Ralph Vinson came to
Blooming Grove, Texas from Coolidge, Texas in 1949 to be the football coach. He
coached in Blooming Grove for 16 years.
Ralph served in World War II and was a POW.
Diane Richards interviewed
him in 2005 about his capture. Ralph was an avid archeologist and
volunteered thousands of hours at the Waco Mammoth Excavation site. He
died on July 3, 2009. The Information provided here was submitted by
Ralph Vinson’s Capture
Five minutes over the Isen
Banhoff and Danube River Bridges at Munich, Oct. 1944, Crew #17,765th
Squadron of the 461st Bomb Group (Heavy) was awakened two hours
before day break and began to carefully dress by candle light, filed into the
mess tent for a quick breakfast, and hurried to the briefing room. The G-2 man
(intelligence) announced that our target was Munich, Southern Germany. He had
nothing to tell us other than our escape route was over the Alps Mountains to
Switzerland. No fighters were expected, but he expected that many flak guns were
probably moved from Ploerte to Munich since the Russians had driven the Germans
out recently. He asked that we keep our eyes open for any information that he
could use in the future. We grabbed our flying gear and paused at the chaplains
alter and headed for the trucks. After the rough ride to the flight line, we
arrived at our aircraft, while it was still dark. I was the engineer on our crew
so with a flash light I began to preflight check every detail. Armorers were
still loading bombs and removing the dollies. I began to check my machine guns
and store the fifty caliber belts of ammunition. I hammer tightened the gasoline
caps to keep them from sifening gas. On checking with the pilot, Lt. Waggoner,
who was substituting for our regular pilot who was medically grounded
temporarily, I discovered that I had forgotten to remove a pito-static tube
cover that would make the plane impossible to fly in that condition, that made
me worry and wonder how I could have made such a blunder. At last, I was ready
and started the auxiliary power unit to begin starting our engines. We cranked
up, warmed up, run up (full throttled) taxied out, the tower signaled “take
off”, checked all stations for airborne ok, started at a low climb, and circled
the field 5 times to close in to our formation, which meant that this was a big
mission. Reaching 20,000 ft. altitude, we set the throttles open to 200 mph
flat out northerly over the Alps Mountains now glistening with the sunlight on
the ice and snow, but I had a vague feeling that things were not quite right
from the very beginning. Some one in the nose deck began to have oxygen
troubles. We had two “walk around bottles” that would last at least fifteen
minutes so that was nothing to worry about. Some one cut in on the intercom
saying “Let’s get the hell out of here.” Lt. Sharp, the co-pilot, said we are
only five minutes from the initial point to start our bomb run, so we decided to
stay the course and complete our mission. Turning at the I.P. to make the bomb
run, we ran into heavy flak; shells were exploding in every direction at eye
level, meaning that they had our range exactly. All we could do was to throw
out packages of Christmas tree decorations (ice cycles made of silver), which we
hoped would screen us from the sights of the gunners below. It seemed to help
us a little bit. This barrage of flak was about a mile long and a hundred yards
thick. Our bomb bay doors were open and we were taking damaging hits from
flying shrapnel and was jolted by the explosions. Our lead aircraft began
dropping down and falling back in a solid sheet of flames; as we passed over it
I saw only three parachutes open when the whole plane blew apart in a blinding
explosion; debris narrowly missing us. I could feel and see we were receiving
more hits. One big round hole appeared on our right wing, which meant that we
received a direct hit, but luckily did not explode. I saw part of our tail fin
blown away and a big fist size hole appeared between me and the other waiste
gunner and went through the other side. Our #3 engine began to smoke, but I
quickly got that stopped. I was cowering behind my gun mount while “bombs away”
and at this point there was a terrific jolting, metallic clank creating a
strange feeling of pain and confusion. The next thing I knew we were in a steep
glide and flames from #1 engine were licking in the waiste window. The bomb bay
doors were damaged and flapping in the slip stream. The cat walk was broken and
unsteady. We got the fire out. My first concern was to get ready for the
German fighters because we were now a lone cripple. Assessing the damage to two
engines etc., I noticed my ears were popping (meaning a quick change in
altitude). I called the pilot for an altitude check. He said below 11,000 ft.
We were hit at 27,000 feet. I flew into a sort of rage and said forget flying
to Switzerland, we have got to bail out. At this time Lt. Sharp, the co-pilot,
said in a very weak voice “I can’t bail out!” I started preparing a static line
so we could throw him out and open his parachute. Lt. Waggoner, the pilot said
“Any of you who want to go it alone have my permission to bail out, but if I can
find a level field big enough, I think I can set her down.” At this time, we
ceased to be a combat unit and became a survival unit. Lt. Brenia, the
navigator, broke in and said to not fly over the lake ahead, but too late as
small arms fire began that sounded like some one throwing hands full of gravel
at us. We quickly turned to the right and lowered our landing gear and the
bullets stopped. I assisted everyone out of the nose and through the damaged
bomb bay to crash stations. We hit the ground very hard, bouncing first on the
left wheel then on the right wheel before rolling to a stop. At this point I
had never given a thought to surrendering. I had not a clue as to what to do.
I could wave my white scarf out the window before I left or jump out and make a
run for it. I deliberately climbed out and stood on the ground, when I saw a
young looking man approaching me on a bicycle. I thought I could take him with
my side arm. Then, I heard a noise from another direction which was a half
track armored vehicle with turret mounted machine guns bearing down on me. My
hands went immediately up. The bicycle rider decided to get his gun out,
nervously, pointed it between my eyes and shouted “American boy, for you the war
is over.” A major or colonel stepped down from his staff car and took over from
the “shave-tail.” He asked me what was wrong with #1 engine. I replied, “I
guess flak hit it. He swung on me and said “You sabotaged it, you son of a
bitch.” I wished I had done more damage. I tried to tell the major we had a
wounded man aboard. He said he knew some English, but he could not understand
American talk. I called up my tail gunner who was a French Canadian from New
Hampshire to see if the German could talk French. They began to “parley-vou”
and Turgen said he would not send his man into our plane and he would not permit
us to go back into the plane. “Tell him to send one of his men and one of our
men in together to which he agreed, so Lt. Norman Sharp, co-pilot, on #39
Liberator was carried out on a blanket in unconsciousness of comatose condition
and laid on the bare ground. He cried out in pain once. He died in a German
hospital Oct. 7, 1944. We were transported by truck to the Landenburg city jail
where we were presented like trophies to all the local officials as evidence
that they were winning the war and were congratulated for the capture of a real
live Liberator Crew on their watch.
After processing and being
sent to a permanent P.O.W. camp, Stalag Luft IV, a prison for enlisted airmen.
We spent seven months at this camp and were treated a little less than humans
waiting to be liberated by someone else.
"Ralph Vinson stands beside some of the unearthed mammoth bones.
Vinson has volunteered more than 12,000 hours over the years in helping excavate
Part of an article in the
Waco Tribune "A MAMMOTH undertaking"
Thursday, Sept 11, 2008, section 1E
RALPH D. VINSON
October 3, 1921 - July 3, 2009
D. Vinson, 87, of Whitney and formerly of Waco and Blooming Grove passed
away Friday, July 3, 2009 at his home. Funeral services were held at 2
p.m. on Tuesday, July 7, at Wade Funeral Chapel in Hubbard with Rev.
Bill Mayfield officiating. Interment will follow with military honors
followed in Collidge Cemetery.
Ralph was born October 3, 1921 in Coolidge to Phineas O. and Ruby
(Burney) Vinson. He was raised in Coolidge where he attended the First
United Methodist Church and graduated from high school before attending
Westminister Junior College in Tehuacana.
Ralph left college to serve his country in the Army Air Corps where he
was a staff sergeant during WWII in the 461st Bombardment Group.
During the war, he earned a Purple Heart and was a German POW in Stalag
IV in Poland. After the war, Ralph continued his education as he
graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Art and History.
He coached football and taught art and history for 16 years in Blooming
Grove before moving to Waco in 1966. where he coached and taught before
retiring in 1973.
After retirement, Ralph remained very active in the POW organizations
and the Texas Archeological Society as he was very passionate about
He worked on the Waco Mammoth Site and was recently named a Founding
Member of the Mayborn Museum Complex at Baylor University.
Ralph had also been a member of Triangle Park Missionary Baptist Church
in Whitney for the past 10 years.
He was preceded in death by his parents, three brothers and a sister.
Survivors include four sons, Dean Vinson and wife, Barbara of Fritch,
Dale Vinson, and wife, Kaerin of Anchorage, Alaska, Nathan Vinson of
Dallas and David Vinson of Waco; mother of his children, Janice Vinson
of Waco; fie grandchildren, Shane Vinson and Shala Good, both of
Jacksonville, Charles Vinson of Fritch, Kelly Paul Lorance of Houston
and Maya Vinson of Anchorage, Alaska; three great-grandchildren, Devin
Moses, Dak Moses and Tryland Vinson and Numerous nieces, Nephews and
Memorials may be made to the Texas Archeological Society, One UTSA
Circle, San Antonio, TX 78249-0658.
Born: October 3, 1921
Place of Birth: Coolidge, Texas
Death: July 3, 2009
Place of Death: Whitney, Texas
Occupation: Retired Teacher/Coach
Dean Vinson, Son
Dale Vinson, Son
Nathan Vinson, Son
David Vinson, Son
Preceded in Death By
Phineas O. Vinson, Father
Ruby Burney Vinson, Mother
Three Brothers, One Sister
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Memorial donations can be made to Texas Archeological Society
Ralph Vinson while coaching at Blooming Grove TX High School