Date of Birth: October 28, 1913
Place of Birth: Swede Creek Township, Riley County, Kansas
Father and Mother's Names:
William Henry Hagenmaier and Mother – Martha Pauline (Weber)
Date Entered Service: February 24, 1941
Service Branch: Army Air Corps
Rank/Specialty: Staff Sergeant, Assistant Armorer on the B-17 Bomber "Sweet L.O. Ease."
Service ID: 37002735
Division/Company/Unit info: 338th Bomber Squadron, 96th Bomb Group.
Awards and Commendations: Air Medal for Distinguished Service Cross and Oak Leaf Cluster.
Riley Connection: Lived in Swede Creek Township, Riley County, Kansas.
Date of Death (and Age): KIA (Killed in Action) on May 27, 1944 (age 29).
Place of Death: Villy le Haut, France
Grave Location: Fancy Creek – Randolph Cemetery, Randolph, KS.
Bio: Ralph took his training as an aerial gunner at Harlingen, Texas, where he was given his “wings” in November 1943. Then, he was sent to the replacement center at Salt Lake City, Utah, where his bomber crew was organized. From there, they went to Sioux City, Iowa, where they received their combat training. After a 10-day furlough in March, the crew was sent to Kearney, Nebraska, for the delivery of their bomber to them and in less than a week, they took the Iceland route to England, where they landed early in April 1944. They immediately entered combat, flying over Germany and occupied countries. Ralph had attained the Staff Sergeant rank in the air forces. He was well liked by his officers and was often given a chance to show his dependability. He was given the Air Medal for Distinguished Service, which he had sent to his parents just days before he was reported missing. He was to be awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster, which will be given his parents through the General of the U.S. Army Air Force who is stationed at Omaha, Nebraska. On May 27, 1944, his bomber collided with another of our own aircraft south of Dieppe, France. The War Department notified his parents that he was missing in action. Later, they learned that only eight parachutes were seen to have opened from the two planes involved. After weeks of anxious waiting, word came from the German government through the International Red Cross that he was killed in action on May 27. As far as can be learned, only two members of his crew lived, one of which is a POW (Prisoner of War) in Germany.
- Bio from Ralph Hagenmaier's memorial service.
Ralph entered the U.S. Army Air Corps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He flew 13 missions over France in a B-17 bomber as an Assistant Armorer. On the 13th mission another plane took anti-aircraft fire and crashed into his plane sheering off the tail section. The bomber went into a tight spiral downward. Only two men survived the crash.
Crash Location: 500m north of Villy Le Bas, 15km south-east of Le Treport. The soldiers who died in the crash were originally buried in a group grave at a cemetery in Avesnes, France.
There were 10 crew members:
Lieutenant Joseph A. Borkowski (Pilot) - KIA
Second Lieutenant Walter L. Hester (C0-Pilot) - KIA
Flight Officer William C. Ahearn (Navigator) - KIA
First Lieutenant Theordore R. Ream (Bombardier) - KIA
Staff Sergeant Ernest D. Grant (Engineer) - Survived
Tech Sergeant Ross W. Welch (Radio Operator) - KIA
Tech Sergeant William A. Anderson (Assistant Engineer) - KIA
Staff Sergeant Ralph I. Bazell (Assistant Radio Operator) - KIA
Staff Sergeant Wallace C. Young (Armorer) - Survived
Staff Sergeant Ralph C. Hagenmaier (Assistant Armorer) - KIA
Ralph's Bomber Squadron took part in the following mission on May 27th, 1944:
Official Air Force Mission Description - (Mission 269) B-17s are dispatched to marshaling yards at Karlsruhe (98 bomb) and Strasbourg, France (49 bomb) and aviation factory at Strasbourg/Meinau, France (53 bomb); 7 B-17s are lost, 1 damaged beyond repair and 89 damaged; 1 airman is KIA, 3 WIA and 70 MIA.
Source: THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II: COMBAT CHRONOLOGY, 1941-1945 by Carter / Mueller, the Office of Air Force History.
The Sweet L'Oease was cruising at 23,000 feet over Abbeville, France at 8:30 A.M. with bombs aboard intended for the Marshaling Yards at Karlsruhe, France when the collision caused by enemy fire occured. The two survivors were able to eject and employ their parachutes. All of the 8 other crew members were trapped in the plummeting bomber and crashed.
The death of Ralph C. Hagenmaier, has been described by his buddy (Ernest Grant) who had just returned to the States. The latter was a top gunner on a Flying Fortress, the "Sweet L. O. Ease".
The squadron was on their thirteenth mission to Germany. One of the planes, having been hit by flack, collided with Hagenmaier's, knocking the tail off the "Sweet L. O. Ease." When the buddy left the ship at 17,000 feet, the pilot was still in his seat. The gunner escaped through the underground in France. Some of the French people that he met told him that they had buried the crew in the church yard in a town named Er. Seven of the crew were reported killed.
Sergeant Hagenmaier had been missing in action over France since May 27.