02.07.1944 No. 334 Fighter Squadron Mustang P-51B 43-6746 QP-X 1st Lt. Ralph 'Kid' Hofer
Date: 2nd July 1944
Unit: No. 334th Fighter Squadron. 4th Fighter Group
Type: Mustang P51B
Base: Debden, Essex (Station 356)
Location: Mostar, Yugoslavia
Pilot: 1st Lt. Ralph Kidd Hofer 0-2045177 USAAF Age 23. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
On a Ramrod operation - Bomber Escort over Budapest, Hungary when the squadron ran into 20 plus Me109’s flying about 6,000 ft above them - They were climbing to meet the enemy and he was last seen at about 20,000 ft, to engage the enemy.
Many reports state that he was shot down by possibly Erich Hartmann of JG52.
However, Mr. Troy White (author and researcher) advised us that after some many years of research he established that he was hit by flak during strafing of the aerodrome at Mostar Sud:
'While strafing Mostar Sud, he was shot down by flak crews from 4. Batterie/Flak-Regiment 9 “Legion Condor”. Hofer’s Mustang was hit by the 20mm AA fire and Hofer, possibly wounded, flew straight into one of the gun emplacements, killing two members of the gun crew and injuring a third.'
Above: 1st Lt. Ralph Kidd Hofer
With his long hair and football jersey, "Kidd" Hofer stands out as one of the most memorable characters in the 8th Air Force. After serving in the RCAF, Hofer transferred to the 4th Fighter Group in September 1943 and promptly destroyed an Bf 109 on his first mission.
Hofer was known for not maintaining radio discipline, incurred the wrath of group commander Col. Don Blakeslee on more than one occasion. One of his more memorable R/T quotes was "Gee ain't the Alps pretty?" Hofer was also one of the top strafers in the 8th AF with 14 confirmed enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground.
Above: 1st Lt. Ralph Kidd Hofer on left receiving last minute instructions from his intelligence officer, Lt. Charles Ashcraft. Taken on June 21st 1944 prior to an operation.
He was once also forced down in France and landed on the Normandy beachhead - he then flew back to England, bringing with him some souvenirs - a German helmet and a copy of ‘Mein Kamf’!
He scored his first two victories in P-47s but is usually associated with P-51B 42-106924 QP-L, nicknamed “Salem Representative”. (He was from Salem, Missouri USA)
Kidd Hofer, the last of the Screwball Aces: The story of Lt. Ralph K. Hofer and the 4th Fighter Group in World War 2 Author: Troy L. White ISBN No: 978-0972741309 Published by Stardust Studios
Selection of his fine books shown left - July 2015 a further publication ‘ Adventures of the 4th Fighter Group’ will also be available.
On July 2, 1944 the 352nd and 325th fighter groups participated in a fighter sweep over Budapest, Hungary, flying from bases in Foggia, Italy. Over the Budapest area, they encountered a force of Bf 109s. In the tough battle that followed four P-51s were shot down.
Of the four downed pilots, two were made prisoners of war, and two were killed. The last was Hofer. His body was found in the wreckage of P-51B, QP-X some 500 kilometres away at a Luftwaffe airfield in Mostar, Yugoslavia. Hofer is buried in a mass grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.
1Lt. Ralph Kidd Hofer. Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Lemay, St. Louis County, Missouri, USA. Plot: Section 79 Mass Grave 254-256. Son of Omar Hofer of 3146 Sherman Street, Englewood, Colorado, USA. However, he was married but these details we dont have, of Salem, Missouri, USA. Born 22nd June 1921.
Researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered, March 2015. Photographs from his collection, grave photo courtesy Karl Kleen. Additional information and corrections courtesy Troy White of Brasil.