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Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Ofstie, CO-038000-01, -20, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

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Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.

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http://www.cafepress.com/content/global/img/spacer.gifThe Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of www.dmairfield.org and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link, or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.  ISBN 978-0-9843074-4-9.

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RALPH ANDREW OFSTIE

Ralph Ofstie was an accomplished aviator for the U.S. Navy. He was born  November 16, 1897 at Eau Claire, WI. He died November 18, 1956 at Bethesda, MD and is buried, along with his wife, at Arlington National Cemetery. His experience in naval aviation spanned from fabric-covered aircraft with radial engines to jet aircraft and guided missles. A news article, below, courtesy of fultonhistory.com (FH), detailed the latter a few years before his death.

Buffalo News-Express, June 20, 1953 (Source: FH)

 

The 1910 U.S. Census places Ofstie, 12, living with his family in Eau Claire at 328 Broadway Street [sic]. He lived with his father and mother and four siblings, sisters Elsie, Astrid and Vallborg, and a brother, Harold.

Ofstie graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1918 and was assigned to destroyers. He was part of the U.S. Expeditionary Force sent to Europe during WWI. A ship's register for August 11, 1918 lists him as one of 26 naval officers landing that day.

Interestingly, the 1920 U.S. Census, tabulated January 30th, places Ofstie aboard the destroyer U.S.S. O'Bannon, among his other shipmates, who are all listed. He was 22 years old, and his occupation was listed as "officer." After his destroyer experience, he was assigned to flight school at Pensacola, FL. On June 8, 1922 he became a Naval Aviator #3010.

Numerous online resources document his Navy life and assignments. A short biography with a photograph and career summary is at the link. A summary of his honors and medals is at the link. He appears to have served in a good balance of roles, on and off shipboard, from flight operations to executive roles in Washington, DC and London, England. He moved forward in the naval ranks at a normal rate, holding the rank of Lieutenant when he visited Tucson.

R.A. Ofstie, Ca. 1934 (Source: Choureé Collection)
R.A. Ofstie, Ca. 1934 (Source: Choureé Collection)

 

Ofstie landed once at Tucson, Sunday, October 10, 1926 at 11:45AM. He was solo in an unidentified Curtiss F-6C-4. Based at Washington, DC, Anacostia, he arrived at Tucson westbound from El Paso, TX. He remained on the ground an hour and a half before departing to San Diego, CA.

A few years later, the 1930 U.S. Census places him at 2701 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, DC in a $75/month rented apartment. He was identified as an, "Officer, Navy." Curiously, he did not have a radio set in his apartment.

The portrait, right, comes from a scrapbook assembled by Register pilot Emile Choureé for the 1934 National Air Races (NAR). Ofstie was the commander of the Navy performance squadron at the Races that year, and Choureé was the field and on-air broadcaster for the Navy performances. Choureé's complete scrapbook can be downloaded at the link for your enjoyment (scroll down the page to the 1934 NAR and download the scrapbook). Ofstie's NAR orders and the 1934 Navy squadron he led are also pictured at the link. He holds the rank of Lt. Commander in this photograph. The 1934 NAR and Ofstie's role were summarized in The New York Times, September 3, 1934.

 

R.A. Ofstie Obituary, November 19, 1956, Washington Star (Source: NASM)

 

Ofstie set some of the early records for naval aircraft. For example, from this REFERENCE, June 13, 1923, page 55, we find Ofstie setting speed records of 121.95 and 121.14MPH for Class C seaplanes equipped with a Lawrance J-1 engine.

The same reference, page 58, describes another set of records made the following year. On October 25, 1924, "Lt. R.A. Ofstie, in a CR-3 with a Curtiss D-12 engine, broke world speed records for 100, 200, and 500 kilometers with marks of 178.25 m.p.h., for the 100 and 200, and 161.14 for the 500." That he maintained the same speed for the 100 and 200 kilometer distances is testimony to the precision of his flying. These records were set after the Schneider Cup Race was cancelled for the year. Documentation of the race appeared in The New York Times of October 26, 1924. Besides this article, Ofstie was the subject of tens of Times articles over the next forty years. Their subjects included his naval assignments, activities during WWII and the Korean conflict, and his role at the 1934 NAR (see above citation).

Results in 1925 were different. The same reference, page 61 for October 26, 1925 states, "The two Navy entries in the Schneider Cup Race at Bay Shore Park, Md., flown by Lts. George Cuddihy and Ralph A. Ofstie, were forced out of the race on the last lap with engine trouble. A description of the Schneider races and airplanes is at the link. And 1926 involved some excitment, too, as documented in the brief article below from the Bureau of Aeronautics Newsletter for September 25, 1926.

Bureau of Aeronautics Newsletter, September 25, 1926 (Source: Webmaster)

Later in his career, during WWII as a Rear Admiral (rank earned in August, 1944), Ofstie led a Task Group including ten escort carriers in the battles for Palau, Morotai and the Philippines. This REFERENCE, page 134-135, describes the action for August 30-September 1, 1944. Through the month, carrier palnes destroyed 893 Japanese aircraft and sank 67 war and merchant ships totaling 224,000 tons.

His last sea command was in January, 1945. He was then assigned to the strategic bombing survey of Japan, in which role he was responsible to interview top Japanese officials to learn their post-war impressions. The text of one such interview is at the link.

Ofstie's obituary, left, appeared in the November 19, 1956 Washington Star. A similar obituary appeared on the same date in The New York Times.

Ofstie’s last tour of duty was as Commander, Sixth Fleet in European waters from 1955 to 1956.  A ship's ledger (S.S. United States) for March 13, 1955 has him and his wife, listed as Joy B. Ofstie, arriving at the port of Southampton, England to engage in that duty. After only a year, however, Ofstie fell ill and returned to Bethesda Naval Hospital where he died.

His gravesite, photograph and a short biographical statement are at Find-a-Grave at the link. His wife, Joy Bright Hancock, was a Captain in the Navy. She outlived him by 30 years, passing away August 20, 1986.

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Dossier 2.2.140

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I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Ofstie to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.

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OTHER BOOKS FOR YOU

Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register, 1925-1936 is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-2-5.

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Art Goebel's Own Story by Art Goebel (edited by G.W. Hyatt) is written in language that expands for us his life as a Golden Age aviation entrepreneur, who used his aviation exploits to build a business around his passion.  Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-1-8.

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Winners' Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race is available at the link. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. What was it like to fly from Oakland to Honolulu in a single-engine plane during August 1927? Was the 25,000 dollar prize worth it? Did the resulting fame balance the risk? For the first time ever, this book presents the pilot and navigator's stories written by them within days of their record-setting adventure. Pilot Art Goebel and navigator William V. Davis, Jr. take us with them on the Woolaroc, their orange and blue Travel Air monoplane (NX869) as they enter the hazardous world of Golden Age trans-oceanic air racing. ISBN 978-0-9843074-3-2.

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