As the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War approaches Saturday, the Sarasota Observer commemorates the service of United States veterans who served their country, not only on the front lines, but also from afar.
During the war, Sarasota resident James Ballard served as an intelligence specialist with the Air Force Security Service, and he was stationed in Germany.
After completing the two required years of Air Force ROTC at the University of Kentucky, Ballard enlisted in an active-duty Navy Reserve unit, and, following his discharge in 1951, he enlisted in the Air Force.
“I always wanted to be a pilot or navigator, because I was in engineering,” says Ballard. “But at the outbreak of the war, so many people were enlisting in the Air Force that there was a two-year waiting list for training, so I decided to go into intelligence.”
His job during the war was to write intelligence reports and provide pilots with the information they needed, along with other French and English servicemen stationed with him in Landsberg, Germany. Together, they were monitoring the Soviet Union’s provision of pilots and aircraft to the North Koreans.
Ballard says that, thankfully, there was no combat in the area, but that the border between East and West Germany was a hotbed that could have erupted if things had gone differently.
“It was a very delicate situation,” he says. “I’m glad we were able to keep the peace there.”
During his three years in Germany, Ballard says he earned a newfound respect for its people and culture, despite the lasting negative impression many Americans had of Germans following World War II. He says the experience was eye-opening for him, and he hopes the United States will continue to do its part to maintain peace.
“I’m proud that I had an opportunity to serve my country and do something for it,” says Ballard. “We have so much freedom, and this country provides us with so much. I think everybody should do a little something to give back. It’s like JFK said: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.’”
Contact Nick Friedman at [email protected].