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Ralph Charles Wood was born December 26, 1920 in Millville, Indiana. Just a mile and a half from where Wilbur Wright, co-inventer of the airplane, was born in 1867, 53 years earlier. Ralph was a farm boy until drafted on September 17, 1942 and served 3 years and one month in the Army Air Corps. His B-17 bomber, the Flak Dancer, was shot down and he was captured by Nazi troops. He was held as a prisoner-of-
After his survival and liberation, back in the USA, he married his sweetheart, Mildred, on June 24th, 1945. He began raising a family and provided for them as a truck driver/owner. He returned to farming as an apricot farmer until the late '50's when the Soviet Union launched humanity's first satellite, Sputnik. After that, he got involved in the space program and made a career out of it at Ford Aerospace. In the '70's, he was a team member for space missions that were launched with his name engraved inside the probes. These Voyager probes have past Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, and continue today. He was also involved in testing the Hubble Space Telescope. Ralph recalls his 90 years of experiences. This is his story.
On May 29, 2011, Ralph boarded a B-17 Flying Fortress named the 9-O-9 at the Livermore California airport. He posed for photographs standing at his left gunner position. He was honored as a hero and treated like a celebrity, as the local media interviewed him. This “Wings of Freedom Tour”, with several World War 2 vintage aircraft, was sponsored by the Collings Foundation. Ralph's name is painted on the bomb bay doors of this B-17 bomber, the 9-0-9.
Ralph Wood passed away on January 30, 2012. He were honored to record his story for posterity in 2011.