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PFC. Ralph C. Romberger

Ralph C. Romberger, Private First Class, U.S. Army 143rd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Div.

Date of death: 1/26/44

(Research and Documentation provided by HTRVC Member Georgeann Maguire, thank you Georgeann!)

Ralph Curtis Romberger was born on February 15, 1924 in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, PA. His parents were Maude and Harry Romberger. He had an older sister, Florence, and 2 younger brothers, Richard and Donald, and a younger sister, Shirley. The family lived on N. 7th Street in Harrisburg. He enlisted on April 7, 1943.

Ralph Romberger attended William Penn High School in Harrisburg. In the WPHS 1945 yearbook, Romberger is listed on the “Honor Roll” as one of the members of the Armed Forces who had given their lives in defense of their country.

On March 13, 1944 according to The Evening News – Harrisburg Pennsylvania,

R. C. Romberger was listed as missing in Italy

“Pvt. Ralph C. Romberger, son of Mr. And Mrs. H. E. Romberger, 1940 North Seventh street, has been missing in action since January 22 somewhere in Italy, the War Department has announced. Inducted April 14, 1943, Private Romberger was a member of an infantry unit and went overseas in October, 1943. It is believed he was on scout patrol duty on the day he was listed missing. He attended Camp Curtain Junior High School, and prior to his induction was employed at the New Cumberland Army Depot. He trained at Camp Robinson, Arkansas.; Camp McCain, Mississippi, and Fort Meade, Maryland. A younger brother, Richard, recently volunteered and is now awaiting call for induction into the Army.”

Then, two months later, on May 26, 1944, another article appeared in The Evening News – Harrisburg Pennsylvania:

Pfc. Ralph C. Romberger Dies of Battle Wounds – Pfc. Ralph C. Romberger, previously reported missing January 22, in Italy, is now listed by the War Department as having died on January 26, presumably of wounds received in action, according to information reported through the International Red Cross to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harry E. Romberger, 1940 North Seventh street. A veteran of only four months service overseas, Pvt. Romberger entered the service in April, 1943, and trained at Camp Robinson, Arkansas. Camp McCain, Mississippi, and Fort Meade, Maryland. He was sent to Africa in October and later transferred to Italy. A brother, Pvt. Richard M. Romberger, is training at Camp Rucker, Alabama.”

Military report:

Fifth Army strategists decreed that the Rapido River be crossed frontally and flank Monte Cassino and the 36th Infantry was given the job. After two nights of patrolling and probing for never-found-weak-places the Regiment tried to cross the river on the night of January 20-21, 1944. This action failed and the Regiment was ordered to cross again during the daylight hours of the 21st. This was delayed later until darkness when the Regiment again made a supreme effort to breach the River. With surprise lost, the Regiment received all the pent-up fury of the Germans who were waiting for them in well-prepared positions. The 1st and 3d Battalions crossed the river before midnight and the 2d Battalion followed. Caught in the daylight without protection from machine-gun and artillery fire, the battalions could not be resupplied with ammunition and were forced back across the river. In that 48-hour period, the Regiment suffered more casualties than it did in any like period either before or after that ill-fated engagement.

The NARA WWII Casualty Lists by State & County list Pvt. Romberger as DOW (“Died of Wounds”). He is buried at the Sicily-Rome American Military Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy in Plot I, Row 11, Grave 43.

After Ralph Romberger was sent overseas, his mother Maude wrote a poem titled, Missing in Action. The poem was published in the Harrisburg Telegraph in April, 1944 somewhat anonymously by Mrs. Romberger. She wrote this poem shortly after her nephew S/Sgt Frederick E. Fagan was reported “missing in action“ in the American bombers’ raid on the Polesti Oil fields in Romania. The poem describes a mother receiving a telegram informing her of her son’s death and the reality of many families having multiple young men involved in the war. The poem describes her desire for revenge by, “cousins of that boy still in the fight, and they will kill both left and right. They will avenge is death for you and me, Japs and Germans they will kill galore.”

Following his death, Mrs. Romberger published two more poems in the Harrisburg Telegraph about her son Ralph, providing a glimpse into the heart of a mother who lost her son in war. Her poems titled My Sons and My Beloved Son were published in the Telegraph on 8 July 1944 and 19 August 1944. They describe her grief in sending her son off to war feeling like he may not return. The poem My Sons likely related to many families in Central Pennsylvania that had Fathers and Sons and relatives serving on active duty during World War II.

Upon his death Ralph Romberger was awarded the Purple Heart. We thank Pfc. Romberger and his family for sacrificing his life for our nation.

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