Platte County resident, 1 of the oldest surviving WWII vets, dies at age 97

Keith Myers/Special to The Citizen Ralph Shackelford, seen here working the livestock arena at the Platte County Fairgrounds in Tracy, Mo. named in his honor, died last week at the age of 97. He was one of the oldest living veterans of World War II in the state. One of the oldest World War II veterans in Missouri died last week at the age of 97.

Ralph Shackelford, a lifelong resident of Platte County, served in the U.S. Army during World War II and survived a famous battle in which the Allies saved a key bridge that spanned the Rhine River. He later came back to live in Platte City and retired from TWA in 1981 after 31 years with the company as a metal mechanic.

JIM BARCUS/The Kansas City Star Ralph Shackelford

A fixture at events honoring veterans in Platte City, Shackelford also spent decades teaching young people to ride horses in 4-H, and the livestock arena at the Platte County Fairgrounds in Tracy, Mo. is named in his honor.

Shackelford was born in Platte County in 1918, and his father died when he was 13 years old. He quit school to help run the family farm before being drafted into the Army in 1942.

During his service, Shackelford ended up as one of the first men across the Ludendorff Railroad Bridge over the Rhine at Remagen, Germany to survive a fierce battle in March of 1945. The Germans were attempting to blow up all bridges across the waterway, and Shackelford, serving in the 9th Armored Division, was a part of the forces that prevented the final detonation.

Shackelford also served during the infamous Battle of the Bulge.

After receiving the rank of sergeant, Shackelford returned to the United States and was discharged in 1946 having earned a pair of bronze stars, awarded for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service. He met his wife Mary Edna in 1946, and they were married in 1947, a relationship that lasted nearly 65 years.

Shackelford lived on a farm in Hoover, Mo., just outside of Platte City.