World War II Veteran Shares his Story with Students
JEFFERSON CITY - As this country loses more and more of its World War II veterans each day, one local veteran decided to share his legacy with students this Veterans Day.
Speaking at both Pioneer Trail Elementary School in Jefferson City and Linn State Technical College, 86-year-old Ralph Kalberloh told student assemblies about his imprisonment in a German prisoner-of-war camp.
His story begins when he was just 18-years-old, and he enlisted in the Air Force against his mother's wishes. After just a few months at war, his squadron led more than 1,000 B-17 and B-24 bombers in an assault against German fighter planes.
During the assault, pieces of flak from the other planes hit his own, and Kalberloh watched helplessly as his plane lost fuel.
When the pilot had to crash land the plane, Kalberloh parachuted out and landed in a small German town. Alone, lost, and with just the candy bar he had in his pocket, Kalberloh spent the next five days alone in the woods.
"There was as much terror then as there was in that eleven minutes in that bomb run."
But after nearly a week without food or water, Kalberloh turned himself in to German soldiers. He lived for about three months in the German POW camp in Nuremberg.
On April 29, 1945, U.S. General George Patton and his 3rd armored division overran the camp. He watched as the U.S. soldiers drove up to the camp in their tanks.
"There was General Patton standing on a jeep. And he was saluting us.That was and still is the greatest day of my life," said Kalberloh.
Kalberloh says it's he's trying to preserve this memory for future generations.
"There are very few of us left," he explains. "This is a history that's going to be gone."