Carlson, Ralph, Sgt

 Photo In Uniform   Service Details
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Last Rank
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
4745-Rifle Gunner or Crewman 57mm
Last MOS Group
Infantry (Enlisted)
Primary Unit
1951-1951, 4745, Korean POW
Service Years
1949 - 1951


One Overseas Service Bar

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by MAJ John Moore (SaberAlpha 10) to remember Carlson, Ralph, Sgt.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Last Address
Braham, Isanti County, Minnesota

Casualty Date
Apr 01, 1951
Hostile, Died while Captured
Illness, Disease
Korea, North
Korean War/UN Offensive (1950)/Eighth Army Offensive
Location of Interment
Rice Lake Lutheran Cemetery - Braham, Minnesota
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Associations and Other Affiliations
Korean War Fallen3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Association
  1951, Korean War Fallen
  1988, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Association [Verified]

 Photo Album   (More...

 Ribbon Bar

 National Guard Awards

 Enlisted/Officer Basic Training
  1949, Basic Training (Camp Chaffee, AR), A
 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), Fort ChaffeeArmy Garrison Fort Bliss, TXArmy Garrison, Fort Lawton, WA25th Armored Reconnaissance Company
25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lightning)Prisoner of War
  1949-1949, 4745, Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), Fort Chaffee
  1949-1950, 4745, Army Garrison Fort Bliss, TX
  1950-1950, 4761, 6021st ASU Reassignment Detachment, Army Garrison, Fort Lawton, WA
  1950-1950, 4745, 25th Armored Reconnaissance Company
  1950-1951, 3795, 25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lightning)
  1950-1951, 4745, 25th Armored Reconnaissance Company
  1951-1951, 4812, 25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lightning)
  1951-1951, 4745, Korean POW
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1950-1951 Korean War/CCF Intervention (1950-51)1
 Other News, Events and Photographs
  Jun 25, 2011, Ralphs return to home7
  Jun 24, 2012, General Photos2
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

December 6, 1950
Somewhere between Japan and Korea

Dear Mother and Dad,

This is a picture of the ship we're sailing from Japan to Korea in and it'll have to be your Christmas card cause I don't know if I'll be able to get any other kind now...I hate to think of what's ahead, but will have to hope for the best and I know you are praying for me.  Yesterday I had KP on the boat and have got it tomorrow again.  It's real easy here.  I'd just as soon do that as sit around.  I wish I was in the Navy now.  I think that's a lot better place than the Army.  This will have to be all for now.  I'll write again as soon as I get a chance.

Love, Ralph

December, 16, 1950

Dear Mother and Dad,

Just a few lines to let you know how everthing is going.  Last Sunday Dec. 10 I finally got assigned to an outfit, it's the 25th Reconnaissance, which is mostly light tanks and jeeps.  I'm an assistant tank driver, which is a pretty good job.  We haven't done much of anything except move south....Everything has been pretty peaceful so far, haven't even heard any shooting....I wish you a Merry Christmas and wish I could be home with you.

Love, Ralph

December 17, 1950

Dear Mother and Dad,

The weather is a little colder today, the snow is staying on the ground.  We're situated about 10 miles north of Seoul and everthing is quite and peaceful yet.  I hope it stays that way.  They've got a radio here and they're playing the Christmas carols.  That's the only thing that looks or sounds like Christmas around here....If you want to you can send me some candy cause we don't have any chance to get any here.  Envelopes and writing paper would be handy too.

Love, Ralph

December 21, 1950

Dear Mother and Dad,

It seems like the more spare time I have the harder it is to get at letter writing, but I'll try to get a few lines off by this poor oil light.  The last few days we haven't done anything except sit around the fire all day.  Our tank has been giving us trouble so we're waiting to get that fixed.  Everything is still peaceful around here.  One day we heard a lot of machinegun fire, but later found it was some guys shooting geese down be the river....I've got two wool liners in my sleeping bag, three wool blankets and an overcoat so I can keep warm sleeping pretty easy.

Love, Ralph

December 30, 1950

Dear Mother and Dad,

Yesterday I got your letter written Dec. 8.  As I haven't anything else to do, I'll drop a line to let you know everything is still all right.  We're still at this schoolhouse and all we do is pull about two hours guard in the daytime and two hours at night.  The rest of the time we sit around the fire, eat and sleep.

Tomorrow we might get paid and if I do I will send home a money order.  The weather is still pretty nice here, there's no snow and just cold enough to keep the ground frozen.  There isn't much to write about cause there isn't too much going on.

Love, Rajph

December 30, 1950

(He also wrote)

"I got a package from the American Legion, two big cans of mixed nuts, so I'm pretty well supplied with things to eat."  

(In the same note he pined for his hometown newspaper)

"I haven't gotten the Braham Journals you said you sent, but they should be along soon." 

(Just a few days later he wrote)

"The going is tough.  Pray for us."  (This was the last letter Carlson ever sent).

The next correspondence the family received was January 22, 1951.  It was a Western Union telegram notifying the family Ralph was missing in action.  For three more years, the family waited, not knowing weather their loved one was alive or dead.  Finally, a letter dated January 26, 1954, arrived with the news that Carlson had died of dysentery in April 1951, while a prisoner of war.   It was from Major General William S. Bergin and it stated:  "I sincerely regret that this message must carry so much sorrow into your home and I hope that in time you may find sustaining comfort in knowing that he served his country honorably."
Much of the information about Ralph comes from other POW's who had first hand knowledge about what happened with Ralph and his platoon.  For example:

From interviews with other POW's it was learned that Ralph Carlson ended up on the wrong side of the Han River, which flows through Seoul.  "There was a bridge guarded on both ends,
(by North Koreans) so they searched along the river to find a spot to cross.  They were going to take a boat and go across the river, but the river was frozen, and he (Ralph) was using a tree limb, trying to break the ice.  But, they were making so much noise that they heard that and captured him."

Laurie Carlson (Ralph's Niece) said: "With his red hair and blue eyes, the 6-foot-1 Carlson had no chance of escaping.  He didn't blend in, by any means.  He had nowhere to go." 

Ralph was sent to a POW camp in North Korea.  "Conditions were atrocious," Laurie Carlson said: "The prisoners called it 'Bean Camp' because they were fed uncooked beans.  One report said that they couldn't swallow them - or if they did get them down, they couldn't digest them.  And then they couldn't pass them.  Your body could not live in those conditions."

Marvin Carlson (Ralph's younger brother) and his wife, Joan, and their daughters, Laurie and Linda, and thier husbands visited the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii in 2009 to see Ralph Carlson's name, which is inscribed on a wall.  While they were in Oahu, they also met with the individual's at JPAC (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command) and toured the laboratory.  

The family has learned that Marvin's grandson, PFC John Carlson Westcott, 21, a legal specialist for the Marine Corps stationed at Camp Pendleton, California., will be allowed to escort his great-granduncle's body to Minnesota.

The Rev. Rich Chronis, pastor of Brahm Evangelical Lutheran Church, will be the presiding minister of Ralph Carlson's service.


Ralph W. Carlson died in April, 1951 after being captured by the North Koreans on January 4, 1951.  It was reported by other POW's who witnessed his death that he died of dysentery because of lack of medical treatment and very little food. 

He was originally drafted in January 1949.  His Basic Combat Training was Camp Chaffee, Arkansas.  Then he was sent to Fort Bliss, Texas and his Branch of service became the Infantry (MOS 4745).  After a year and five days of service in the Army, he was released and went back home in January of 1950. 

He returned to Braham where he purchased a 40-acre farm, a baler and his first car - a 1950 Plymouth.  He traded his Winchester No. 67 rifle when he needed to buy fence posts, his brother says.  He was recalled to service in September of 1950 and was sent to Fort Lawton, Washington, then to Japan and finally Korea on December 1, 1950  On December 10, 1950 he was permanently assigned to the 25th Reconnaissance Company of the 25th Infantry Division.  At this time he became an assistant tank driver of an M24 Chaffee tank. 

A Western Union telegram sent January 22, 1951, notified the family he was missing.  For three years the Carlsons waited, not knowing whether their son was alive or dead.  Finally, a letter dated January 26, 1954, arrived with the news that Carlson had died of dysentery in April 1951, while a prisoner of war.  A memorial service for Carlson was held March 13, 1954, at Braham Evangelical Lutheran Church.  His family placed a granite headstone at the Rice Lake Cemetery to mark his grave, which has remained empty until the recovery of his remains were sent back and identified (through DNA, dental records and bone analysis). 

His remains will be wrapped in a blanket and placed in a casket with a dress uniform and given a military escort back home to Braham, Minnesota and a full military burial will be done on June 25th, 2011.  His internment is at the Rice Lake Lutheran Cemetery in Braham, Minnesota.  Ralph was a member of the Braham Lutheran Church.  He was baptized, confirmed and active in The Lutheran League. 

He graduated from Braham High School in 1946.  He had a younger brother, Marvin, and a younger sister, Florence.  His parents were Alvin and Hilda Carlson. 

Family members have pieced together what happened to Carlson through letters, interviews with other POW's and a detailed report from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.  According to the report, U.S. and United Nations forces in late 1950 and early 1951 were retreating from positions in North Korea.  "The 25th Reconnaissance Company...was ordered to screen for the withdrawal of troops near Seoul.  Records indicate that Cpl. Ralph Carlson went missing in action on 4 January 1951 when his platoon was cut off and surrounded by enemy forces south of Seoul," the report said.  While missing in action, Carlson was promoted to Sergeant.  An Army buddy of Carlson's wrote to Hilda Carlson a few weeks after her son was reported missing.  "I hadn't known him too long, but in the time that I did, we got to be the best buddies," Cpl. J.M. Campbell wrote.  "We were in the same tank crew and worked together almost all the time.  We spent the long hours of guard talking together about our homes, his car, what we had to go back to.  The action took place in the center of Seoul City.  We lost half the platoon there.  Some of the guys got killed, others wounded, but I know Ralph wasen't among this group.  He was with a sergeant - an old-timer that knew what to do in a pinch.  Their group just didn't make it out.  After we got organized, we went back, but couldn't find nothing but enemy.  That's all I know.  Everything always happens so fast." 
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