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In Memoriam: Ralph Hockley, Defender of Democracy

June 12, 2024

Photo of Ralph Hockley with military honors pinned to his suit jacket
Ralph Hockley

Ralph Hockley ’49 B.A. (RusSt) was not born in the United States, yet he fought valiantly to defend it and other allied countries against Nazis and threats to democracy through two wars and beyond. His military awards included the Bronze Star Medal for Valor and the Meritorious Civilian Service Medal, and, in 2021, he received France’s highest civilian accolade—the Legion of Honor—for his courage and sense of duty.

Hockley passed away on Nov. 8, 2023. He was 98. Fleeing Nazi persecution, Hockley’s family emigrated from Germany to France when he was 8 years old. Several years later, after the Nazis occupied France, his father was interned in several camps. As a teenager, Hockley took pride in assisting fellow Jewish refugees as a volunteer interpreter with the American Quakers in Marseille. The Quakers helped Hockley’s family obtain U.S. immigration visas.

In December 1943, Hockley joined the U.S. Army, and in May 1944, he became a U.S. citizen. In early 1945, as one of the Ritchie Boys—speaking German, French and English—he served in France and Germany as an intelligence sergeant and counterintelligence special agent.

After WWII, Hockley returned to the states and enrolled at Syracuse University on the GI Bill. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Russian studies from the Maxwell School and returned to active duty. His fluent French served him well in Korea, where he was a forward observer in the Army, working with a French battalion involved in the bloody Battle of Heartbreak Ridge and other engagements. Hockley later worked for 25 years as a military intelligence officer in Germany.

Returning to civilian life, he sold real estate in California and eventually moved to Texas in 1997 after marrying wife Carolyn. His first wife, Eva, died in 1983. Hockley chronicled his extraordinary life in “Freedom Is Not Free” (Brockton Publishing Co., 2001).

Published in the Spring 2024 issue of the Maxwell Perspective

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