restored B-17 bomber, the same plane his father had flown.

Respectfully submitted by: Dawn Chasing Hawk, 10th grade Bonesteel-Fairfax High School, Bonesteel, South Dakota April 3,2002. Information for this entry was provided by his sister Lola Matuska and his son Ralph Calhoon Jr.