Lt B. R. Kimlau – The Story of His Heroic Supreme Sacrifice
At every anniversary celebration, we found some of our friends, guests and members wish to know something about Lt. Benjamin Ralph Kimlau to whom our Post was named. This is a brief history of our World War II hero.
Ralph Kimlau was born on April 10, 1918 in Concord, Mass. At the age of fourteen he came with his parents to New York City where he attended Dewitt Clinton High School. Upon graduation from that school in 1937 he made his first visit to China.
On that trip he gained a first-hand knowledge of the Japanese aggression in the Far East. But little had he realized, then, that this conflagration was to be developed into a global war, and that he, himself, would be involved in it and would perish in the struggle for peace and justice.
The following year he returned to the United States and entered Pennsylvania Military College where he graduated in 1942 with high honor. He was then commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Field Artillery.
However, later he applied for and received a transfer to the Air Force. After completion of his pilot training he was assigned to the 380th Bombardment Group of the Fifth Air Force in Fenton, Australia. This group was known as the Flying Circus and had gone though considerable punishment in its support of General McArthur’s advances in the Bismarck Bay area.
Considerable importance was attached to the operation in this area at that time because it marked the first offense of General McArthur since his retreat from the Philippines. The control of the Bismarck Bay area would mean the trapping of fifty thousand enemy troops and the cutting off of the Japanese supply lines to the New Guiness and near-by islands, thus, setting the stage for a return to the Philippines.
On February 27, 1944 a teletype came in the operation’s room in Fenton Field calling for twenty four Liberators with crews and ground personnel to take off for Port Moresby, New Guinea. The order was to bombard Hollandia, day and night, on the shores of Netherland, New Guinea. Lt. Ralph Kimlau was one of the pilots assigned to this mission.
However, weather was reported bad over the hump to Hollandia when they arrived at Port Moresby. Therefore, they were requested to proceed to Nadzab, but leave the ground personnel at Port Moresby.
Nadzab was a small airdrome located near the North Shore of New Guinea. It had only a few fighter planes, and no bombers; it served as one of the outpost of the Fifth Air Force. This base was under-manned, illy-equipped and poorly situated in the Markham Valley of New Guinea. Every take off at night was a sweat job to these pilots because an intricate and precise pattern had to be flown on instruments to avoid smashing up in the hills which surrounded this airdrome.
Their first mission on this base was to bombard all Japanese airdromes and aircrafts around New Guinea to coordinate with the First Cavalry Division’s landing in Los Negros Island in the Admiralities. For four days the men pounded relentlessly on Hansa, Nubia, Hollandia, Wetek and other points in this area.
And on the fifth day of March, the men were ordered to attack the Japanese rear line at Los Negros Island. The crews by this time were exhausted from constant action and flying. They were in no shape to take on the next mission, and the planes were badly in need of servicing. But the First Cavalry Division was already ashore in Los Negros Island and things were not going well. Japanese were pouring in wave after wave in counter attack. Therefore, the mission had to be accomplished.
It was on this mission that Lt. Benjamin Ralph Kimlau and his whole crew met their heroic end. The 380th Bombardment Group through great courage, skill and devotion to duty had won two Presidential Unit Citations for their outstanding performance and gallantry in battle.