On October 26, 1942 the Draft Board sent a notice to Mr. Ralph Thompson stating “you are directed to report for physical examination by the local board examiner at the time and place designated….” In January 1943, Ralph Thompson reported to Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio where he officially began his army life. “We arrived in Columbus last night about 8 P.M. We got supper and our examinations and got in bed about 11 P.M. The food is good but scarce. Don’t send any mail here because none of us know how long we will be stationed here.” A week later he was sent to Camp Davis, North Carolina.
At Camp Davis, Mr. Thompson was trained in Battery C of the 481st C.A. Battalion. Training in North Carolina would last until June, 1943 when he would head to Camp Breckenridge in Kentucky. There he wrote “We don’t know for sure what is going to happen. We are the only AAA outfit here, so anything could happen. There are only about 10,000 men here…” By January 1944, the 481st would be in Camp Stewart, Georgia. On January 2, 1944, Mr. Thompson reflected about being in the army for one year and in a letter to his wife he said, “It will soon be a year since I went to Akron, January 4, 1943. I’m on guard duty tomorrow eve so I may not write much then. If I don’t write, I’ll be thinking of you all the time. Honey I miss you plenty. I love you and I always will.”
February 1944 found Ralph Thompson on a ship to England. “The first day out I was really sea sick. Most of the fellows were.” The summer of 1944 found him in France where one summer day he wrote “I’ve been really busy lately or I’d have written oftener. Sometimes I am so darned tired I just flop in bed and go to sleep.” The soldiers rarely described their work in detail. In October 1944 he wrote, “You asked me where I got that German insignia I sent you. I’ll tell you about it after the war.”
During the Spring of 1945, the 481st found itself pushing toward Germany. On March 7th Mr. Thompson said, “since I wrote last time I moved again. I was…about twenty miles from Dijon.” Two weeks later he said, “the war news isn’t too bad, but not too good either. I hope it will soon be over. Maybe before too much longer. On April 4th, Mrs. Marge Thompson wrote, “if all reports are true, the German’s can’t last much longer.” Victory was only a month away and on May 9th Mrs. Thompson celebrated the end of the war in Europe. “Boy! Was I happy Monday! I got a great big letter from you and they said the war was over. By now, everybody knows it is over! Well, it has been a long time, huh?”
The rest of the summer would be spent in Germany, with some July letters written in Mannheim. July 31st Mr. Thompson wrote, “well, darling, I hope I don’t have to write too many more letters before I get home to you.” The final letters in the Ralph Thompson collection were written in September 1945, just before he returned to Ohio and his wife, Marge. Ralph Thompson died in November 2001 at the age of eighty.