Ralph Barrale honored by Lake Saint Louis
Part of the soldier’s creed for the U.S. Army is “I will never quit.” Ralph Barrale of Lake St. Louis— a soldier during World War II — embodies that promise. At 88, an age when many people would not fault a person for taking life easy, Barrele is active in military and civic affairs. He has not retired, he has not quit.
Barrale, who served with Gen. George Patton’s famed Third Army and guarded prisoners during the subsequent Nuremberg war trials, is known around this area as the man who helped governments create honors for the nation’s military veterans, including Veteran’s Memorial Parkway.
He was recently surprised by his hometown,Lake Saint Louis, for his local contributions. LSL leaders presented him with a certificate of appreciation and a U.S. Army flag which flew over the city’s Veteran’s Memorial Park — a park established from Barrale’s efforts.
“You got me,” he said to his VFW post after learning the recognition was for him alone. He thought his Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10350 was receiving the award. He commanded the post for the last 15 years but recently chose to be co-commander.
Lake Saint Louis Ward 1 Alderman Ralph Sidebottom told Barrale, “You didn’t leave behind the values of a hero. You continued to be one of those heroes every day in our city. You continued to contribute in many different ways that was as valuable as your initial service.”
When Barrale and his wife of 66 years, Rose, toured Europe decades ago they were impressed by the war memorials there. “Every city, every little town had a tank or an artillery piece or statue, thanking the veterans,” he said.
Barrale looked at local military tributes in 1998 and thought, “There was nothing in St. Charles County at that time to recognize the veterans.”
He mentioned an idea to another veteran’s group and work began on naming the Page extension bridge. It opened in 2003 with Missouri legislature approval as the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge.
About the same time as the initial bridge discussion Barrele was working to rename I-70 in St. Charles County as the Veteran’s Memorial Highway. He was told an interstate could only get an honorary designation. Unsatisfied, he began lobbying to rename I-70’s south service road as Veteran’s Memorial Parkway.
“He just doesn’t know how to quit,” Sidebottom said. “If someone says ‘no,’ he finds a way to get them to say ‘yes.’”
The County Council approved the road name change idea in 1999 and cities along the route followed. Today, every city from the Missouri River all the way through Warrenton in Warren County have approved the name except Wentzville and Foristell.
Barrale asked LSL to establish a local memorial. Veterans Memorial Park is the result. A six-pointed star and flags recognize six branches of U.S. military service: the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Merchant Marines, and Navy. The national Prisoner of War/Missing in Action black flag also flies at the park.
Initially, the star was five-pointed. When a Merchant Marines group asked Barrale to also recognize their service, Barrale changed the star.
The Merchant Marines is a civilian fleet that in wartime attaches to the U.S. Navy to transport military supplies. In WWII the ships were initially unarmed and then minimally armed. As a result the Merchant Marines suffered the highest casualty rate of any military division.
The next project in Barrale’s scope is a county military museum. “I thought it would be nice to have a museum here,” he said. “We could have displays and memorabilia. There is nothing in St. Charles County like that.”
In WWII Barrale served in Patton’s Third Army and was involved in a pivotal battle in March 1945: The capture of the Rhine River bridge at Remagen,Germany. The seizure prevented the Nazis from returning to Eastern Europe and gave the Allies access into Germany.
“My outfit was front-line military police,” he said. “We directed traffic and took in prisoners right behind the infantry.” He remembers that the bridge was under constant German bombardment to try to destroy it so Allied forces couldn’t enter Germany.
Barrale also viewed the infamous Dachau concentration camp at the war’s end. He said he can’t forget seeing prisoners’ bodies “stacked like cord wood. You never forget. How people can treat others like that—it boggles the mind,” he said.
Barrale’s group then guarded prisoners during the Nuremberg trials of war criminals immediately after WWII.
After his military discharge Barrale returned to St. Louis at age 22 to marry Rose. They had become quickly engaged while Ralph was home on a brief, three-day pass after basic training before heading to Europe.
“We got engaged right before he left,” Rose said. “I didn’t have a ring.”
Later, Barrale mailed his mother a letter, asking her to find a suitable ring and give it to Rose at Christmas.
“She gave me a ring at Christmastime,” Rose said. “I was so surprised. I said to myself, ‘My future mother-in-law is giving me a ring for her son. I’m really accepted into this family.’”
They have three children. Two sons still live in the area and a daughter resides in Alabama.