Showing posts with label Army Air Corps. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Army Air Corps. Show all posts

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sepia Saturday 178 Memorial Day back to 1943, my father

2013 Some things of my father, insignia, leather pilot cap
An open theme this week allows me to travel from today to 1943 with a  Memorial Day tribute to my father and all the brave souls who gave their all for our country and freedom.  The color photo to the left has mementos from my father, US Army Air Corps Lt. Lewis S Ball.  You know the story, I never knew him born  months after he and his entire combat flight crew disappeared into the Atlantic Ocean, June 20, 1944, WWII, The  aviator cap is in perfect condition and most likely could  have been a spare which seems to counter to the sparse gear the US Army distributed back then.  This cap was amongst many  documents and items I found it in an old  suitcase in 2004 after Mom died.   I have wondered as with so many  unanswerable thoughts, where did he get it and how did it stay in perfect shape?  There are letters on the top, "USN"  which I think are for US Navy, curious, my father was US Army Air Corp.  Did they get aviator caps for whatever service branch, did it matter?  

This photo of my father at the propeller is 1943 with him wearing this or another identical cap at Dorr Field, Arcadia Florida during his early flight training in P-38's and PT's. 

1943 July Lt L S Ball  Dorr Field
Lou  liked flying and especially  those small planes and aspired to be a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps, but Uncle Sam needed ever so many more B-24 pilots and although Lou was not a large man in height he was strong and eager and assigned to fly the B-24 Liberator.   The following post card was one of the few things Mom shared with me although she would always call it, "that damned plane."  I don't know what he thought but I have some of his own notes and drawings from training, he was a dedicated student.   It has been said that the B-24's  were flat faced, rectangular and had  the look only a "myopic mother" could love.   The cockpit  was cramped requiring pilot and co pilot to live cheek to jowl during missions.  One WWII pilot wrote, that the first time he entered the cockpit of his B-24 "it was like sitting on the front porch and flying the house."  The Liberator was one of the heaviest planes in the world, the D model  weighed 71,200 pounds loaded.  Flying it was like "wrestling a bear" which left the pilots tired, and sore.  B-24 pilots were known to have huge muscles on their left arms which they used to man the yoke while their right hand worked other controls.  

This is the cover of my father's  August 1943 "Dorr Way", a booklet for the pilot trainees, they were the class 44-a.   I am  mindful of the task these  men faced  and grateful that I have these historic items.  It is a wonder that in the times of WWII the U S Army Air Corp would take the time to photograph and document their times at these different training sites.  It was a time when they would move quickly through and advance to the next training or wash out and be assigned to another task, not able to make it as a pilot.  Many hundreds of thousands of men went through the training but most did not achieve pilot status. The wash out rate was  at it lowest 30 percent but in  later years 45%; but the men who were not pilots would be given other flight status  jobs, bombardier, gunner, radioman, all with an appreciation of the difficulties they faced.    
 Louis Zamperini discusses the huge fatality rate of B-24 crew in his marvelous  book ,  "Unbroken" authored by Laura Hillenbrand,  the dangers that abounded even before they flew off to war theater.  The men called the B-24  "The Flying Coffin"   "Stories of its dangers circulated among the would be airmen all over the country.  Pilot and navigator error, mechanical failure, fuel leakages, sinkability, inability to ditch, and bad luck were killing trainees at stunning rate.. 52,615Army Air Corps stateside aircraft accidents over WWII killing 14, 903 personnel...In August 1943  590 airmen would die stateside, 19 per day." 
My father's squadron, # 6 at Dorr that Class of 44-a.  There were 6 similar
squadrons according to this book.  He is seated to the far right on the ground.

I cropped and enlarged the photo to the right of my father from the Squadron photo.  There again is that aviator cap, and goggles.  He looks happy and excited.  Look at his sparkling smile and his eyes.   He had less than one year of life left ahead when this photo was taken.  Maybe he did not yet know that the Liberator awaited. He was a positive young man.   Lou would  confide  in  his young brother, Henry, on his final leave home  that he was not so sure he had done the right thing in taking the pilot's training.  I doubt if he had much choice, he was in the Army and they made the rules.  It was not today's Army by a long shot and how could he have declined pilot training for which he scored very high in aptitude and  preliminary  screenings.   The aviators gathered in the photo below are waiting solo assignments.   

1944 June, short  newspaper clipping about
disappearance of my father
 and ..Combat crew 193

Last photo Dorr Field book 1943, an almost
spooky quality to the men now ready to meet their destiny, whether  to the next phase of training  as in Lou's case or...,.

This is  my Sepia Saturday contribution.  Click here to the Sepia host site where members of the international community respond to the prompt.  This week many consider the  eyes  in the   photo.


Friday, April 16, 2010

My Father Lewis S Ball Sepia Saturday 19 (Click here to visit others' on Sepia Saturday)

For this week I show a photo which I treasure, my father and my hero, Lt. Lewis S Ball and Combat Crew 193, First Air Force, First command 113th Army Air Force Base (Wing), D squadron, Unit Combat Crew 193, Charleston, South Carolina  

My father is standing, back row far left, hand in pocket, pilot, 2 Lt. Lewis S Ball, standing at the far right, Eugene de Palma, bombadier and Flight Officer; and Raymond Pachucki, front row 2nd on the left, radio operator. The other men are F/O Allyn A Pierce Harris Co., TX; F/O Allen Cantor Wayne Co, MI; Sgt. David R. Hackney Milwaukee Co. WI; Sgt. John P. Flynn NewYork Co, NY; Cpl. Calvin J. Arent Berrien Co, MI; Sgt. Charles V. Brewer ; Sgt. Theodore Hirsch Berrien Co., MI. Believe me I have searched and searched to find any trace of remaining families, etc.

This fatal flight would have been nearly the last flight before this crew would have shipped to England for the war effort. Although I have all the names of the men on this flight, from the accident reports and records I have obtained in my search for information over the years. I can match only three to the men in the photo. Just months ago I was contacted by the nephew of Eugene de Palma, bombardier and matched that name and face. Three years ago I was contacted by the niece of Raymond Pahucki and identified him in the photo.

I have written about my father other places on this blog, explaining how I never knew him. (See my sidebar for the blog posts in the heading "Somethings about my Father".)  He was a pilot in the US Army Air Corp and he and his entire crew disappeared on a flight that should have but never returned from Nassau, Bahamas to Charleston, SC. June 20, 1944, never a trace found of the plane or crew. I came to earth in November and he left that June, although he knew of my (or someone’s imminence).

I am one of what were 185,000appx. USA war orphans, so designated as "orphans"  by our government, those of us who lost our fathers in World War II. I belong to an organization known as the American World War II Orphans Network (AWON) and I have a tribute to my father on their website. If you want to read more you can access that at     It  was not until after 2004 and my increased activity in searching for and finding information that I began to really talk abou my dad. All my years growing up there was no discussion; I thought my family was wierd but I learned that was the way of that generation, silence, all too frequently.  One of my AWON colleagues has written a poem, "The Wall of Silence" which describes those feelings.   I hold deep gratitude to AWON for uniting me with others who clearly understood how different we were and for removing that reluctance to mention.  Even today sometimes people's eyes glaze over, they don't want to hear nor to listen, but I think Sepia Readers might be interested in just a sliver of this history.   

Louie, as he was called, was born April 3, 1922 to Frank Ball and Anna Kudzia Ball in Harwick, PA, the middle of three sons. They were a stalwart Polish family and devout Roman Catholics. Louie was a Boy Scout and a member of the championship first aid team of PA. Louie worked at Duquesne Light Company, Harwick mine before enlisting in the Army, against the wishes of his mother. I was told by Uncle Henry  and others that my father was exceptionally smart and that he was the favorite son.  They say Louie had the best sense of humor and was full of fun. The  3 brothers are in this photo Eddie, Henry and Louie.  I remember very little of Frank Ball, my father's father who died when I was maybe  7 years old.  I had infrequent contact with my grandmother Anna Ball. 
Lewis (Lou)  and my mother, Helen Pauline Konesky married at Maxwell Field, AL June 12, 1943; this is their wedding picture.  This was to the consternation of his mother, my Grandmother Anna Ball who was adamant that the eldest son, (Louie’s brother Edward who was also off in the Army) should have married first.  Perhaps if Louie had lived Anna would have accepted Helen and Helen would have  gotten along with Anna.  I like to think that.  There are many reasons for the bad blood between my mother, the surviving widow who remarried, and my Grandmother Ball, grieving mother who went to her grave at 80 still believing that someday Louie would be found and come home. For these and other reasons I hardly knew my father’s family even though we lived close in PA. I was blessed though to have contact with Uncle Henry and his family( my father’s baby brother) who lived in CA as we did; we lost Uncle Henry in 2008. Today again thanks to the internet and my AWON tribute, I am in contact with my cousins, daughters of Uncle Eddie after years of silence. It is interesting to hear what they know of Grandma Ball.   The photo below was taken sometime in early 1944 with my Dad home for a short leave:Left to right, Henry,Mother Anna, Lou, and Frank Ball.  My grandmother Anna gave me this old photo when I left for California so long ago.

But for this Sepia Saturday the photos will suffice. I have assembled a huge scrapbook about my father and am working on a memoir about my life growing up and surviving without a father, never knowing anyone else like me until I joined AWON in 1990’s, always wondering what if, and yet not having many answers until my mom died in 2004 and we found a suitcase full of letters and paperwork. But as I said this is not my story this Sepia, this is only to share some photos of my dad.

Dad was stationed for a time at Ft. McCoy, WI, not far from where we live today. I am amazed when I trace his steps and see the same places today that he saw so may years ago.  He loved to take photographs and in that suitcase in Mom’s closet I found this one taken in February 1943 outside their barracks at Ft. McCoy. It was developed across the river here in La Crosse, WI.  These are 4 of  dad's friends in his writing left to right, Tony, Jackson, Joe, Jerry,  Looks like they are all enjoying a smoke!  And here outside the barracks  also at Ft. McCoy, prior to the time he  left for pilot training, Lou (my dad) and Jobe.  No last names and no way to identify these men. 
I close this post with a quote from one of my father's pilot training books.  It was a dedication to the brave men who were pilots during that siege of a time, warning them that they were not immortal and what might be ahead.  I use this line every time I post something about my dad---... their memory becomes a treasure...he holds the sky...

Friday, June 19, 2009

JUNE 20, 1944 2nd. Lt. Lewis S Ball

That's my dad and mom's wedding photo taken at Maxwell Field AL, June 15, 1943. Little did they suspect it would only be a bit over a year later when they would not meet again this side of the clouds. They had met in PA at some Polish family wedding and after that Lou began to come to the house a lot. Helen dropped out of high school to follow him once he had been commissioned. Their marriage angered Anna Ball, his mother who said, "oldest son supposed to marry first." Little did they suspect he would never live to see his only child, me. Louie, that's what they called him, disappeared with his plane and crew somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean on the way back to Charleston, SC. I have read all I can find about the Bermuda triangle.

June 20 is the day before Father's Day this year. Father's Day always tormented me, I always felt strange pangs. I was raised in the home with my mother's 2nd husband, not a nice man, whom she married when I was not 3 years old. I used to fantasize that somewhere my dad was alive and would come back. Likely that fantasy was planted in my head by my grandmother, Anna Ball,my father's mother. She went to her grave believing that her Louie would someday come back home. She told me in her broken Polish accented English, " I never give up hope." I had very limited contact with my father's family though they lived very close. This was because of my mother, I know.

My Father Lewis S Ball was born April 3, 1922 to Frank and Anna Ball in Harwick, PA. I have memorialized him on the American World War II Orphans website. with words from one of his pilot training logs......"he holds the sky..." Without AWON I would not have searched for and known as much as I do today. But then you can read that story elsewhere on this blog. And you can check out my dad's website at AWON, our fathers pages at

65 years ago, June 20, 1944 at 9:00PM started my mother's nightmare. Pregnant with me, 20 years old, and waiting in a small rented room in Charleston, SC, Helen began to wonder why Lou had not returned. Probably at a briefing--they did that with those flights. And there was always something that held the men up. The flight left Charleston for the Bahamas at 08:30 June 20th. He was a "new" B-24 pilot, appx. 84 hours total flight time through his "quick" pilots training with many others. It was wartime and training was accelerated. They evaluated Lou,"ready to command the B-24. Alert. Aggressive" Aviation was in it's early stages and instruments were rough at best. Today one could not pilot a Cessna with only 84 hours total time!

This would have been their nearly last stateside training flight. Lou and his combat crew 193, 113th group, 400th Bombadier group, 1st Air Force would soon head for Europe. Lou knew it would be England. He feared they would not return. In his gut he knew as did the other B-24 pilots, this was a bad business. Lou shared this fear only with Henry, his baby brother back home, swearing Henry to never tell that "your big brother is finally afraid. But if anything happens, remember that your big brother trusts in Heaven and God and you must too."

I learned this from Uncle Henry in 2002 at his & Aunt Pearl's 50th wedding anniversary in Grass Valley, CA. Uncle Henry was true to his vow to his big brother, he never said a word. That evening at their wonderful celebration my Uncle Henry hugged me and said, "Patty you are my only relative here tonight." I kidded with him and said, "Not so, there's Pearl and Larry and Diane and...." But he said, "no you know what I mean you are the only real Ball." As a present to Pearl and Henry who insisted NO Gifts, I'd copied photos of my dad in uniform with his parents and Henry as a boy when my dad was home on leave. Had these framed and mounted into a nice display which brought tears to Uncle Henry as he looked at his long lost brother. Larry Ball has that display today. Fitting because Larry, Henry's son resembles his Uncle Louie a lot, especially Henry said, in attitude, the kidding around, the love of family. That was my dad according to Uncle Henry. Everyone loved Louie! Just like they all loved Grandpap Frank Ball.

I've wondered how much they briefed the stateside B-24 pilots about D-Day. He surely knew something BIG was up in Europe. But here he was, one more maneuver to the Bahamas in the clunker B-24. Oh how he'd wanted to fly those P-38 fighters. Wasn't that every pilots dream? How did a boy from Harwick get into this mess! By choice, yes he'd volunteered. Oh his mom was so angry with him. After all she already had a son in the war, his older brother, Eddie. That was enough. But not for Louie! A post card which he never mailed to her reads, "don't worry Mom. Everything will be all right. We just have to trust in God." What faith, yes Lou was a devout Catholic boy. He'd been selected for pilot training after basic and his time as radio operator. How thrilled he was then. How happy. He'd made it big time!

Helen never knew of his fear but she knew he would soon ship out so she was in Charleston. She wanted as much time with him as she could get. He didn't have near the time to himself these days that he used to have in pre-pilot days. Back then he even had time to take photos of the other men. Photos I have today. No time for that now. Lou was ever consumed, busy with training, school, flying. I have some of his pilot study notes. They are in his big scrapbook which I pulled together to take with me to AWON conferences. It's a book that keeps growing!

But fate was cruel, that night 20:00 June 20, 1944 they radioed, "low on fuel, heading for Jacksonville...." Combat Crew 193 lost radio contact, they never returned from Morris Field, Bahamas. Were they near Jacksonville? Were they off course? Did the B-24 suddenly run out of fuel? Was it such an old clunker that there was a fuel leak, slow but not noticeable until critical? Or, were they flying low along the coast, as instructed, and did a German U-boat, surface at the same time. It would have sighted the plane and that would have been the instant end. I have several letters of detail about the search. Life rafts were dropped but found empty. But had those rafts been in the right area? How far off couse were they? Too many unanswered questions.

The young wife waited, but the men at the door were not Lou. Search planes and navy boats took off from Charleston. Never a trace found of Combat Crew 193, the 9 men (it was a training flight) and for me, I lost the father I'd never know. I'd enter this world in November, 5 months later. I have missed him all my life.

I watched the news and ceremonies at Normandy this year. I am always overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude for those who defended our freedoms. I have disdain for those today who trade our freedoms for socialism and who have a cowardice attitude while promoting talking, for those who blabber about our use of torture! Just imagine what a county we would have had if so many brave men like my father had not paid with the ultimate sacrifice! Imagine that just as I often imagine how my life might have been so very different if my dad had made it through.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Latest photo of my dad

I love this photo of my dad with the P-38 fighter. Those are the planes that he really wanted to fly but ended up as a B-24 pilot as they needed those in WWII and the Army Air Corp did not offer planes or career of choice. Things were different. My cousin, Carol, retrieved this and some others of nose art from her mother's home in PA and sent them to me so it was like a wonderful Christmas present. I looked through his pilot logs and can surmise that this was taken at Dorr Field, FL, approximately July 1943. You know the story of my dad, flight disappeared en route from Bahamas to Charleston SC, June 20, 1944 about five months before I would enter this planet.

With the recent commemorations about D-Day and the celebrations of 65 years, I think about my dad. Here he was a young pilot and knew from a briefing that soon he and his combat crew 193 would depart Charleston, SC for England. The Air support was needed. I wonder how much they were briefed stateside about the D-Day operations. He knew for sure that something big was up and this is when he began to feel the fear.

Recently on our AWON website I was struck by something a friend shared which her father had written to his parents. How similar to what my dad told his "baby brother." How different it was in WWII with sincere faith, devoutness to country and God and patriotism. I shared with Brenda that my father said nearly the same thing in a post card I have which he'd not mailed to his mother shortly after he had enlisted against her wishes. In 1942 my father wrote to his mother, "Mom, it will all be God's will and we trust for the best no matter what." His faith was that strong.

I have clung onto similar thoughts through out my life at many times when things looked the most dismal. I still hold onto these words today remembering that I had a father with very deep faith. I would not want to disappoint his spirit by losing mine, no matter what!

Monday, February 25, 2008

About my father and me

Last year I kept busy with research and writing a tribute to my father, getting him and his crew memorialized correctly at the WWII monument, and going through a lot of grieving after 60 + years reservoir of sadness in a Wall of Silence!

The photo includes my dad, standing back row far left,hand in pocket, pilot on that fatal flight with the entire Combat Crew 193. I have all their names but cannot identify them in the photo.

Thought you might be interested in reading , the tribute on the American World War II Orphans Network, AWON website, through the link that follows. If for any reason that does not work for you, you can Google AWON and scroll through the fathers''s been quite a journey and were it not for this organization I'd still be thinking I was the only one who lost a father in WWII, whom I never knew, never heard much about and was ignored by his family. Actually there were more than 180,000 of us who lost fathers and who were deemed "Orphans" by our government. I've learned that many of us now in our 60's and many older lived the same loss experiences all across the country. The Wall of Silence was the way of coping that crossed cultures, parts of the country, ages. ...And many of us today are all we have.

Jerry & I found material when cleaning out my mother's house in PA after she died suddenly in 2004. What a treasure chest that she had kept through the years. Wish she could have talked about it when she was alive. Anyway, now I have accomplished another one of my retirement goals!! I use the signature below in corresponding with AWONers and the military about this ...

daughter of 2LT Lewis S. Ball
MIA June 20, 1944 flight enroute from Nassau,Bahamas to Charleston, SC
113th Army Air Corps, Combat Crew 193 Charleston Army Air Field