World War II Casualties for Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard
Portland Press Herald - April 4, 1944
Photo provided by;
Narraguagus High School
EMERSON, Ralph W., Staff Sgt.,
USMCR. Father, Ralph W.
Emerson, Minot.
Ralph W. Emerson
Staff Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
Entered the Service From: Maine
Service #: 321780
Date of Death: September 16, 1943
Tablets of the Missing Manila
American CemeteryManila,
Lewiston Daily Sun - September 25, 1943
Lewiston Daily Sun - July 10, 1942
On August 8, 1943, after a 7 day
voyage from San Diego, the U.S.S
Long Island (CVE-1) arrived at Ford
Island , Pearl Harbor. LONG ISLAND
was the U.S. Navy’s first escort carrier
and carried on board the aircraft and
crews of the U.S. Marine Corps first
night fighter squadron (VMF(n) -531).
Once docked at Ford Island the
squadron’s six PV-1, twin-engine night
fighters were unloaded, and the crews
disembarked to fly their fighters onto
the Marine Corps Air Station at Ewa,
located on the nearby island of Oahu.
On August 19, VMF(N)-531 took off
from Ewa, and after a 3000 mile island-
hopping trip, arrived at Espiritu Santo
in the New Herbrides islands on August
25. On September 11, the squadron
flew to its final destination at Banika in
the Russell Islands, and three days
later conducted its first night combat
Night patrols and night fighting were
difficult and dangerous missions, as
author Alan C. Carey describes in his
book “ PV Ventura/Harpoon Units of
WW II”, “Night fighting was a
complicated undertaking which
involved not only the aircraft and crew,
but a ground controller (Ground
Control Intercept (GCI), using a  mobile
scr-527A radar) whose task it was to
guide the aeroplane to the interception
point, where the PV-1 radar operator
took over locating the “bogey” (enemy
Staff Sgt. Ralph W. Emerson of Minot,
Maine was one of the first marines to
be trained and assigned as a PV-1
radar operator. Ssgt. Emerson joined
the Marine Corps in September, 1941,
and after basic training at Parris
Island, he was sent to aviation and
radar school. He was eventually
assigned to VMF(N)-531, and made
the journey with the squadron to
On September 16, 1943 two PV-1’s
took off from Banika on a training flight
to test the Ground Control Intercept
radar. After the two planes were in the
air, an enemy threat caused the
training to be postponed. Piloting one
of the PV-1’s was the squadron
commander Major Schwable, after
being notified of the enemy threat he
took a course back to the base at
Banika and radioed the other pilot Lt.
John E. Mason. Shortly after, all radio
and radar communication ceased from
Lt. Mason. A search was conducted
the next day, but no trace of the plane
was ever found. Missing along with Lt.
Mason was his radar man Ssgt. Ralph
Emerson  and gunner Cpl. John J.
Burkett, the three marines were the
first casualties of VMF(N)-531.
Ralph W. Emerson Jr. was the son of
Mr. and Mrs. Ralph W. Emerson of
Minot, Maine. He graduated from
Edward Little High School in 1938. He
was 23. Semper Memento.