Tuesday, June 3. 2008
Honors US History
Win Ballance Transcript
Ping: So let’s start off with your name, birthday, war served and branch and highest rank achieved…I’ll go through that again, so name
Win: My name is Win Ballance, Charles W. Ballance legally.
P: Ok, and birthday?
W: 7 July 3 ‘23
P: War served and branch of service?
W: United states marine corps, 5 years
P: Highest rank achieved is?
W: Staff sergeant.
P: Ok, wonderful and so let’s start off with a few biographical details. So where and when were you born?
W: I was born in East Milton, Massachusetts
P: Massachusetts, wonderful and can you tell us about your parents what did they do and number of siblings?
W: Well my parents moved to California when I was 14 months old we lived in San Marino then we were in Altadina and we ended up in Pasadena
P: And did you have any siblings or…?
W: I had 2 bros and 2 sis
P: Big family, that’s good. What did your parents do?
W: My dad retired from the wool business in Boston and moved here and then the depression wiped him out and he ended up being the owner of a meat market in Pasadena
P: And your mother was…?
W: My mother was a housewife however she did work in a grocery store that my father owned out in Anandale for a while so…
P: So what were you doing before you entered the service and when was that actually?
W: I was going to school.
P: Oh, you were going to school? Ok and when did you enter the service.
W: Beg your pardon?
P: When did you enter the military service
W: In September 1945
P: And you were around 17, 18?
W: I was 17, just a punk kid
P: Haha, ok, did you have any other family member that served or were you the first?
W: I had a brother that served in the Navy for I don’t know how long 3, 4 years?
Vivian: Was he in same time as you?
W: No he’s younger than I so he didn’t get in the thick of battle
P: Haha, so can you tell us what made you want to join, what urged you on?
W: I was just a drifting kid and a friend of mine joined and talked me into it so we joined the marine reserve and they called them into active duty in about…1945... no, 42… when was Pearl Harbor? That was 42 wasn’t it?
P: Yeah, 41, 42, end of 41.
W: Yeah it was the end of 41, I had a 15 days referral starting the next day but I didn’t get it
P: Hahaha I see, understood, ok so let’s go on to the early days of service. How was like the, uhh, whole training process all of that? What happened? How was that like for you?
W: What? In the service?
P: Yeah, the training ,you know, boot camp.
W: Well I joined the reserve and they called the reserve into active duty, we were mobilized and went down to Camp Elliot in San Diego and uhh from there I went to a radio school down at the Marine corps base in San Diego. We studied Morse code in those days they don’t use it anymore and uhh we learned to send and receive Morse code and all the uhh radio procedures and when we graduated from there I went to the headquarters and service company in the 8th Marine located in San Diego at the marine base. I was with them for almost 5 years or 4 years and other times.
V: So like the radio communications your specialty
V: So was like deciphering Morse and all that your specialty
W: Yeah, I was a radio operator
P: Of course
W: Yes, in the early days most everything was done by Morse code not too much reliable voice communications sets we had one but half the time it didn’t work so in the early part we were uhh…in Morse code
P: And you were basically communicating between the fronts, the European front and Pacific
W: Yeah, I was in the HQ company and they were talking to the battalions
W: And we were sending messages from there
P: And how does that work did you send any dire messages? You know, in need of help?
W: Messages are 5 letter code groups and uhh they sent by code we copy them pass them on they would decode them pass them on, go on from there…
P: And what kind of messages were these, in general?
W: Operational messages
P: I see
W: We’re out in the field training, out in the boondocks at San Diego and the uhhh the company commanders sending each other messages.
P: Ha, and how was it like adapting to life in the military the uhh…
W: You shut your mouth and do as you’re told
P: I see, and homesickness? Any of that?
W: Beg your par…
W: No, no
P: Not so much?
W: No, no, they keep your pretty busy
P: Ok, I see, and you wrote home yes?
W: We came home I was… we went in… in the 45 or 46… when was Pearl Harbor? 40?
W: Well we were I was in there earlier then so I would be able to have…we’d come home on liberty uhh during that time Pearl Harbor was Januar…December 7th and we left the states January 6th we were the first troops out of the states after war was declared and uhh we went by troops transport accompanied by the SS Saratoga, aircraft carrier, and we went to American Samoa at mortar. Fortified there and we were there for about 8 months then we went to reinforce the 1st marine division at Guadalcanal
W: So we started there
V: You said you went in after Pearl Harbor, what was your reaction toward Pearl Harbor?
W: Anger like everybody else…and shock
P: Another driving force?
W: Yeah, I had come home to borrow a car cause I had a 15 day referral starting on Monday and I had to go back to get the papers of course it didn’t happen we went to camp and we just got ready to ship overseas and so I was in American Samoa for what 6 to 8 months and then we reinforced the first marine division at Guadalcanal and uhh when that battle was over we went to New Zealand to rest and most of us had malaria by that time from the mosquitoes at Guadalcanal. It used to be fun sleeping, we used to put helmet on and then the net around here and socks on our hand and tuck in beds and they would just bite through everything.
P: Ohh ahh
W: And then finally we’d get back to the cots they had mosquito nets and this would be full of mosquito bites and every place you touched the nets full of bites, so yeah we had some fun
P: Even bite through the nets I guess?
W: Oh yeah they bite you right through it
P: All in Guadalcanal?
W: So in New Zealand we fight through the malaria, several patches. A lot of fun. First of all you get a chill and you pile every blanket you can find on ya and then all of a sudden they all come off and you sweat for umpteen hours. Yeah, I had several bouts of that. Anyway from New Zealand, we boarded ships and we ended up in the uhh the Perianas in a little place called Tarawa we lost about what 3000 people taking this little island of 600 yards wide and a mile long that was uhh that was uhh the second battle I would say then from Tarawa we went to the uhh big island of Hawaii to rest and get shaped up again and from Hawaii we boarded ship and we did practice maneuvers on some of the islands in the Pacific and then we invaded Saipan and Tinian. So I took place in 4 major campaigns radio operator radio chief
P: And then… did you see the front line action
W: No, I was in the regimental HQ so I was not right on the front line but you really are exposed wherever you are… and the uhh… we were, let’s see, I was the radio chief at Saipan and I had 11 different radio operators running different sets so we had a lot of communications going
P: And can you paint a picture of how it’s like to be in a battle like this?
W: Well, you get busy doing your job you can’t worry about too much cuz I’ve been shot at and missed. I did end up with a shrapnel in my back from a shell that landed on me in Saipan but nothing serious. Didn’t get my purple heart for it…
W: Ha, but uhh you just don’t have time to worry about it you got a job to do you gotta do it.
P: I mean, what have you seen of the action, what have you seen yourself, how is that like in your mind?
W: Well being in the regimental HQ we’re not right on the frontline shooting we dig our foxholes and sleep in them at night and we do our radio work as required. On Saipan, I was recording, not recording, hearing what was happening on the frontline. Our colonel was there and I would have to tell him what was happening and where they were. We had quite a fight there on Saipan with the army. They had this one sniper holding up their whole advance. The marines left the sucker there and kept going and go back to get him. So, we had quite a fight with the army and they relieved an army general because he didn’t fight like the marines wanted. It’s interesting
P: Interesting to say the least
Charissa: You said that you fought with the army, were the marines and the army really divided?
W: Yes, marines…once a marine always a marine
W: Haha, marines operate different than the army we do the landings we go in and then, let’s see, and uhh we didn’t have a forced landing on Guadalcanal cuz they were already ashore but we’d have these vehicle boats and the front ramp drops and off you go. On Saipan, they had coral reefs and we’d have am-tracks, ones that go over the corals in the water, and uhhhhh that’s how we get ashore anyway. We then set up our HQs and communicate.
P: For the army though what… what do they do?
W: Army do their own thing and marines do their own battles. We go ashore first
P: I see and after that you make way for the army
W: Yeah, they basically take over yeah
P: And uhh the…what about the sorta emotions you have associated with combat, as a radio operator? What you do as a radio operator, what do you associate with that?
W: Uhh…let me think…we didn’t really get to that we just sorta do our duty we’d climb over that transport ship and we’d climb over the cargo nets to get to boats down below and we’d have over 100 pounds on our back with part of the radio, personal gears, rifle, the whole bit and hooks so in case you get into the water so you can get out of it. But uhh that’s how we’d get ashore climbing down the side of the ship.
V: Was this physically challenging for you…?
V: Like when you were transporting, getting in and getting out was it hard for you to do it?
P: Was it challenging?
W: well the transport ships housed a lot of people you slept in beds about this far apart you couldn’t roll over w/o hitting someone’s fanny up above ya. And they were 6’ long and I was 6’1” at the time so you didn’t quite fit at the time. So it’s an experience all on its own.
What about some other aspects the living conditions what did you eat what did you…you know
There was a mess hall and we had certain times that we’d go eat and they fed us as best they could
P: And for recreational activities?
W: We used to play a little black jack, bridge and just sit on deck and watch the fly fish go by
P: Waiting, for the most part?
W: It’s very monotonous, you got nothing to do; however, being a radio operator, we used to go up at the top of the radio shack and they’d let us copy codes on some of the ships, coming back we used to stand watch for the sailors so they can wake their reliefs and we’d test our skills. Something to do. Kept us going.
P: Looking back on all this now how do you feel about all this?
W: I’m glad I did my duty. This is my country and I’m glad I stood up for it
P: As for the war itself how do you how do you…I know war is a terrible thing you know but how did you feel when it was over?
W: How did I feel when the war was over? Relived. I was in Oahu about to go to Guam, my second trip out. Spent almost 3 years over seas. Received more training the year I was back and now I was going to Guam. I’d have been on the landing at Iwo. I got out of Iwo because after Saipan and Tinian we’d been there for 32 months so they let us go home otherwise I’d have been at Iwo and Iwo is one of the bloodiest battles
P: And umm
V: When you’ve been overseas for as you’ve said 5 years
W: I spent 3 years overseas
V: That’s a long time
P: And over this course of the three years, did you make any friendships, you know, did you make any friends, sort of lifelong…
W: Yeah I had some friends in the service haven’t seen them in years, moved and never left me an address other than that never made any contact with anyone I was in the service with.
P: While a part of it though, the whole camaraderie the whole everything everyone having each other’s backs….But while in the service the whole feeling of camaraderie, yeah? Having everyone…
W: Oh yeah, you had your friends and you stuck up for them. They get hurt you stuck for them
P: But how has the war changed you?
W: How has it changed me? I guess it made me grow up in a hurry. It’s something you don’t wanna do again. I hate to see it going on. Why just yesterday we haven’t had peace ever since we quit WWII. We have a fight somewhere. It’s sad. It hurts pretty bad.
C: You said you always had to be alert and sharp, how do you discipline your mind?
W: Well, you have to keep alert about ya. You don’t go to sleep and forget it all. It doesn’t just go away.
C: Was it difficult like when you got distracted? Thinking about home?
W: No…you’re too busy doing your thing, can’t worry about what shoulda been.
P: What about when you got back from being abroad. You know, how was it like adjusting to normal life again.?
W: Normal life? Well. You had to find a job. Of course, I got out and some woman caught hold of me and I had to marry her. That was sixty-two years ago. She’s in the other room
W: Umm…yeah I went to work my dad had a meat market so I became a meat cutter for about 8 years. Worked for him then he sold out then I worked for the chain that used to be Market Basket, some of you might remember that from far back. I worked for them for about 8 years. Then I quit them and worked as a salesman for Oscar Meyer for about 5 years. At the end of that time, I went into business with my younger brother who was an architect and we went into construction. Built 3 to 4 apartments locally, we built a conference center up in Twin Peaks, teacher’s association, 48 houses and uhh…and he and I split up and I went into re-modeling and I did that for quite a few years. I got uhh tied up with Edison Company as an independent contractor and I did everything from hanging TP holders to remodeling offices. So I did that for awhile and then I guess after that I just retired. I’ve been retired since 1988.
P: Living the sweet life, huh?
W: I keep busy.
P: But as far as the mindset all that goes, you’re sort of on your toes all through the war and having to come home to just…
W: I didn’t have any trouble adapting.
P: Oh, you didn’t have any trouble adapting?
W: No, I was too busy chasing my wife.
P: Do you still think back to the war even now? Think back on it?
W: On occasion.
W: Yeah, I got a plaque in here that’s got all my battle ribbons
P: Get a shot of that later.
W: I can bring it in
P: Just kinda record that. That’s wonderful. You can see us filming. That looks good. That looks good.
P: So how has the war affected your life? If at all? Changed your outlook on life? How you see yourself?
W: I’d hate to see anybody having to go out and you know…no way to settle anything
V: What is your view on the Iraq War…right now?
W: I want us to the hell outta there…if you’ll pardon my French.
P: We actually interviewed an Iraq War veteran just yesterday.
W: He said the same thing?
P: He did but he also said that in terms of the news we need to show the good that’s happening over there
W: Yeah, all they show is the bad stuff, we’ve done good but those people have been fighting for thousands of year and we can’t change anything
P: We can’t expect to
W: They’ve been fighting since before the days of Christ
P: McCain expecting us to go there and fight for a hundred years more. I don’t know
W: Yeah, forever…
P: Ok, and life lessons? Leadership skills, any of that?
W: Repeat the questions?
P: What about life lessons? Any leadership skills you’ve garnered from the experience?
W: They make you take care of yourself, you don’t depend on others. You take care of yourself.
V: What kind of message do you want I guess to send to the younger generation who want to join the army or the marines
W: Advice if they join? Stay…stay a civilian.
Mrs. Ballance: How are you doing here?
W: Good morning sit down. This is my wife.
MB: I was just gonna take a shower.
W: I’m getting grilled
P: Ha, yeah, he’s sharing some of his experiences.
W: Now, what was the question I was supposed to answer?
P: What advice would you give to young people who are joining the military themselves?
W: Don’t be a smart-ass. You can change the wording. I think uhh I think most everybody oughta do a stint in the service I don’t know if I wouldn’t encourage every young man to do a stint. It would stop a lot of the garbage.
P: Umm in terms of…overall though you would say that it was a rewarding experience for you?
W: Oh yes it was quite an experience.
P: Quite an experience! You learned a lot ?
W: You learn a lot, you learn to be self-sufficient and do as you’re told.
Linda: Any regrets?
P: Wow, that’s how you should live life.
C: What would you say is your most emotional memory from the whole war experience?
W: The most what?
C: Emotional memory?
MB: Don’t look at me.
P: Is there like a story?
W: I don’t think there’s anything special, it all runs together.
P: Is there one story that you want to share with us. Doesn’t have to be in battle, it could be anything. Just a story that stands out…stands out.
MB: You had that interesting buddy…Donald…hahaha
W: No, I don’t think anything especially stands out. It all runs.
C: Did you meet your wife before the war or after?
W: Afterwards. When I came home I was on leave for having been to seas for 3 years, 32 months. My sister…sister-in-law gave me a couple of girls’ names and she points happened to be one of them.
P: Started the courting right?
W: That was my downfall.
V: Do we want to ask if she has anything to share?
P: Yes, would directed at MB you like to share with us some of your experiences? War experiences for you?
MB: I’d be going from the stories he tells. Hahaha.
P: Haha, ok, so any last questions? Any more questions?
MB: You know I don’t think this is…this is a little beyond it but when his mother signed the agreement…when she signed for him to join at 17 she said to promise to go back and get his diploma. Oh yeah, he got his diploma…a year before his kids graduated.
W: But I did it!
P: Hahaa, that’s what it’s about…very good.
V: Is there anything you’d like to add?
P: Anything you want to add to the Win Balance story?
W: No, I don’t think…
P: No? Ok. Well, thank you so much for the interview.
V: A copy will be presented to the museum and another for you if you’d like a copy.