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First Name: Ralph

Last Name: Talbot

Birthplace: South Weymouth, MA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Home of Record: Wilmington, DE

Date of Birth: 06 January 1897

Date of Death: 25 October 1918

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Years Served: 1917-1918
Ralph Talbot

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)


Ralph Talbot

Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War I

Second Lieutenant Ralph Talbot (6 January 1897 - 25 October 1918) was a U.S Marine Corps officer and aviator who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during World War I. He was the first Marine aviator to receive the Medal of Honor.

Ralph Talbot was born on 6 January 1897 at South Weymouth, MA, and attended Weymouth High School. He was gifted both athletically and academically and entered Mercersburg Academy, PA, in the autumn of 1915. A year later he entered Yale University. While serving in the university's Artillery Training Corps, Talbot became interested in aviation and enrolled at the Dupont Flying School in Wilmington, DE.

Talbot enlisted in the United States Navy in October 1917 with the rank of Seaman 2nd Class. After ground training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and flying training in Florida, he became Naval Aviator No. 456. At the time, the Marine Corps were having problems recruiting aviators. Along with a number of other navy pilots, Talbot therefore realized that he was more likely to achieve his ambition of being posted overseas if he joined the Marines. After resigning from the Navy, he was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on 18 May 1918. He arrived in Miami a week later to join the First Marine Aviation Force with Squadron C. On 18 July 1918, Talbot was part of the initial party which sailed from New York for active service in World War I.

A participant in numerous raids into enemy territory, Second Lieutenant Talbot was attacked by nine Luftstreitkräfte enemy scouts while on a raid over Belgium on 8 October 1918 and, in the ensuing fight, shot down one of his attackers. Six days later, while on a strike against an enemy ammunition depot at Pittem, he and another plane became detached from the formation due to motor trouble and were attacked by 12 enemy scouts. In the fight which followed, his plane shot down one of the enemy scouts before his observer, Gunnery Sergeant Robert G. Robinson, was shot and the gun jammed. Talbot maneuvered the DeHavilland to gain time while Robinson cleared the gun and rejoined the battle. Robinson kept on firing until he collapsed from two more wounds. Talbot continued alone, shot down another enemy plane and then dived to escape the remaining Fokker D.VII fighters. Crossing the German trenches at 50 feet, he kept his ship with its failing motor in the air until he reached the nearest hospital where he landed, delivered Robinson to medical personnel and returned to his aerodrome. For his actions he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Second Lieutenant Talbot died on 25 October 1918, when his DH-4 crashed on takeoff during an engine test flight at La Fresne aerodrome.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps.

Citation: For exceptionally meritorious service and extraordinary heroism while attached to Squadron C, 1st Marine Aviation Force, in France. 2d Lt. Talbot participated in numerous air raids into enemy territory. On 8 October 1918, while on such a raid, he was attacked by 9 enemy scouts, and in the fight that followed shot down an enemy plane. Also, on 14 October 1918, while on a raid over Pittham, Belgium, 2d Lt. Talbot and another plane became detached from the formation on account of motor trouble and were attacked by 12 enemy scouts. During the severe fight that followed, his plane shot down 1 of the enemy scouts. His observer was shot through the elbow and his gun jammed. 2d Lt. Talbot maneuvered to gain time for his observer to clear the jam with one hand, and then returned to the fight. The observer fought until shot twice, once in the stomach and once in the hip and then collapsed, 2d Lt. Talbot attacked the nearest enemy scout with his front guns and shot him down. With his observer unconscious and his motor failing, he dived to escape the balance of the enemy and crossed the German trenches at an altitude of 50 feet, landing at the nearest hospital to leave his observer, and then returning to his aerodrome.


In 1936, the destroyer USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) was named in his honor.

Ralph Talbot School and Street in Weymouth, MA, were named after him

Death and Burial

Second Lieutenant Ralph Talbot died in an air crash on 25 October 1918. He is buried at Mount Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy, MA.

Honoree ID: 1829   Created by: MHOH




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