Peru, Nebraska– Theodore Huscher spoke at Peru State to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the ending of World War I and Orville Ralston, a Peru alum and Nebraska’s only World War I flying ace. Phi Alpha Theta sponsored the presentation.
Huscher is the secretary for the League of WWI Aviation Historians, an international organization that holds a seminar every other year, answers questions from the Internet and publishes a quarterly journal called Over the Front.
Huscher said, “I have had a life-long interest in WWI aviation history and when I ran across Ralston’s effects at the State History Museum, I wanted to know more about him and his story.”
Ralston was born on September 9, 1894, near Weeping Water, Nebraska. In 1915, Ralston graduated from then-Peru State Teachers College. He also graduated from the University of Nebraska Dental College in 1920.
Huscher said, “Ralston played football for Peru Normal… There, he was known as “Wob” due to his unique wobbly gate. During the war, he acquired the playful moniker “Tubby” due to his stature.”
Ralston had a total of five aerial victories, warranting the title of ace in the military. Ralston was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1921 “for extraordinary heroism in action over Bourion Wood on September 26, 1918” where he scored two of his five victories. Unofficially, Ralston was also given credit for shooting down six additional German planes.
After World War I, Ralston practiced dentistry in Ainsworth, Nebraska, for 17 years. He did graduate work at San Francisco College of Physicians and Surgeons. He also served one term on the city council and one term as mayor of Ainsworth. In 1937, Ralston moved to Valentine, Nebraska, and he was appointed to the state aeronautical commission a year later.
At the start of World War II, Ralston re-enlisted in the Air Corps, becoming commissioned as a Major in 1942. Throughout his years with the military, Ralston logged 230 hours of flight, dropped 84 bombs and fired 3,500 rounds of machine gun ammunition. The Air Corps also officially recognized Orville Ralston as an expert on ballistics and gunnery.
Phi Alpha Theta is a professional society whose mission is to promote the study of history through the encouragement of research, good teaching, publication and the exchange of learning and ideas among historians. PAT seeks to bring students, teachers and writers of history together for intellectual and social exchanges, which promote and assist historical research and publication by our members in a variety of ways.
# # #
Ash Peiman contributed to this release.