Ralph Woods, P-40 Pilot, Accompanied His Friend’s Casket Home

Ralph Woods, the young airman who accompanied Junior’s casket back to Iowa, sent Wilsons a letter dated August 31, 1945, telling about needing to move planes to Waco because of a hurricane at Victoria, and that he was anxious to get out of the army, to go back to Colorado  and help his father or to go back to school.

“Again I would like to say that you folks were certainly grand to me. I have chalked it up as one of my “must do” future plans in getting to see you all again.”


After the war, Ralph Woods returned to Montrose, Colorado, where he farmed. He also kept in touch with the Leora Wilson from time to time.

Ralph Woods corresponded with me during the 1990s. He said that he was nervous about coming to Iowa with Junior’s casket, but honored to be chosen. He remembered that he was missing a uniform button, and presenting the American flag to Clabe and Leora. “Oh, what wonderful and brave people they were–and the rest of your family as well.”

Ralph said that he and Junior talk about their families quite a bit. They both grew up with four brothers and two sisters.

Ralph and Ruby Woods had five daughters! He sent this photo in 1991.

Ruby and Ralph Woods with daughters: Peggy, Elizabeth, Terry, LaRel, and Charity. Christmas 1991.

From the 2012 obituary of Ralph Woods: “He joined the Army Air Corps during World War II and was stationed in Texas as a flight instructor for all small fighter aircraft. It really bothered him that he was training young men to fight who only had a life expectancy of two weeks.”

The five Woods brothers and one sister also served in the armed forces during the war; their mother Grace Woods proudly displayed the six stars in her window. All came home. Ralph continued in the Air Force Reserve, retiring as a major and at one point working as a recruiter for the Air Force Academy.

Ralph Woods is buried at Montrose.

I’m still in contact with one of his daughters.

 Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II is available from Amazon in paperback and ebook, also as an audiobook, narrated by Paul Berge.

It’s also the story behind the Wilson brothers featured on the Dallas County Freedom Rock at Minburn, Iowa. All five served. Only two came home.


  1. Life expectancy of two weeks 😢 good grief… that would break my heart too.
    How fortunate that all children/siblings came home. And very cool that you are still in contact with the sister.

    • I’m thankful the daughters know that his kindness 75 years ago has been immortalized in “Leora’s Letters.” And I’m thankful for a website where I can share these extras that couldn’t be part of the book!

    • His letters to me were compelling, and he had such a great family. I wish Ralph had been able to see Leora’s Letter published, but happy that his daughters know his kindness to the Wilson family has been remembered publicly.

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