Brothers honoured for their service as “RCAF Americans”

News Article / November 9, 2018

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From Karl Kjarsgaard

As Remembrance Day approaches, we remember and honour those who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

On October 13, 2018, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame inducted Ralph Morris Hendricks, an American who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, as one of its laureates.

Ralph’s twin brother, Robert Henry Hendricks, was inducted into the CAHF last October. Robert died on active service, in a swimming accident, just as he was finishing flight school in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, in 1941.

When Robert died, Ralph took his twin's body back to Colorado for burial. When he got home, he found that his mother had literally gone blind from the shock of Robert's death, so Ralph made the decision to resign from the RCAF to care for his mother. This he did as a dutiful son.

Later, when things improved on the home front, Ralph decided that, given his RCAF flight experience, he could sign up with an American force. He joined the United States Navy as a pilot, and ended up in the Pacific theatre, flying Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers from aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill. He and more than 300 others died when the ship was subjected to two kamikaze attacks on May 11, 1945, while supporting the invasion of Okinawa.

The Bomber Command Museum of Canada (BCMC) knew nothing about Ralph's sacrifice until, at last year’s induction ceremony, a cousin of Robert’s produced a photograph of Robert, Ralph and a friend in RCAF uniforms.

In another wonderful turn of the wheel, Ralph’s only daughter, Marylin Marrs, from Oklahoma, who was born on the day he shipped out in Bunker Hill in 1944, was able to attend the 2018 ceremony to represent her father – a father she never knew, or even met.

The BCMC thanks RCAF Lieutenant-General Chris Coates, with NORAD, for his help in all this, and RCAF Colonel Kyle Paul, who represented Lieutenant-General Coates at the event, for his passionate presentation during the ceremony. As well, thanks go to Denver, Colorado-based Consul General of Canada Stephane Lessard, who also attended the October 13 ceremony and said some important words to honour both Ralph’s sacrifice and the long-standing friendship of the Canada and the United States in our joint effort to defend democracy.

Ralph and Robert were two of the more than 8,800 “RCAF Americans” who served in the Second World War.

State of Colorado Proclamation

The Governor of Colorado declared October 13, 2018, as “Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame Day”. The text of the proclamation reads, in part, as follows:

WHEREAS, aviation has played an important role in the economic growth of Colorado and remains a vital part of our state’s continued development; and

Whereas, the Colorado Aviation Historical Society, founded on November 11, 1966, established the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame in 1969 to honor those who have made significant contributions to aviation in Colorado; and

WHEREAS, Richard D. Janitell, a southern Colorado native and local pilot, was instrumental in establishing and operating the Pikes Peak Airport in Colorado Springs; . . . .

WHEREAS, the Bomber Command Museum of Canada recognized that Colorado’s own Ralph Morris Hendricks and Robert Henry Hendricks, the latter of whom was inducted into the CAHS Hall of Fame in 2017, voluntarily enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in April 1941;

Therefore, I, John. W. Hickenlooper, Governor of the State of Colorado, do hereby proclaim, October 13, 2018, as

COLORADO AVIATION HALL OF FAME DAY

In the State of Colorado.

With files from John Stemple.


 

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