Ralph William Carlson was born west of Braham in Stanchfield Township, March 30, 1928 to C. Alvin and Hilda Carlson. He attended Rice Lake District 14 School and graduated in 1946 from Braham High School. He was a member of Braham Lutheran church, where he was baptized, confirmed and active in the Luther League.
Entering the U.S. Army Jan. 10, 1949, Ralph trained at Camp Chafee, Ark., and following a furlough home the following April was stationed at El Paso, Texas, until his release from the Army Jan. 17, 1950. He resumed farming with his parents until his recall from the Reserves on Sept. 29, 1950. He was sent to Korea, arriving there Dec. 1 to serve as a tank driver in Company 5, 2nd Battalion JRTC, 25th Reconnaissance Company, attached to the 27th Infantry Division. In his last letter home just before the end of the year, while stationed about 10 miles north of Seoul, Ralph wrote: “The going is tough, pray for us.”
The next words his parents received were from the Department of the Army on Jan. 22, 1951, stating Ralph was missing in action as of Jan. 4, 1951. After three years without further word, the Carlson’s were notified on Jan. 29, 1954, that American prisoners of war released by the North Koreans had furnished information of Ralph’s capture and his death from dysentery in a North Korean POW camp on April 2, 1951. On Jan. 16, 1956, his remains were declared non-recoverable by the U.S. government.
On Memorial Day, 1999, Braham dedicated the observance ceremony to Ralph W. Carlson. The speaker, Bill Donager gave the message and the service concluded with the Post Honor Guard making the Rifle Salute and with Greg Fix and David Reimer playing taps.
Unknown to Ralph’s family, several years earlier, on June 24, 1991, the North Korean government had unilaterally turned over 11 boxes from an unidentified location containing remains thought to be U.S. servicemen. Three sets of identification tags accompanied the boxes. This information served as the beginning point for the identification effort. The contents of the boxes were shipped to the Central Identification Lab of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. This laboratory is world-renowned for its forensic science. Through a DNA analysis, dental evaluation, and skeletal reconstruction, the lab was able to positively identify his remains. On March 2, 2011, Ralph’s surviving family members received notice that his body had been identified and Ralph could now return home for burial, 60 years after his death. A fellow POW also confirmed recently that his actual date of death was April 2, 1951.
Ralph is survived by his brother, Marvin Carlson, his sister, Florence Shebetka, his nieces and nephews, Linda Carlson Wescott, Laurie Carlson, Richard Carlson, Lanny Westphal, Nancy Norton, Glen Westphal, and Diane Baima, together with their families, many other relatives and friends.
Ralph’s great-nephew, PFC John Carlson Wescott of the US Marine Corps will accompany Ralph’s body from Hawaii to Minnesota.
A Funeral Service will be held at the Braham Evangelical Lutheran Church on Saturday, June 25, 2011, at 11 a.m., with Rev. Rich Chronis officiating. A Time of visitation will begin at 10 a.m. The service will be immediately followed by interment and Military Honors at the Rice Lake Cemetery in Braham. Military Honors will be provided by the Braham VFW (casket bearers), Cambridge American Legion, the Patriot Guard, and the Minnesota National Guard Honors Team. Arrangements are by the Rock Ingebrand Funeral Home of Braham.