Firman Balza - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Firman Balza

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Firman entered the US Navy on January 31, 1941. He arrived at Pearl Harbor in July 1941 and was stationed aboard the USS Maryland. "Once the attack began I reported to my battle station as trainer on gun #3 broadside. We could not fire that weapon in the harbor so I went up on the boat deck to help out the 5 inch anti-aircraft battery and the 1.1 anti-aircraft battery." The USS Maryland sustained two bomb hits during the attack. One bomb hit the forecastle which killed the Junior Division Officer Howard Crow. The second bomb hit below the water line on the port bow. The second bomb hit knocked out power to the ammunition hoists and forward air compressors. "We had to handle all the ammunition by hand, from man to man, from the magazine up to the gun deck. We also had to ram the guns by hand. There was no panic like you see in the movies. We all did what we were trained to do. We fought back as best we could. We fought fires and rescued many people from the water." The USS Oklahoma was moored next to the Maryland. The Oklahoma was hit and rolled over to port. "We rescued as many people as we could. I think we managed to save 32 people. We got out of our berth and into the navy yard on December 14. They patched us up and we sailed for the United States on December 2O. We went to Bremerton, WA for repairs and outfitting of more anti-aircraft weapons. We also added 600 more sailors to man the new automatic weapons and radar equipment."

After repairs in Bremerton, Washington the USS Maryland sailed to San Francisco to patrol the west coast. In April 1942 the Maryland sailed west with a convoy including Army and Marines going to Australia. In May 1942 the Maryland sailed to Midway for the Battle of Midway. The Maryland was Northeast of Midway in the Aleutian Island area during the battle. After the battle they sailed back to San Francisco. In November 1942 the Maryland sailed to the Fiji Islands and spent Christmas at Nande Bay and the town of Lautoka Fiji.

"In February 1943 we sailed to the New Hebrides Islands. We then operated in the Solomon Islands near Santa Cruz and Esperito Santos, New Caledonia. We then went to the Battle of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands on November 20, 1943. We were the flag ship for that battle. After the battle we sailed for San Francisco and were there for Christmas. We sailed on New Years Day 1944 for Hawaii and formed up with Task Force 53. We then sailed for Kwajalein for the Battle of the Marshall Islands. After the battle we sailed for Bremerton navy yard to replace our main battery guns. I was transferred to Receiving Station Bremerton. I attended amphibian school, fire- fighting school, and gun school. In September I was assigned to a net tender being built in Portland, Oregon. I stayed in Portland all winter of 1944-45 and was aboard for the commissioning of the USS Coho April 15, 1945. I sailed to Tiburon, CA then to San Pedro, CA then on to Pearl Harbor. From Pearl Harbor we sailed to Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands. This is where I was when the war ended."

"I sailed aboard the USS Luther Herd to Pearl Harbor then on a destroyer back to San Pedro, CA. After 68 day on leave I reported to the Shoemaker, CA receiving station and was assigned to the USS Bayfield APA 33. We were sent to Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands for Atomic bomb tests #4 & 5. I was transferred to the USS George Clymer APA 27 then to LST 88. I returned to San Francisco and in October was transferred to Treasure Island. I went home on a 60 day leave and eventually was discharged February 7, 1947." Firmin Balza spent 6 years 7 days on active duty and then spent another 4 years 3 months in Naval Reserve.

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