Showing posts with label My Father. Show all posts
Showing posts with label My Father. 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, September 23, 2011

Sepia Saturday 93 sleepers

I've been really attempting to get the extra room uncluttered from all the stacks of photos and memorabilia this week and what I happened on fits right in with the theme--I love it when a theme comes together!  Actually if I  spent more time rummaging photos I am sure I could have found even more Sleepers. And this has also distracted me from another task paper work on financials, but I am willingly ignoring that.  Not a pleasant task these days.  

First I begin  January 1, 1943, Springfield IL, my father, Lt. Lewis S Ball,  pilot, sound asleep on his US Army cot, sleeping bag  pulled snug, with Mom's photo on top;  one of the guys grabbed his camera and took this.  I still have that 8 x 10  photo of her today, it survived through the years and is a beautiful Sepia itself.  I also have the gold and amethyst necklace that she is wearing in the photo, a gift from him to her, her birthstone and just as beautiful today as it was then, so many years later.  This photo is   in his scrapbook but I scanned it for this post. This is my oldest sleeper photo.

Next forward to 1969 and my uncle John Irwin, asleep on the couch, in exile from the bedroom,  in Pennsylvania.  I don't know the particulars but my aunt Virginia likely snapped this Polaroid of her  wayward husband to preserve the memory. On the back side she wrote, "John  being punished." He doesn't appear to be bothered by much here.  Perhaps he'd imbibed a few too many,  perhaps there were too many words exchanged, never the less it does not appear to be interrupting his sleep. 

Now to the right is a 1980 pose captured by my Uncle Carl of "Joe" one of his friends on one of their many hunting trips, where the men gathered in a cabin at the end of the day.  I don't know  who this fellow is, but Uncle Carl was quite the photographer of their events and so he is in the cyber world for all to see.  I was sorting photos this week and found this and when Alan put the Sleepers as the theme for the week, I knew I was in business.   Was this the end of a long day in the woods?  Too much to eat at the evening meal?  You can speculate with me.  

1984, to the left here are my in laws about whom I have recently blogged--that is Lyman to the left and Florence to the right.  They have made themselves  at home and comfortable in our living room in Newcastle, CA.  As I have mentioned before,  our home was their vacation site.  I suppose it was a compliment that they felt so "at home there" but I often wondered why they did not stay with their daughter, Barbara who lived 30 minutes away.  As I recall this particular day, I arrived  home from work  and there they were, awaiting when I would prepare the meal for everyone.  The newspaper on the table has a headline, something about "retirement." 

Well the photo to the right is 1986, Jerry's cousin, Milo (actually  his cousin's husband) who was catching up on some rest after a rough day at the work for the city on its maintenance  crew.  We were back in  La Crescent on  a trip we took across the country from  California to Minnesota, to Pennsylvania and then swinging back westward through the south.  So we stopped at Milo and Jeanette's.  We had come in from visiting, camera in hand and got this pose. These days, Milo does sleep a lot in his recliner, he has aged and tends to nap away the afternoons.  It is not the same as Jeanette passed away years ago, and although he has a live in companion, he misses her as do we.

1989 another one to the left,  from Uncle Carl's photos.  This man is Fred Hemming and he was in the Army, 809th Tank Destroyers in WWII with Uncle Carl.  Each year the men and families gathered to reminisce and usually to tour some site.  This time they were in Altoona, PA, I believe which meant that Uncle Carl and Aunt Marge had likely made arrangements for the group.  As we have seen, no one was safe when Carl, the photographer was around.  

For my finale I could not resist this one, also from Uncle Carl's collection.  This is Punkin, his last pet and beloved "pal."  After Aunt Marge passed in 1997 Punkin and Carl went everywhere together.  He  had many photos of Punkin.  I have to say, I have shared an array of sleepers and to end this post, let sleeping dogs lie.  (Groan.....)
1988 Punkin
As usual, click on the title to get to the Sepia host site and see what others are sharing this week.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Frank Ball Sepia Saturday 58 (Click here to get to the Sepia Sat site)

Frank and his dog, Pouch
Frank Ball was my paternal Grandfather, but I knew little about him, due to limited contact with the Ball family as I have mentioned before on this blog. He was born in 1893 in Jaszojka, Poland according to documents, but I believe this may be Jaszkowo a small village in west central Poland. All I remember about him is a vague recollection of his death in 1951 and the huge funeral for the small town, but I was only 6 years old then. Aunt Pearl who married Uncle Henry, the youngest son, told me that it was indeed a huge funeral, because Frank was well liked and mourned by many.

He was quite young by today’s standards, only 58 when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Strange to know that I am older now than my grandfather was when he died.  Grandma Anna later told me, “He was too fat!” Heart disease seems genetic in the Ball family;  of the three sons, only Uncle Henry, the youngest survived to be 80; but Uncle Henry had heart ailments as well and cautioned his son Larry to “watch out for your heart, it’s in the family.” Uncle Edward, the eldest son died suddenly at 57, heart condition.  Of course my father, Lewis was the Army Air Corp pilot killed at 22 in World War II, missed that part of his heritage.  

Another genetic trait in the Ball family is the dimple in the chin, evident here in father youngest and middle son.  This distressed me for years, but now has become far less distinctive though the cheek dimples remain.  My son, Steve bore this mark as well. 
Frank appx. 1943 with youngest son
Henry and my Father, Lewis
Polish American Club in 2009 in Harwick, PA
 where Frank and Anna tended bar and ran tabs
In his spare time Frank tended bar and allowed folks to run a tab which was to be paid promptly on pay day, or else. The “or else” meant that Anna, his wife, my grandmother “cut them off.” She worked at the same tavern and would absolutely not allow further drinks and so the accounts were kept timely and the bar business prospered. Or else, the unpaid went elsewhere to imbibe and there were not many options in the small town of Harwick. When we were in PA in fall, 2009 we visited the town, found the tavern which was not opened and may likely be only for private meetings.    

Ball home in Frazer Township, PA
Year unknown, Anna Ball to the far left
Although Frank was a coal miner he managed to save money and buy land where he and Anna raised their sons and improved their standard of living.   She lived in the home after he passed and expected her sons to remain there.  Uncle Henry did not but departed for better employment in CA with his wife, incurring the wrath of Anna.  Only Edward, the eldest son, stayed behind, content to live on the land. 

The few times I visited the Ball homestead the home was overpowering and dreary to me with a mysterious cellar and rooms that led who knows where. I always felt haunted by what my young mind  felt to be the ghost of my father in his younger days, and since no one talked about that I stuffed it.   No one knew the trauma I felt with the few visits; I never felt at ease there, always longing to go back home to my maternal grandmother. They had a chicken pen behind the home and I dreaded those birds.  I remember eating a plate of cookies with my cousin at one visit, being well amused by stuffing ourselves. 

The house was the equivalent of the house that Jack built and seemed always to be in process. 
Ball home in Frazer Township, PA
A cousin provided these two photos of the Ball home; I believe these may have been taken back in the  40's  Eventually it was all sold off  by Esther, Edward's wife who inherited everything, manipulating the elderly Anna into disinheriting everyone but herself.  She provided  for her daughters and herself and lives in a nearby town;  the land  is part of where a big Pittsburgh Valley Mills Mall stands.  Now Edward and  Esther's 3  daughters, Henry's son and daughter and myself are all that remain of Frank  Ball's legacy.  Uncle Henry and Aunt Pearl maintained contact with Mom and me all my life, not so with Esther and Edward, but that is another story.  The petty jealousies of the family are water under the bridge and the survivors  have to live with themselves.  Esther's daughters, my cousins, have been in touch with me but we share limited memories.  

Frank Ball with Bessie
Year unknown
 Another story is that Frank was unsure what to do with the paycheck and when so paid by the mine, set them aside in a box until industrious Anna investigated. By that time they had accumulated some funds and were able to purchase land, a dream come true for Polish immigrants. I cannot verify the veracity but  speculate it could  be as he was not that literate, however I question how they lived in the coal community without funds.  Another mystique of my roots I'll never know.  

I have written before how the names of my Polish ancestors changed depending on which census taker, official, immigration agent recorded their names.  I  almost understand that dilemma with the  difficult Polish spellings, however I am told that Frank's last name was actually Bal and that officials changed it to Ball.  Now how much easier could it have been! Being  a compliant immigrant he adopted that spelling.  I never could understand growing up how we had the name Ball from Polish and suspected it must have been shortened from something.  But years ago, Uncle Henry revealed that it was Bal and changed to suit the officials; I have not found any research into the spelling Bal.  I did not like Ball as my last name because it rhymed with many things and I was teased; my mother had remarried leaving me the only one with that last name.  Often teachers thought my heritage to be English as Ball is a well known name back to Colonial times.  Somewhere about the age of 10 or so, I overcame peevishness to my last name and whenever someone made fun of my name I was quick to retort rhyming theirs to the absurd and or resorting to some sort of physical activity in  retaliation.  

I have hit brick walls trying to learn anything about this paternal side but recently on my research I struck gold, finding Frank’s petition for Naturalization in 1926. So little by little my investigative skills took over and I have traced his arrival in the United States into New York in 1913, when he was 20 aboard the Kaiser Wilhelm III. So far I have not found him on the ship’s manifests. I find no information about his having any other relatives anywhere in the country.  Nor do I know how he met Anna or the date of their marriage. Such questions might not have been had my father lived. 

By 1920 Frank and Anna met, married, had their first son, Edward,  and are living in Jenner, Somerset, PA according to the 1920 census. By 1926 he and Anna  had moved to Harwick or Springdale, PA when Frank applied for Naturalization in PIttsburgh; I find it interesting that the miners were encouraged to do so by the Unions who of course wanted votes for their candidates. Nothing has changed today, different immigrant groups but the same strategies continue. The 1930 census shows them living in Harwick, PA where he worked the mines and bought his land.
This is the only picture I have of both grandparents and I know little about it, not the place, not the date, not all the people in the photo.  Frank looks the same in all his photos, but Anna appears almost Oriental looking here. 
Left to right, Anna Kudzia Ball, her sister Mary Wojnar (aka Wagner) , Frank Ball,
 below, unknown  man and woman to the right   Unknown place or date
As always,click on the title to this post to get to the Sepia Site where others show  their fascinating photos and stories. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sepia Saturday Post Week 28 My Father Lewis S Ball

This weekend marks a holiday created to honor fathers, a day I seldom appreciated and a day that has morphed into commercialism marked by sales of Hallmark cards, ties, fishing paraphernalia, bar-b-que accoutrement's, or other mementos of male hobbies. I will share some photos of my father Lewis S Ball and some photos from his collection; he was an avid photographer until he entered pilot training and then must have become too busy to take many snapshots.

I wrote about my father on Sepia Week 19 and if you have read my blog that I never knew him because his plane and crew disappeared somewhere in the Atlantic returning to Charleston, SC from the Bahamas on June 20, 1944 enrolling me as one in the nearly 185,000 American children designated by our government as war orphans. I belong to an organization, American World War II War Orphans Network source of immeasurable resources and unbelievable support among those of us who shared similar stories growing up not knowing, and not even knowing anyone like ourselves. Tomorrow, June 20 designated father’s day summons my need to remember the man I never knew, continue to grieve his loss after and still 65+ years, ponder how different my life might have been, and share more photos and stories about his journey.

He and Mom married June 12, 1943 at Maxwell Field, AL. I think Mom figured she best travel there  from PA and hook up with this young guy who had courted her at home after they met at a Polish wedding. His  mother was furious and I wish I could  know how he told her about it, Anna Ball said that the eldest son was supposed to marry first and Lou was the middle son, also her favorite, so she did not want to let him go.  My aunt told me a few years ago that  Louie was always coming around to the house and Mom was smitten because he had a car.  Besides that he had dreams.  But they were to be set aside as he enlisted into the Army despite the vehement protest of his mother who felt that having the oldest son, Eddie, off to war was enough.  But not for my dad.  He wanted to go and help.  He and so many other young men.  Later he would admit to his baby brother Henry that he wondered what lay ahead and if he'd been so smart after all.  He had some fear, but then it was too late, he was a pilot in the Army Air Corps,  soon  to fly to England in the War effort, likely he'd been briefed about the D Day invasion,  with only 86 hours training and yet on  the complex B-24.  By the time he was fated for his final flight from Charleston to the Bahamas and back, he knew the Air Crew members odds were not great, when a plane went down that was the end of most of the crew, few survivors.  Still Dad had dreams, he went into pilot school because he was quick and he really wanted to make a difference, he wanted to fly the fighter planes, the P-38's.  Ahh but they needed the B-24 guys on the fronts.  He had been briefed about what lay ahead.  The odds were not good.   This is one of the few photos my mother gave me when I was  in my teens, she called it "that damn plane!"

Here is the Maxwell Field Chapel where Helen and Lou  married June 12, 1943,  which upset both their families as they  both came from avid devoted Roman Catholics.  How could they go to a chapel?  Followed by photos from my dad’s collection of Maxwell Field with different labels all photos in the scrap book which I’ve now scanned. I’ve not been to Maxwell but they immediately responded to my inquiry for copies of the investigation of the plan accident and couldn’t have been more gracious. I am grateful to them.

A Preflight 1943  book from my father's training says, "This is Maxwell Field, red earth covered by green splotches of grass, yellow stucco barracks reflecting the bright sunlight and shimmering heat of an Alabama day.  ...Cadets, pilots, engineers, mechanics, instructors, tactical officers  along the flight line throwing off silver streaks of lights in the mid afternoon.  The roar of motors overhead and a thousand craned necks taking a quick look at the future..."   I like this photo of the band marching and the flag being foisted. 
Maxwell Field  was one  of the oldest of the  Army Air Corps flying fields in 1943 named after William C Maxwell, who died in an airplane accident in the Philippines.   This was headquarters for Southeast Army Air Corps training and the Preflight  school where men like my father were first inducted into flight training.

 The photo of the flight line below of planes is one my dad had titled on the back, Maxwell, on the line.  It is a treasure to me. 

As is this one of the men, I think the guy with his  arm folded, leaning on the wing is my dad, but not sure because he only wrote  "line talk" on this one...  All these photos are in a scrapbook I have assembled about him and most of these I found after Mom died in 2004.    The following are the fighter planes that Dad coveted, and on the back of this photo he wrote, "1943 on the line Maxwell"

When I first heard the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale and knew that my father disappeared in the ocean somewhere, I began to think that perhaps he too was in the belly of a whale somewhere and might return someday. I never talked about this with my mother who’d remarried and put it all behind her, or so I thought until so many years later after her divorce from the evil abusive man she married, when she would tell me what a wonderful man my father had been. She said when 9/11 happened here that it took her back so long ago to my dad and the end of hope. She prayed that others would not see all their dreams and hopes end. I don’t know why, maybe I had my mind on who knows what but I did not question her more, then again after growing up where no one talked about him, maybe it was deep seated in me to not ask anymore.

Here is my dad’s mother, mother Anna Kudzia Ball, in 1958, the grandmother with whom I had little contact, but who would look at me and cry, “The picture of Louie.” I suppose my mother felt this would upset me and it did, what child wanted to be greeted by grief and tears when they saw their grandmother? There was unresolved bitterness between my mother and Anna because Anna received my father’s life insurance policy. I never really believed this until I saw all the papers documenting this when Mom died, I guess I could not believe my grandmother could be so selfish, but she was.   Anna  came to the hospital when I was born and  wanted my mother to give me to her because she had lost her Louie, her son.  Mom and my mother's mother ran her out of there !  But having lost an adult  son now I can more appreciate the heartache she carried to her grave, always believing that someday Louie would come home, no trace ever being found of the crew or the plane.   I learned through AWON that this happened to many other women and sometime the mother did the right thing by the widow and as in my case sometime not, the soldiers just did not remember to change beneficiaries on  those policies when they married. 

Here is his father, Frank Ball  in 1944 with the dog they called Pooch.  Frank  died when I was only 7 years old. I barely can remember, but I remember a very big funeral. I was told that he was a wonderful person too, and the funeral was huge because everyone liked Frank.  Besides being a miner and a part time farmer he tended bar at the Polish American Club in Harwick.  He was very generous and let many run a tab, believing that a man should not ever be denied a drink.   I wonder to this day if he knew that Anna took the money from the insurance policy.  As you can tell I have so many unanswered questions.

This picture of the  3 boys is of my father and his two brothers, Eddie, the oldest,Henry the  baby,my dad Lou taken in PA on the family homestead in about 1936.  I just received this by  email  last year from my cousin Carol, Uncle Eddie's daughter.  The youngest brother, Henry lived in CA and I had a relationship with he and his wife and family.  Henry died in 2008, but I am still in contact with my cousins and Aunt Pearl, his wife.  Eddie died suddenly from a heart attack in the 1970's.  Anna lived until 1980. 
Something that I enjoy doing is gong to places  today and taking photos where my Dad took photos so long ago.  It is a twinge of following in his footsteps.  This is the Belmont Hotel in Madison Wisconsin, Dad took the black and white photo in February 1943 when he was at Truax Field in Wisconsin.  It was built in 1924 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, it still stands but today is a YWCA home for homeless women.  Its height  of 140 feet instigated legislation limiting the size of future buildings in Madison to not exceed the height of the Capitol building just  down the street.  This legislation is still in effect today. 
I took the color photos in 2007. 

So to my father, ever  2 Lt. Lewis S Ball, pilot of fatal flight June 20, 1944, that never returned from Nassau, the Bahamas Morris Field, with Combat Crew 193,    I'll be seeing you.....I close with one of my favorite photos of him  taken May, 1944; who knew, who would have he looks out to sea....what is he thinking what is he seeing........

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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, July 7, 2008

Newspaper Article My Father

One of the reasons we went to PA in June was so that I could be interviewed by my hometown newspaper (The Valley Dispatch) about my father, my search and AWON. I'd emailed asking to place a tribute to my father and the crew on June 20, the 64 year anniversary of the crash. Instead, Jeff Domenick, the editor became interested in my story and in AWON. So he agreed to do a feature and said I should call when I got to town. The fates and my angels were at work, I was interviewed on June 20, the anniversary date. Other AWON orphans also are featured. But my aunt Virginia who was thrilled about the piece says that I stole the front page with my photo. I hope this brings more members and I hope for me some of the Ball family see it and know about us. Most of all I hope this reminds people to never forget the sacrifices of WWII. I know the newspaper will not hold the article online forever so I have cut and pasted it here.

World War II orphans search to fill blanks left by fathers
By Rossilynne SkenaVALLEY NEWS DISPATCHSunday, July 6, 2008

Growing up in New Kensington during the 1950s, Pat Ball Morrison learned not to talk about her dead father. "When kids would ask me, 'Your name is Ball and your mother's name is McKinley,' it was really embarrassing because that didn't happen back in those days. And then I would say, 'Well, my father was killed ...'
"And then people would just kind of look at you like you had the plague or something, so you learned really early on to not talk about it."
Lewis Ball died before his daughter was born. He knew that his wife was expecting, but he never had the chance to meet his child.

Morrison is one of America's 183,000 "war orphans." Her father died when his bomber crashed into the sea. For 60 years, Morrison, 63, knew only that her father had been killed in World War II. She didn't know the details of what happened in June 1944 and she didn't know why.

Not aloneMorrison's story isn't that different from other 600-plus members of the American World War II Orphans Network (AWON). Many of these "orphans" are finally just discovering who their fathers were and how they died.
AWON was founded to honor the memory of those who died in the war and to reach out to as many so-called war orphans as possible, said Barry Barr-Finch, AWON's director of regional coordinators. Barr-Finch, 64, of Seattle, said AWON fosters an environment for those who lost a parent to tell their stories and to learn. "It's an opportunity for me to meet other orphans and we get to share our stories. We get to hear other people's situations. And then one of the things that happened to me as a direct result of that, I have learned to find things I didn't know existed -- for instance, my father's records."
There are now members in every state, he said, and the organization is always looking to reach more war orphans.

Some members with ties to western Pennsylvania share their stories and the stories of their fathers, America's fallen heroes.

Morrison grew up with just a few remnants of her father, like his hat and his belt. Until her mother died a few years ago and she found letters, documents and memorabilia while cleaning out her house, Morrison never really knew what happened to him.
Morrison's father, Lewis Ball, was piloting a B-24 from Nassau, Bahamas, to Charleston, S.C. on a training flight. His last report was just as it was getting dark; an urgent message was sent an hour later.
The official story, she said, is that the plane ran out of fuel. Along with the accident report, she received a signed letter from the man who fueled her father's plane.
"I find this odd because, you know, you've got to figure that guy's job was just to put fuel in airplanes. He says that he asked the engineer, 'You sure you have enough fuel?' because that's the official story on this -- that they ran out of fuel.
"But there's speculation, you know. Was a German submarine along the coast? Were they flying low? We'll never know," Morrison said.
"The reason that we're called American War Orphans Network is because the government called us orphans -- war orphans. And I know when I mentioned that to my mother when she was alive, she got very angry. She said, 'You're not an orphan. I'm still alive.'
"I said, 'Well, even the government said that we're orphans.' I never thought of myself as an orphan because I knew I had a mother," she said. "But it's just kind of interesting that that is the title we were given."

Morrison grew up resentful of the situation, that she didn't know the details.
"I thought this is really just bizarre. But I've learned through AWON there are just so many of us that have the same story. Our mothers did not talk about it."

Now Morrison lives in Minnesota and keeps all the mementos in her "patriotic room."
She's involved with AWON and its members.
"Now we talk all the time," she said, "making up for years where nobody said anything."

Soldier's Son
AWON member Ben McClelland, 64, said his grandmother was never able to accept the loss of her son.
"She always expected him to come home," he said. "She would go to the front door if she heard a car or truck. She thought he was going to come home."
McClelland's father, Ewing Ray "Pete" McClelland, was in an artillery division that was protecting European countries when the Germans made a final offensive and captured two American divisions, McClelland said. Those divisions were marched to a holding camp in Germany. After that capture, the allied troops did a bombing raid throughout the area and accidentally bombed the prison where the soldiers were, he said.
McClelland grew up in Masontown, and he didn't know the details of his father's death until he started his research.
"Like many of the AWON members, I grew up, of course, without a father and without knowing much about my father's life and especially about the circumstances of his death in the war," he said. "His death was not something that we could talk about within the family."
It wasn't until he was more than 50 years old that McClelland was able to visit his father's grave. The trip was a traumatic one.
While visiting the cemetery, he said, repressed memories came back. It gave him the impetus to write his memoir, "Soldier's Son," which chronicles his experience growing up. It has chapters that focus on his family and his parents' relationship. McClelland now teaches English at the University of Mississippi and lives in New Albany, Miss., with his family.
Growing up, McClelland said, he thought there was some "family secret."
McClelland's father, who was 29 years old when he died, went to college to study optometry but, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, he came home and enlisted.
His mother never remarried. It wasn't until McClelland was an adult that his mother would talk about the situation. Now, McClelland holds hope for children whose parents are fighting in today's war. It's not just families who lose a parent, but parents who survive warfare but return home with emotional or psychological problems.
"There are children who are facing the same kind of situation I had," he said. "I hope that the service community has better support systems that we had before."

Another familyFor Antonetta Bell, of Boyers, AWON is like "another whole family."
"You relate to them," said Bell, 66.
After she joined the network, she did research about her father's story.
Her father, Pasquale Niro, was killed in 1945 when he was helping his brigade cross a river. He was the last to go across and was shot.
Her mother would only say that he was killed by a sniper.
"He was always 'the man in the picture,'" she said.
There was a family picture taken of her mother, father, sister and herself before her father went overseas. Bell was 2 1/2 years old when her father left.
Prior to his death, he had already been wounded a couple of times.
Niro, who wasn't a U.S. citizen when he enlisted, was told that he would get his citizenship papers sooner if he enlisted, she said. After he died, Bell said, he finally did receive those papers.
Bell said Memorial Day reminds her of what her father did for his country.

Never forget
Stewart Lerch grew up with no father to play ball with and no father to look up to as a role model. Lerch, 64, an AWON member from Reading, was 7 months old when his father was killed in New Guinea. Lerch's father only saw him once.
"Growing up, people will say to me, 'Why are you an orphan -- you had a mother?' As in the Orphans Network, we will say, we didn't really have a mother because they were dealing with the loss," he said.
Lerch's daughter Susie Clark, 45, lives in Ross Township. She calls the network "eye-opening."
"It was so upsetting to me to hear how a lot of the families didn't talk about the servicemen who were killed, whether it was just too painful or whether it wasn't socially accepted," she said.
Lerch remembers that, as a child, he'd walk into a room and adults would stop talking.
"Parents and adults did not talk to children about these things," he said.
It wasn't until he was about 55 years old that he discovered letters his father wrote to his grandmother. Lerch never got the answer to why his dad was killed.
He was told that the answer was in the Bible. But, he said he looked and couldn't find it.
When he was about 11 or 12 years old, he found the answer while looking at a calendar sent to his home from the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Two dates stuck out in his young mind: Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
"They died to ensure the Fourth of July would always be a day for our independence," he said.
His father, also named Stewart Lerch, was a member of an engineer combat battalion that was also used as infantry. His father was serving as an infantry rifleman when the Japanese attacked. He was shot and killed instantly.
Lerch has "the dreaded telegram" announcing his father's death, his dad's rings, letters and a folder with the picture his father carried with him.
He now gives talks to school groups about World War II. He also talks to veterans and encourages them to share their stories.
"We as a nation may never forget our fallen heroes -- past, present or future. I hate to say future, but it is going to happen."

Rossilynne Skena can be reached at or 724-226-4681. SIDEBARPat Morrison and her scrapbook Jason Bridge/Valley News Dispatch

American World War II Orphans Network
AWON's mission is to locate and support American orphans of World War II and to honor the service and sacrifice of those killed in the war.
The network provides a registry of orphans and families, guidance to locate records, biannual conferences and regional and local gatherings as well as publications, online communication and a speaker's bureau.
For more information about the Network, including how to become a member, visit

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lyrics to Duke the Spook

Duke the Spook

The night is calm – the sky is clear,
A perfect set-up for a bombardier.
Motors roar with an angry spark
The big B-24’s on their marks;
From the ground with shrieks and wails,
A ghostly figure hits the ether trails,
A mascot, in a high hat and tails.
Meet the gallant swell – “Duke the Spook”,
Charming as all hell – “Duke the Spook”.
With flowery phrase on his lips
He’ll annihilate those Nips
when his killing smile greets the foe.
Death is done in style, don’t you know?
Class will win and they’ll give in;
You’ll shake the hand that shook Berlin
Oh, “Duke the Spook!”

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