October 29, 2022

Orville Alfred Ralston, 1894-1942 [RG2432.AM]


RG2432.AM:  Orville Alfred Ralston, 1894-1942

Papers:  1917-1943

Ainsworth, Brown County and Valentine, Cherry County, Neb.:  Aviator; dentist

Size:  1 box and 1 reel of microfilm


Orville A. Ralston was born in September of 1894 near Weeping Water, Nebraska. He graduated from Peru State Teachers College in 1915 and from the University of Nebraska Dental College in 1920. He entered training at the outbreak of World War I and served in both British and American forces. An aviator, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in October of 1918 for his “combat success and daring” in leading a fight over the western front. He was officially credited with the destruction of six German planes and was given unofficial credit for six more. He was recognized as an expert on ballistics and gunnery.

From 1920 to 1936 Ralston practiced dentistry in Ainsworth, Nebraska, except while doing graduate work in the San Francisco College of Physicians and Surgeons. While at Ainsworth he served two terms on the city council, one as mayor. In 1937 he moved to Valentine, Nebraska. The following year he was appointed to the state aeronautical commission. After World War II began he enlisted and was commissioned a Major in the Air Corps in 1942, serving as a personnel officer. Major Ralston was killed in an airplane crash near Great Falls, Montana, December 30, 1942. He was survived by his wife, Charlotte, and three children, Janet, Robert, and Patricia.


This collection consists of one microfilm reel, one box and one oversize folder of manuscript material arranged in five Series: 1) Diaries, 1917-1919; 2) Photographs (scrapbook), 1917-1919; 3) Certificates, 1917, 1925, 1942; 4) Military Documents, 1915-1925; 1937; 1942-1943; and 5) Miscellany. The material relates to the military service of Orville A. Ralston, concentrating primarily on his training and exploits as an aviator in World War I. Some papers documenting his military career during the 1920s and during World War II are also included.

The diaries of series 1 begin with Ralston’s enlistment in 1917, and end with his return from Europe in 1919. The entries provide information on his training in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and France prior to entering combat. Of particular interest are his descriptions of flight observations over the front, bombings, and dog fights. Other entries describe military personnel he served with and other places visited while on leave. The original diaries are available only on microfilm. A typed transcript, rearranged in chronological order, is available both on microfilm and in Box 1.

The photographs, 1917-1919, of series 2 relate to Ralston’s aviation career and include photos of his flying comrades. Arranged in scrapbook form, this album also includes souvenirs and newspaper clippings. This is available both on microfilm and in Box 1. Series 3 is comprised of certificates awarded to Ralston for military enlistment, completion of military training, or as citations for military service for bravery, 1917, 1925, and 1942. Consult description section for indication of which items are available on film and/or in Box 1.

The military documents of series 4 include Ralston’s records of enlistment, service, combat reports, discharge papers, and death information, 1915-1925; 1937; 1942-1943. All of these items can be found in Box 1. The miscellany of series 5 includes biographical information on Orville A. Ralston, 148th Aero Squadron material, newspaper clippings, and a map of France.

Note:  See the photo component [RG2432.PH] for related images. See the NSHS Library catalog for the publication History of the 148th Aero Squadron [940.44 H673a]. See also the article, “Orville ‘Tubby’ Ralston, Nebraska’s War Bird,” Nebraska History, 1995, vol. 76, pp. 164-175.


Series 1 – Diaries, 1917-1919

Reel 1


    1. May 25-October 15, 1917; July 4-October 13, 1918

    1. December 31, 1917-July, 1918

    1. October 23, 1918-January 24, 1919

Box 1


    1. Typed Transcript – rearranged in chronological order

Series 2 – Photographs (Scrapbook), 1917-1919

Reel 1 and Box 1


    1. 1917-1919: Composed primarily of photographs; souvenirs and newspaper clippings also included

Series 3 – Certificates, 1917, 1925, 1942

Reel 1

Distinguished Service Cross, 1925

Air Intelligence School, 1942

State of Nebraska Appreciation Certificate, c.1942

Oversize folder A

Air Intelligence School Certificate, 1942

Memorial Certificate, 1942

Appointment as 1st Lieutenant

Series 4 – Military Documents, 1915-1925; 1937; 1942-1943

Box 1

    1. 1915-1919

    1. 1920-1925

    1. 1937; 1942-1943

Series 5 – Miscellany

Box 1

    1. Biographical information on Ralston; 148th Aero Squadron material; newspaper clippings

Oversize folder A

Map of France; newspaper clipping




Dentists — Nebraska

Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame

Ralston, Orville Alfred, 1894-1942

United States. Army. Aero Squadron, 148th

World War, 1914-1918 — Aerial operations

World War, 1914-1918 — Personal narratives

World War, 1939-1945


DDS/ht   10-1974

AIP/ksa   07-1990

Revised KFK   08-07-2003

Encoded TMM   03-16-2011

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Marker Monday: Phelps County

Marker Monday: Phelps County

Why John G. Neihardt was named Nebraska Poet Laureate in 1921

Why John G. Neihardt was named Nebraska Poet Laureate in 1921

Emigrants along the Trails at Chimney Rock

Emigrants along the Trails at Chimney Rock

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.