- Category: USS Arizona Survivor Stories
- Created: Wednesday, 14 May 2003 00:00
- Last Updated: Saturday, 21 November 2015 21:36
Sitting by the engine log room on the Tennessee, when the general quarters was sounded, he dashed down to the fire room passageway. When he got there, he says, "I wondered what in the world I was doing there. It wasn't safe. I had no assignment yet. I was trained so well; just went there."
He admitted that he would much rather have been topside where he could see what was going on. Ballard was a Fireman First Class with the actual duties of Watertender Second Class. To his knowledge, only one fireman on the Arizona was saved. He was inspecting the shaft alleys, away from the fire room, so Galen was told. The sailor who had stood by for Ballard did not make it. The man who shared his shore locker was gone. There were only 289 survivors.
"The Arizona was so big, that I was on it for six years and never got to every place. We were a self-contained city with ship service store, barber shop with four chairs, soda fountain, post office, print shop, a newspaper, dentist's office, sick bay, brig, and over 1,500 men.
In my locker I had a couple of phonograph records that Hazel had recorded. I felt pretty bad about losing them. And a new set of golf clubs--$125, a lot of money back then. Everything I owned except civilian clothes and the clothes on my back. Funny how you think of things like that.
With no clothes, the men were issued "anything that would fit." One day he might be an apprentice seaman, another first class, or boatswain's mate, radioman, whatever fit, or nearly fit.
He was transferred to a salvage party to help divers retrieve safes with records from the Arizona. His job was to stand aboard deck in waist-deep water attending the lines of the diver. "Every once in awhile a body would pop to the surface; head like a pumpkin, no features. It would be retrieved with boathooks."
He did this for about two weeks. The diver's job was dangerous; dodging jagged metal. Ballard was moved around, sent back to San Francisco, Norfolk, New Orleans, Miami, then on subchasers that patrolled from Norfolk to New York City. A troop ship he served on, the John Penn, went to Africa, to the Pacific, and then sunk. The subchaser he had served on was hit by another ship and split in two in the Caribbean. He served on the Onslow, a seaplane tender, through the rest of the war.
Galen made Machinist's Mate Second Class on the John Penn, Motor Machinist's Mate First Class on the subchaser 10-23, and Chief Engineman on the seaplane tender USS Onslow ( Apr. 1944.) (Out of Washington, headed for the Marshall Islands) The seaplane tenders went ahead of carriers and battleships. The Onslow was actually the supply for coming seaplanes, and was positioned between the battleships and the enemy-held islands. Shells fired over top of the tender. "It was a seat on the fifty-yard line," he said. Aboard the Onslow, Ballard saw duty at the Marshalls, Majurao, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Palau Islands, Ulithi, and other atolls and islands. The war ended about the time the ship was passing Saipan. When the tender docked in California in the fall of 1945, the men had not seen civilization for over a year and a half.
Ballard finished 22 years in the Navy. He was discharged July 8, 1957. Married to Dotty Cramer, with 2 young sons, he moved his family to Spooner, WI. where he earned a teaching degree and taught school. He then earned a Master's and kept on teaching until he retired in 1975. They made their home in Clearwater, then Dunedin Fl. Galen Owen Ballard died of a massive heart attack October 24, 1995.
Information researched and compiled by I. B. Nease and N. A. Nease and provided on USSARIZONA.ORG free of charge.
May not be reprinted in any form, other than educational use, without prior written permission of the author.
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