The National WWII Museum mourns the loss of WWII veteran and longtime Museum champion Ralph Crump, who peacefully passed away on March 16. A loyal attendee of our annual International Conference on World War II, Ralph was a passionate member of our Board of Trustees since 2014, participated in several of our overseas Educational Travel programs, and was active on the Education & Access and Collections & Exhibits Committees. He proudly served in the US Merchant Marines in both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters, with his convoys suffering heavy losses in the Mediterranean, China, Burma, and India theaters. Following the war, Ralph built a remarkable career as an inventor and business executive, pioneering numerous groundbreaking efforts in medical engineering.
Ralph was born and raised in Iowa, where his father was a welder boilermaker for the railroads. Graduating as valedictorian of his high school class, Ralph was admitted to UCLA as American involvement in World War II was gaining momentum. Determined to play an active role in the war effort, he applied for a position as junior grade draftsman at the shipyard, but wound up as a lowly file clerk paid 15 cents an hour.
When Ralph turned 19, he became “tired of being a civilian,” and went to the Navy recruiting office. There was a need for deck and engineering officers on cargo ships, so he started basic training for the Merchant Marines. He proudly delivered the news via a radiogram to his sweetheart Marjorie, who was enrolled at UCLA. Ralph and Marjorie continued to write letters to each other throughout his service, and after the war’s end, Ralph returned to UCLA, where he earned degrees in marine engineering and chemical engineering.
Deeply touched by their WWII experiences, Marjorie and Ralph, who married in 1948, shared a commitment to history and educating future generations. In 2010, they signed up for a Mediterranean cruise with programming organized by The National WWII Museum. They were impressed by the lectures and stayed in close contact with the Museum, attending the institution’s International Conference annually and bringing along their children, Connye, Ellen, and Craig.
Thanks to the generosity of Marjorie and Ralph, the Museum is able to preserve and tell the story of the essential Merchant Marine service in World War II in the Ralph E. Crump, LTJG, USNR, US Merchant Marine Gallery, which opened in December 2015. Situated at the end of the Horatio Alger Association American Spirit Bridge, on the second floor of the Solomon Victory Theater complex, this stand-alone 940-square-foot gallery honors the civilian merchant mariners who risked their lives transporting weapons, men, and matériel to US troops overseas. Members of the Merchant Marine were an essential force for the Allied cause, often working together with US Navy or Coast Guard vessels to protect their precious cargo.
“All of us at the Museum are deeply saddened by the loss of our dedicated Trustee and WWII veteran Ralph Crump,” said President & CEO Stephen J. Watson. “The Museum meant so much to Ralph, who was a frequent traveler on our overseas tours and a regular attendee at our annual International Conference on World War II. I’m so grateful that he was able to join us this past November for one last International Conference, and I know his valuable business expertise and insights as a WWII veteran will be greatly missed on our Board. We will continue to pay tribute to his generous spirit and legacy of service through the Museum’s Merchant Marine Gallery.”