Monday, December 7, 2009

Witness to History

Earlier this morning, I got an email notification of a post on the Sons of the American Legion Travis Squadron 76 blog. It is the recollection of Firman Balza, a crewman on the USS Maryland on December 7, 1941. He'd joined the Navy less than a year before. I share this link with a few people, one of whom was my high school government teacher. It never really dawned on me that he was a very young boy on that infamous day. With his permission, I am reprinting his response about those events:

What a horrible day it must have been for many Americans. I was almost 6 years old, and i recall only a bit. It was in the afternoon, and I remember my parents listening to the radio. I didn't understand much, but I do remember it being rather astonishing for them. Later, in 1944, my father was drafted into the army despite the fact that he had four kids, and after only a brief training period was assigned to the army in France. He was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge and recovered in a hospital near Paris. Later, he was assigned to guard German prisoners at a camp also in Paris. I never did get to talk with him about what it was like there in 1935 [sic] when the war ended. He didn't like to talk about his experiences at all.

In requesting his permission to share this, I said "There is much of these little personal bits of history that we are losing. I know Joe, an 95 year old WWII vet from the ballpark. I want to try to record his story, with the help of a vet friend of mine, before Joe's no longer with us. I never talked to my grandfather, a naval aviator in the Pacific during WWII (though he was in high school still when Pearl Harbor was attacked." It's been twenty years now, since we lost my grandfather to lung cancer.

If you know a World War II vet, ask if they are willing to share their story, before it is lost forever.

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