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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • A life in two uniforms

  • Ralph Waldo Newquist wore two uniforms during his life. He wore overalls most of his life, but he wore a Navy uniform for 20 years.
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  • Ralph Waldo Newquist wore two uniforms during his life. He wore overalls most of his life, but he wore a Navy uniform for 20 years.
    Newquist lived a good life in his overalls on the farm in Kansas, where he was born, and on the farm at Goodman, where he spent the last years of his life.
    But his time in a Navy uniform, during World War II, gave him the adventure of his life.
    Newquist served on a miner sweeper, the Quail, during the war. In May 6, 1942, the Quail was in Manila Bay in the Philipines, when the Japanese overran the island, capturing hundreds of American sailors and marines, many of whom later made the famous "Corregidor death march."
    Most of the ships in the Manila Bay were sunk or damaged. But the skipper of the Quail mustered his 18 men together for a dramatic escape plan. They scuttled the Quail, took a 36-foot landing craft and made for the open sea. Traveling more than 2,000 miles past the enemy, and seeking help from natives along the way, the men made it all the way to Australia.
    This dramatic story is told in a book "South From Corregidor" that was written by the boat's skipper shortly after they arrived in Australia. It has been reprinted recently, with more maps and more information, including what became of the 18 sailors. The book is in the Neosho/Newton County Library.
    Ralph Waldo Newquist made that high stakes ride with fellow crewmen from the mine sweeper, Quail. Then after serving the rest of the war on duty in Australia, Newquist remained in the Navy for a full 20 years.
    While serving in Australia, he met and married his wife, Dorothy, and fathered a baby girl, Helen and later two other children. As the war ended, his wife and first daughter came by ship to San Francisco and then went on to the family farm in Kansas. Later, when Newquist returned to the states, they lived the life of a naval family.
    After his 20-year naval career ended, the family settled on a farm at Goodman, where he returned to overalls like he had when he was a boy.
    Helen was almost 15 when the family moved to the Ozarks, and she loved being on the farm that was located in Beeman Hollow.
    “I walked all over that farm, picked blackberries and swam in the creek,” Helen remembers.
    Helen says that her father never talked about his escape. Everything anyone learned about it came from her mother.
    “My dad was a wonderful man and a good father, but he just wasn’t much of a talker,” she said.
    According to his daughter, Helen Hickman, all the men who made the trip thought their skipper, Lt. Cdr. John Morrill, was “almost God.” But it took every man to be successful on the trip. Some navigated with simple sextons and the stars, and other men kept the diesel engine running.
    Page 2 of 2 - The story of the little open boat going 2,000 miles in enemy-infested waters was even written up in three parts in the Saturday Evening Post in December of 1942, detailing what each man contributed.
    Ralph Waldo Newquist died in 1997, and although he was a quiet man, he lived a good life — in both uniforms.

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