A student at the University of Nebraska when the United States entered the war, Orville Alfred Ralston was sent to Canada for training with the Royal Flying Corps on 5 July 1917. He was commissioned a first lieutenant on 7 November 1917 and sent to Fort Worth, Texas as an instructor with the 17th Aero Squadron on 7 November 1917. In early 1918 Ralston was sent to England to complete his training and ferry aircraft between England and France. He was eventually posted to 85 Squadron with three other American pilots and scored his first 2 victories flying the S.E.5a in Edward Mannock's flight. By September 1918, he was reassigned to the 148th Aero where he scored 3 more victories flying the Sopwith Camel. During the war, Ralston was mentioned in dispatches four times, logged 230 hours of flying on the Western Front, dropped 84 bombs and fired 3,500 rounds of machine gun ammunition.
Ralston was called back into service with the United States Army Air Corp during WWII. He was killed in a B-17 plane crash in Musselshell, Montana in 1942.
Omaha World Herald, Omaha, Nebraska, Sunday, 4 April 1971, page 164
Omaha World Herald, Omaha, Nebraska, Sunday, 4 April 1971, page 165
Omaha World Herald, Omaha, Nebraska, Sunday, 4 April 1971, page 166
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Orville Alfred Ralston, First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action over Bourion Wood, September 26, 1918. Having engine trouble, Lieutenant Ralston signaled his flight commander, left his formation, and started for the lines. Shortly afterwards his engine picked up and he decided to rejoin his formation. He found three of them engaged with seven Fokker biplanes over Bourion Wood. Seeing that one of our machines was hard pressed and in distress, Lieutenant Ralston instantly went to its assistance and drove one Fokker down into the clouds below. He followed directly behind the enemy machine and, as they came out of the clouds at a height of 3,000 feet, opened fire again on this Fokker at 15 yards range. The enemy machine made one complete spiral and crashed northeast of Bourion Wood. Four more Fokkers now attacked Lieutenant Ralston, but he managed to get back in the clouds and return safely to our lines, as did the rest of his flight.