Ralph Buel Bradshaw
Private, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Regiment of the Clemson Corps of Cadets
Wife, Sara Frances Bradshaw; Daughter, Rita Sue Bradshaw
Army Air Force, First Lieutenant
65th Fighter Squadron, 57th Fighter Group, XXII Tactical Air Corps, 12th US Army Air Forces, Europe, Grosseto, Italy.
Air Medal, Purple Heart
Apr 28, 1920
Nov 22, 1944
Killed in Action. Lieutenant Bradshaw, the pilot of a P-47D Thunderbolt fighter bomber, was flying his 39th combat mission when he was assigned, along with seven other aircraft, the task of attacking railroad tracks in the Po Valley in Northern Italy. In his dive bombing run, for some unknown reason, he went too low to release his bombs and, during his pull-out, the concussion of his own bomb explosion tore a section of the left wing off his aircraft. His aircraft then immediately crashed and burned.
Lieutenant Bradshaw’s body was recovered and initially buried in a civilian cemetery in Villa Poma, Italy. His body was exhumed and sent home for burial, on March 26, 1949, in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 34, Site 3578.
LETTER FROM ATKINSON:
Rev Guy N. Atkinson wrote Mrs. Bradshaw from Baxley last Wednesday a letter in which he told of meeting Lt. Evans Lowry, a returned soldier from the Italian front. This letter follows:Baxley, Ga., Dec 13, 1944
Dear Mrs. Bradshaw,
I had dinner today with Lt. Evans Lowry. When he told me that he was just back from Italy, I told him that I had just received sad news concerning a good friend who was in Italy. He asked his name. When I told him “Bradshaw”, he said “He was in the dairy business” and went on to describe Ralph. Lt. Lowry was in a hospital 110 miles north of Rome. Ralph visited him and had several talks with him between October 16 and 22th. He said Ralph was a very fine soldier and very popular. He said that you could hardly get any definite news about him inside of two months or it may be much longer. He said Ralph was in one of those single planes – P-47 I think he said, called the Thunderbolt – that right? He explained that they went out in squadrons of 4 to 8. That they flew high over the target and then dived upon it with great speed. He explained that the plane was very, very hard to hit when it came down in a dive and if Ralph was hit as he was in the dive that he had no chance to bail out. However, he said that the plane was much easier to hit before it dived and if it was hit then that Ralph is almost sure to be a prisoner since he would have ample time to bail out. He was very sorry to hear of this news.
I hope this hurried note will help you some. We can hope for the best. God bless each of you.
Guy N. Atkinson
SGT. ARTHUR RHODES GRIEF STRICKEN OVER BRADSHAW’S MESSAGE
Sgt. Arthur Rhodes, at home on furlough with his mother, Mrs. Arthur Rhodes, Sr., is grief stricken over news that came in two weeks ago about Lt. Ralph Bradshaw, since they left Cartersville together to join the service in August, 1941. The boys reported first to Ft. McPherson, and were sent to Jefferson Barracks, Mo., where they were given a six-weeks course. From there, they went to Las Vegas, Nevada, and there Rhodes has remained – being a mess sergeant
Lt. Bradshaw took his training as an air corps cadet at Gardner Field, Taft, California, later training at Luke Field, Phoenix, Arizona and at Santa Ana, Cal. He also trained near Waycross, Ga., before going overseas, Rhodes recalls.
Thursday, January 25, 1945 – LIEUT. BRADSHAW FELL WITH PLANE OVER ITALY ZONE
Mr. Wm. B. Bradshaw has received official word from the Army Air Forces advising him that his son, Lieut. Ralph Bradshaw, who has been reported missing in action since November 22 fell behind enemy lines in Italy, shortly after noon on November 22nd. Crew members of an accompanying plane were unable to obtain any further details as to the young officer’s fate, and there the matter rests for the time being.
Lieut. Bradshaw was married July 1, 1942 to Miss Sara Frances Moss of Los Angeles and their baby girl was born at Los Angeles November 7th last year. Although special efforts were made to let the young officer know of the arrival of his baby daughter, a letter written by him to his wife on the night before he made what may prove to have been his fatal flight advised he had not yet had any word from home bringing him the news which he had been so anxiously awaiting. His wife remains in Los Angeles with her infant daughter, Rita Sue.Official Information - The official letter follows: HEADQUARTERS ARMY AIR FORCES Washington, Jan 16th, 1945
Mr. Wm. B. Bradshaw P. O. Box 503 Cartersville, Ga.
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
I am writing you with reference to your son, First Lieutenant Ralph B. Bradshaw, who was reported by The Adjutant General as missing in action over Italy since November 22, 1944.
Further information has been received indicating that Lieut. Bradshaw was the pilot of a P-47 (Thunderbolt) fighter plane which participated in a dive-bombing mission over Italy on November 22, 1944. The report indicates that during this mission at about 1:00 pm while over the target your son’s fighter sustained damage and fell to the earth. The crew members of accompanying planes were unable to obtain any other details regarding the loss of Lieutenant Bradshaw’s fighter, therefore, the foregoing constitutes all the information presently available. There were no other persons in the plane with your son.
Please be assured that a continuing search by land, sea, and air is being made to discover the whereabouts of our missing personnel. As our armies advance over enemy occupied territory, special troops are assigned to this task and agencies of our government and allies frequently send in details which aid us in bringing additional information to you.Very Sincerely, E. A. BRADUNAS Major, Air Corps Notification Branch Assistant Chief of Staff, Personnel
Thursday, February 1, 1945 – RALPH BRADSHAW BELIEVED BY CHIEF TO BE KILLED
Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Bradshaw have received a letter from Lt. Col. G. O. Wymond, Jr., commanding officer of the unit in which Lt. Ralph Bradshaw distinguished himself in Italy, advising the parents that it is his belief, as well as that of his fellow officers, that Ralph was killed in a dive bombing explosion over an Italian target on the 22nd of last November.
This letter, which came a few days ago, gives full details, and follows in full:65TH FIGHTER SQUADRON 57TH FIGHTER GROUP, AAF APO 650, % Postmaster, New York, N. Y., 25 Nov. 1944
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
By the time you receive this letter you will have been notified by the War Department that your son is missing in action since the 22nd November 1944. I want to write this letter to let you know how it all happened and to let you know how very much we all thought of Brad.
Brad was on an eight ship mission assigned to attack and destroy a railroad in Northern Italy. In his dive bombing run for some unknown reason he went too low and the concussion of his own bomb tore his right wing off and he immediately crashed and burned. I know that Brad never even knew what happened as a concussion great enough to tear off a wing would positively knock the pilot out. Several of the pilots witnessed the entire incident and none had the slightest hope that Brad survived. The crash occurred well within enemy territory. At such time as we take that area, an investigation will be conducted to learn any additional information.
Brad’s personal belongings will be returned to you through The Quartermaster at such time as transportation is available. Additional information concerning personal affairs will be shortly forthcoming from the War Department. I’m having a small collection of pictures and other things I believe you all would be interested in sent to you as soon as possible.
I am sending this letter to you instead of Sarah for I understand she is resting and I know that you will best know how to tell her of this tragedy.
Brad participated in thirty-eight missions and he inflicted heavy damage on the enemy. He was developing into a superb leader. I have seen many pilots come and go through the squadron, but none that I had more confidence in or showed more promise than Brad.
May it console you to know that there are sixty “Fighting Cocks” that have lost a fine fellow pilot and one of their best friends. We know the anguish that is in your hearts and each and every one of us extend our deepest sympathy. Guys like Brad are saving our heritage for us; to them we owe everything.May God Know Best, Regretfully Yours, G. O. WYMOND, JR. Lt. Col., Air Corps Commanding
Other: 1Lt Ralph Buel Bradshaw, the son of Mr and Mrs William B. Bradshaw of Cartersville, GA, attended Clemson College during the academic year of 1938/1939. His name is listed in the 1939 TAPS, but there are no individual or class photos in the 1939 TAPS other than of the Regimental Staff. He did not return to Clemson for the next academic year. Upon returning to Cartersville, Lt Bradshaw was employed in the business of dairy product processing until he enlisted in the Army on 29 August 1941. He reported initially to Ft McPherson, GA and was sent to Jefferson Barracks, MO for six-weeks of training. From there, he was sent to Las Vegas, NV for duty. Lt Bradshaw was accepted into the Army Air Corps Cadet Training Program and was sent to Gardner Field in Taft, CA for flight training. He received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant on 28 July 1943. After commissioning, he received further training at Luke Field in Phoenix, AZ, Santa Ana, CA, and Waycross, GA prior to deploying overseas on 8 July 1944. Lt Bradshaw married Sara Frances Moss of Los Angeles, CA on 1 July 1942. Their daughter, Rita Sue, was born 7 November 1944, just three weeks before Lt Bradshaw’s death. At the time of his death, Lt Bradshaw had not received news of his daughter’s birth.
The following “Witness Statement” was taken from Missing Air Crew Reports of the U.S. Army Air Forces, 1941-1948, Report Number 9905, Year 1944, for P-47 Thunderbolt Fighter Aircraft, Serial Number 42-27255, Page 4:
I was flying on Lt. Bradshaw’s wing on a mission against railroad tracks in the Po Valley. As we peeled off into our dive-bombing run, I followed Lt. Bradshaw down and saw him make about a 45 degree dive. He went very low and got a direct hit on the track. I saw him pull out in a very shallow pull-out straight ahead. As his bombs exploded, I saw parts fly off his airplane. It looked like about four or five feet of his left wing blew off. His aircraft did two sort of rolling tumbles to the right and started to burn badly before it hit the ground. His aircraft hit the ground about one quarter of a mile past his bomb hit. The ship did not explode but it was almost completely in flames. I did not see the pilot get out and I believe it was impossible for him to do so.Signed SYLVESTER H. HENDRICKS, 2nd Lieut., Air Corps.
The following was taken from Missing Air Crew Reports of the U.S. Army Air Forces, 1941-1948, Report Number 9905, Year 1944, for P-47 Thunderbolt Fighter Aircraft, Serial Number 42-27255, Page 11, Report of Shot-Down Aircraft:
Place of Crash: Between Schivenoglia and Villa Poma, 3 KM N.W. of Poggio-Rusco on the railroad.
Grave Location: Civilian cemetery in Villa Poma, 3 KM N.W. of Poggio-Rusco on 24 Nov 44. 1 ident. tag, 1 religious medal and a prayer book placed in grave.
Reporting Office: Front Control 197 – Local Commander, Poggio-Rusco.
The following articles were retrieved in September, 2010 from the archives of the Tribune-News Newspaper, Cartersville, GA by Charles H. King ‘66, Brig Gen, USAF Retired, Member, Clemson Corps Board of Directors.
Thursday, December 7, 1944 – LIEUT.RALPH BRADSHAW MISSING OVER ITALY
An official message came to Mr. and Mrs. William B. Bradshaw late Monday from the War Department advising them that their oldest son, Lieut. Ralph Bradshaw, Army Air Corps, had been missing in action since November 22nd in the Italian theatre of operations. No further word has come through and yet the grief stricken parents, as well as his wife and young daughter, the latter in California with Mrs. Bradshaw’s parents, are hoping that more cheering news will come through at any moment advising that Lieutenant Bradshaw landed safely and is now a prisoner of war.
Lieutenant Bradshaw trained in California, brought his bride here for brief visits, and spent some time near Waycross to complete his training before going overseas. Made of daring and gallant stuff, Lieut. Ralph Bradshaw will certainly come through with flying colors, if he has gotten any of the “breaks” of war, is the confident belief of all who know this Cartersville flying soldier.
Thursday, December 14, 1944 – RALPH BRADSHAW, MISSING OVERSEAS, GIVEN PROMOTION
WITH THE 12th AAF IN ITALY – Promotion of Ralph B. Bradshaw to the rank of First Lieutenant was announced recently at headquarters of the Twelfth Air Force in Italy. Lieutenant Bradshaw, who is now listed as missing in action, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. William B. Bradshaw of Cartersville. He is a brother of Miss Mary Bradshaw, a student at Bessie Tift, Olin and Doris Bradshaw of Cartersville. His wife and young daughter are now with her parents in California.
A P-47 Thunderbomber pilot and holder of the Air Medal, Lieutenant Bradshaw has flown 38 missions totaling 80 hours. Lieutenant Bradshaw enlisted August 27, 1941, received his commission July 28, 1943 at Luke Field, Arizona and entered foreign service July 8, 1944.
Thursday, December 21, 1944 – BRADSHAW HAD NARROW ESCAPES BEFORE LAST TRIP
Although no official word has come through which would throw any light upon the whereabouts of Lieut. Ralph Bradshaw reported missing over the Italian front, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. William B. Bradshaw are holding out hope that he may either be a prisoner of war of the Germans or will ultimately make his way back into the American lines.
In letters home, Lt. Bradshaw mentioned the fact he had been in several close places since arriving in Italy, and on one occasion, landed in a forest after gliding to earth from a high altitude when something went wrong with his plane. Known by all his relatives and friends as a resourceful soldier, Lt. Bradshaw was able to get back to his own camp during the same day in which his first accident occurred.
Just what may have happened to him when his plane disappeared on his last mission November 22 may never be known, but his family and friends have not given up the hope that he may yet be found safe and sound.