Ralph Joseph Sooter, First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces, 0-727569, 44th Unit, 70th Fighter Squadron, 18th Fighter Group. Entered the Service from Kansas. Missing In Action: June 5, 1943. Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines. Awards: Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart. (ABMC)
In the above photo, taken during pilot training, First Lieutenant Ralph Joseph Sooter is at left. The two men to his left are unidentified. Photo courtesy of his niece Loretta (Sooter) Brooks.
According to a casualty list from 18th Fighter Group, he was a member of the 44th Unit, the date given is "June 1943", he was flying a P-40 and he was lost at Bougainville in the South Pacific. (ABMC, CCVM, DJHSP)
Ralph J. Sooter is listed in the World War II Casualties from Sedgwick County, Kansas World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing Army and Army Air Forces Personnel from Kansas. (NWCTM-407-WWIICASARMY-KS).
The Western Star , June 23, 1943.
LIEUT. RALPH SOOTER MISSING IN ACTION
Was an Army Fighter Pilot in South Pacific Area.
Word reached Coldwater last Monday that First Lieutenant Ralph D.
Sooter, formerly of this city was reported missing on June 5 by the War
Lieut. Sooter was a brother of Wm. Sooter of Wichita and of Gerald
Sooter who was formerly of this city. His mother, Mrs. Mae Sooter , now
lives in san Pedro, Calif., Ralph's father, Manley Sooter, passed away
in Alva, Okla., in 1939.
Ralph attended the Coldwater schools and was graduated from Coldwater
high school with the class of 1938. He was an outstanding football
player here, as well as the College of Emporia, where he attended two
and one half years.
He enlisted in the army air corps January 9, 1942 and was commissioned a
second lieutenant at Luke Field, Ariz., July 26, 1942. The following day
he was united in marriage with Miss Sue Irene Thompson of Emporia, Kans.
He was sent to the South Pacific last March as the pilot of a P-40
pursuit plane in the Soloman Island area. His many friends here are
anxiously awaiting word that he has been found by scouters who are
looking for him. (SB)
The Western Star , July 23, 1943.
LIEUT. RALPH SOOTER CRASH LANDS ON ISLAND.
W. D. Sooter of Wichita received some further news about his brother,
First Lieutenant Ralph D. Sooter, who was reported by the War Department
on June 5 as missing in action in the South Pacific area. His wife, who
lives in Emporia has sent W. D. the following news which was broadcast
over KTSW Emporia.
"Lieut. Sooter according to the report was flying wing to wing with
Lieut. Bade of Elk River, Minn., in a flight designed to prepare the
Shortland Island area south of Bougainville for a big bomb attack.
Together the two fighter pilots in fast P-40's ran rampant over the
enemy islands, washing them down with bullets.
Suddenly however, four Zeros rose from the ground and streaked toward
them. After a hot battle the Japs proved too much for the two
outnumbered Americans . A stream of bullets smashed the engine of
Sooter's plane and a slug clipped Bade on the head. Sooter crash landed
somewhere on the Shortland Island. The Zeros had gone, Bade, however
down to 400 feet his guns unless saw ahead of him four American dive
bombers pursued by 10 Zeros. The bombers were no match for the swift
little Zeros so Bade tore into the Jap planes weaving in and out among
the startled Jap pilots. Encouraged the bombers turned and attacked
their former pursuers. The battle was soon over when the Japs turned and
Senator Cooper has informed Lieut. Sooter's wife that Ralph's name has
been placed on the National Roll of Honor. (SB)
The Western Star , October 15, 1943.
Additional Word Received About Lieut. Ralph Sooter
Ensign Harold Herd, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Herd of Coldwater, is on a
United States ship which for some time has been in the South Pacific war
zone. In letters to his parents and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Horace H.
Rich, Ensign Herd tells of stumbling onto some additional; information
about Lieut. Ralph Sooter of Coldwater, who has been reported missing in
action. His discovery was made in the Bougainville area, probably on one
of the Shortland Islands in the South Pacific. Following is an excerpt
from Harold's letter:
"I now have a Jap helmet. The helmet has a hole in the middle of the
forehead where the owner received his everlasting from one of our good
Marines (a bit gruesome to look at.) These we found in a cave where a
group were annihilated.
Yesterday two other officers and myself went exploring and snooping
around for souvenirs and we came upon a fighter squadron headquarters
and noticed some very interesting looking Jap flags painted on the front
of the building. So we preceded to investigate. Well, the boys had been
working overtime and had 103 Jap planes to their credit (30 pilots in
the squadron) and underneath the flags was an inscription "In Memoriam,"
and among seven other names I found "First Lieut. R. S. Sooter."
Obviously, I was more than slightly taken back by same, even though I
had previously heard of him being lost. The boys said he was flying a
P-38, (which is wicked job anyway) and got it shot down from under him
and that they talked to him through the radio after he was down, and he
said he was O.K. but that they were never able to locate him thereafter.
Ralph was very popular among fellows in his squadron." (SB)
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The above news articles were transcribed for this site by Shirley Brier. This web page was created by Jerry Ferrin on 28 June 2003.