Captain Ralph M. Geer (1917 – 2003)
8th Army Air Force, WWII – Europe, B17 Pilot, Air Medal
Remembering – Captain Ralph M. Geer – MZHS "Hero of Air Power"
It seems there must have been something in the Bennett’s Valley water that spread the aviation passion around to those selected few. Ralph M. Geer, son of Ralph and Ruth Plyler Geer of Penfield, the beginning of the Valley, had the passion and interest early in his life. In 1935, shortly after graduating from high school, he joined the National Guard and by 1939 had received his private pilot license by going through the Civilian Pilot Training Program at the DuBois/ Oklahoma Airport in DuBois. In this same time period, he attended the Martin Aircraft School to study engineering. He also had worked at the Curtis Wright Aircraft Company in Buffalo, New York like some other Valley boys did. In September 1942 he entered the Army Aviation Cadet Pilot Program and on June 2, 1943 he received his silver pilot wings and his 2nd Lieutenant bars as an officer in the Army Air Forces. He had just married Marion Peters in April 1942 before going into the service which was a difficult time for both of them.
He was assigned to the European theater where he flew the B17 Flying Fortress into Africa, Italy and mainland Europe. From November, 1943, thru early 1945, Ralph was stationed in Casablanca flying over Africa, Italy, Germany, and Egypt. Beginning April, 1945, Ralph, a co-pilot, and his crew joined Major Winans Shaddix as pilot in the 351st Bomber Squadron, 100th Bomb Group (aka The Bloody Hundredth) of the 8th Army Air Force based in Thorpe Abbotts, Norfolk, England. A couple of the noted B17s Ralph flew in were named “Our Gal Sal”, “Fever Beaver”, and “Shoot Your Fadded”. After the war ended on Victory Europe Day May 8, 1945, his group flew six “Chowhound” (named “Manna” by the English) missions dropping food parcels to hungry Holland and Belgium citizens.
This did not finish his military days. Due to the timing of the planned Japanese invasion, Ralph was on his way to the Pacific Theater. He found himself in the Pacific on V-J (Victory Japan) Day August 15, 1945, but saw no action. He returned to England for a while in September, 1945, was discharged in 1946, and completed his time serving in the Army Reserves. Thus, Ralph was engaged in both the European and Pacific (however slightly) Theaters during WW2. Among other awards, Ralph earned the Air Medal, Victory Europe and Victory Japan ribbons, and a Distinguished Unit Citation.
After the war, Ralph led a very fulfilling career as a mortician and owner of the Ralph Geer Funeral Home serving the Valley. Similar to his passion for aviation, he was also very active in the Valley community. He was a member of the Valley American Legion for 57 years, the VFW, a Scout Master, a charter member of the Valley Lions Club, and much more. And his family life was just as complete and fulfilling with his wife Marion of 61 years, 2 daughters, Linda and Sue, seven grandchildren, and six great grandchildren. Ralph passed away July 29, 2003, and was buried in Morningside Cemetery.
The Mt. Zion Historical Society is proud to have such a passionate aviator, family, and Valley man as Ralph M. Geer as one of its “Heroes of Air Power” honorees.
“Lest We Forget”