Ralph Mazza was 22 and a student at the University of California when Pearl Harbor was bombed. He left college to enlist in the Army. He was trained as a private in the Air Corps Technical School, then as a sergeant became an instructor at the same school. Although he recognized the value of good training, Ralph was frustrated because he hadn’t enlisted to remain in the U.S. as a teacher, and letters to buddies were being returned, marked “deceased.” When the opportunity was offered to go to the Signal Corps OCS, he took it, graduating in class 1943-23. Following graduation, his first assignment was in Baltimore at the Holabird Signal Depot (renamed Camp Holabird in 1947) in the Signal Pigeon Company.
Ralph was transferred to the 598th Signal Repair Company in January 1944 where he helped set up a repair facility for vehicle radios. Still desiring European service, but with the War winding down, he got into the Signal C Replacement Pool in March 1945 and was finally sent to Europe in July 1945 to work in France packaging radio equipment being collected for transfer to the Pacific Theater. When Japan surrendered, Ralph was quickly transferred to Germany to be the Signal Depot Commander in Nuremberg from November of 1945 to July 1946.
At the Signal Depot, Ralph was a Captain in charge of unloading and organizing military and industrial equipment that arrived by train numerous times a day from all over Europe. His men did not do the work of unloading. They oversaw this work that was done by German citizens – working for their ration of food – and German POWs, who were also under the Depot Commander’s charge. During his command, Ralph set up an club for his enlisted men (with liquor rations donated by his officers), and a reading room for the POWs. The Captain of the POWs was an educated older man who wrote poetry and would go on to write books about his Bavarian homeland. This POW officer was completely cooperative and understanding when Capt. Mazza was made aware of the razor-blade radio being built by the POWs and came to them to confiscate it.
After being discharged in 1946, Ralph became a Major in the Army Reserves, but his growing family made active participation in the reserves difficult, so he left in 1955. He had already finished college and gotten a master’s degree in physics on the G.I. Bill. Most of his adult career was as a professor of physics at Mesa College in San Diego, California, where he raised his 5 children. Now at almost 98 years old, he proudly wears his “U.S. Army Retired” hat everywhere he goes and enjoys the smiles and thanks he receives.
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