Showing posts with label My Father's history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label My Father's history. 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, 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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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Flag Day JUNE 14 2010

This cartoon  sums up why we proudly fly the flag today and all days......

Today I remember my father  2 Lt. Lewis S Ball who gave his life  for our flag, he and his Combat Crew 193 Army Air Corps flight from Nassau to Charleston, SC.....June 20,  1944.   Ironically it will be  on Father's Day that I will again remember and miss my dad whom I never knew the most.  

I consider my Uncle Carl who served with vigor through Europe seeing and living through things he would not share with anyone who was not there, saying only to me, "It was allright if you survived.  I was a lucky one."  I remember our fallen soldiers who left gaps in hearts.  

Fly the flag  proudly, beat the drum loudly for somewhere a soldier has given his all .......

I was born June 14, 1777
I am more than just cloth shaped into a design.
I am the refuge of the world's oppressed people.
I am the silent sentinel of Freedom.
I am the emblem of the greatest soverign nation on earth.
I am the inspiration for which American Patriots gave their lives and fortunes.
I have led your sons into battle from Valley Forge to the bloody ridges of Korea.
I walk in silence with each of your Honored Dead to their final resting place beneath the silent white crosses row upon row.
I have flown through peace and war, strife and prosperity,
And amidst it all, I have been respected.  

My red stripes symbolize the blood spilled in defense of this Glorious Nation.
My white stripes  signify the burning tears shed by Americans who lost their sons.
My blue field is indicative of God's heaven under which I fly.
My stars clustered together unify  50 states as one for God and Country.
"Old Glory" is my nickname and proudly I wave on high.
Honor me, respect me, defend me with your lives and your fortunes. 
Never let my enemies tear me down from my lofty position, lest I never return.
Keep alight the fires of patriotism.
Strive earnestly for the spirit of democracy.
Worship Eternal God and keep His Commandments.
And I shall remain the bulwark of peace and freedom
           for all mankind.
I AM YOUR FLAG                      by Thomas E Wicks, Sr.

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!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Duke the Spook

I have been in touch with two wonderful gentlemen from Charleston, SC who are collaborating to write a book on the old WWII Charleston Army Air Base. That was my father's last stop. Of course this caught my interest and the last two months have been like Christmas.

Darrell Parker is the one who loves to do research went to the Charleston library archives and found the original newspaper clipping about my father's plane crash. The article had the home addresses of all the crew. Well 64 years later chances are very slim that I will find any remaining family members, but it's something I have to check out. I learned that there were many B-24 crashes out of and around Charleston. Sometimes there was nothing in the newspapers because the government did not want to alarm citizens. I also learned that there were many German POWs in Charleston and they were on road building and brush clearing work crews. They had no place to go--ocean or swamp. The history I'm learning is fascinating to me!

George Miller has sent me two manila envelopes full of photos, history of the base and memorabilia photos. The second arrived Friday--included were the insignia, Duke the Spook which was the men's logo for the 400th Bombardment Group. Now I have another piece of information about my father. At first when I saw Duke, I shuddered. Then I realized, this was a WAR. The men knew their chances as pilots of B-24's were not good. D Day had started but the skies were heavily covered in Europe. My father and his crew would have been on their way if not for the fatal crash. So these brave men aced it with a macabre sense of humor to us. Yet they looked at death and made it classy. Duke the Spook was a popular song sung by Bing Crosby and dedicated to the men of the 400th Bombardment Group. It was written my Jimmy Van Heusen. I have never heard it but I'll now be searching.

One of my favorite tunes that I sung as a kid and still think about is Bing's "Swingin' on a Star."
Providential that now I have another Bing tune in my life?

Now I look at Duke and appreciate him for his significance, for his bravery in the face of death--dancing to meet fate with a silk top hat! I am so indebted to these two men. Can't wait to get to Charleston to meet in person--but Darrell warned me to stay away in summer or I would hate them all. Last Saturday he called--it was 98 degrees and 93 percent humidity! Not my kind of weather.