Ralph T. Swenson
Lt. Col.
U. S. Army Air Forces
WWII US Military
B-24 Instructor Pilot

Ralph was born at home, one of four children of Servin and Emma Swenson in Olivia, Texas, a coastal community near Matagorda Bay, about 20 miles west of Palacios. His father, a native of Sweden, grew cotton as a cash crop (using mules, then a tractor) and raised horses and cattle. The Swensons lived in a house with no electricity or plumbing, where Ralph's mother cooked on a wood stove. They often went to town on Saturday by boat, the Empress of Olivia, and attended the one church in town, Lutheran. Ralph helped his father on the farm, and in his spare time enjoyed sports and hunting. Watching aircraft of the Texas National Guard, headquartered at Palacios, fly overhead fired his imagination to be a pilot. He completed ten of 11 grades in a three-room schoolhouse, then finished his last year of high school in Palacios, graduating in 1935. Ralph worked in a local store for a year, and then moved to Bay City for a job in the parts department at a Ford dealership. On August 2, 1941 he married Mary Margaret McClure. (They would have three children and two grandchildren). Ralph enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in April of 1942, and was called to active duty the next October of 1942. He completed cadet training in San Antonio and then was sent to Uvalde, Texas for primary training. After basic training at Goodfellow Field near San Angelo he took advanced training at Ellington Field near Houston, where he graduated on July 29, 1943, and was commissioned. He began instructing in a B-24 at Tarrant Field (later named Fort Worth Army Airfield), working seven days a week, often 12 hours a day. After two years as an instructor, Ralph was transferred to the B-32 program in early 1945. He later transferred to Randolph Field in San Antonio as a B-29 instructor. Discharged in October of 1945, he and Mary Margaret returned to Bay City, where he was sales manager at a wholesale automotive parts company. He remained in the reserves, and was recalled for duty on October 3, 1951, Ralph returned to Randolph Field as a B-29 instructor. Although he applied for duty in Korea, he and his crew were sent to Castle Air Force Base near Sacramento, California. There he was switched to the B-50 and flew simulated combat-type missions, each of about eight to ten hours. After two years he was sent to Smoky Hill Air Force Base near Salina, Kansas for his first jet training in B-47s. After two years in a combat crew he went into maintenance staff work. In all, he spent seven-and-a-half years at the facility that would become Schilling Air Force Base. From 1961 to 1963, he was stationed in Guam in B-47 maintenance and lived on base with his family. He next went to Lincoln Air Force Base in Lincoln, Nebraska where he oversaw quality control and flew test flights. Sent to Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana in July of 1965, he served in 2nd Air Force headquarters. There he learned to work with B-52s in the maintenance management branch, mainly in inspection. Eventually he transferred to 2nd Bomb Wing as maintenance control officer. Promoted to Deputy Commander of Maintenance, and later over Field Maintenance Squadron, he commanded about 600 personnel. After he retired on February 1, 1969, the family remained in the Shreveport area. Ralph sold cars at a Dodge dealership, then worked for the State of Louisiana as a director of recruiting for the Job Corps program. After ten years he retired. Since then he donates his time as a volunteer, serves on the Bossier Parish sheriff's Posse, and works in dispatch for the fire department. Mary Margaret passed away on July 7, 2005.