San Leandro, California

My name is Mickey Ganitch. I was born November 18, 1919 in Mogadore, Ohio, which is a little town just outside of Akron. I graduated from high school in 1937. Due to the stock market crash, jobs were very scarce. I came to California in 1939.

I joined the navy on January 21, 1941. When I went to boot camp in San Diego, they asked me what I'd like to do. I became a quartermaster, whose job is steering the ship and helping to navigate. They assigned me to the USS Pennsylvania on August 15, 1941, which was a battleship at Pearl Harbor. I also joined the ship's football team. We trained at sea during the week and stayed in port during the weekends. In December, the Japanese attack came while we were dry-docked because of mechanical issues with the propeller. We had a game scheduled that afternoon with the USS Arizona, for the fleet football championship. We were scrimmaging in the morning when the phone rang.

My battle station was up in the crow's nest, about seventy feet up in the air. I didn't have time to change clothes. I had all my padding on except my helmet and spikes, and up I went. By the time I got there, planes were buzzing around, buildings were burning, ships were burning, everybody was shooting in all kinds of directions.

During the second attack, they hit us with a five-hundred pound bomb. It came between me and the smokestack and missed me by about forty-five feet. It went through two decks before exploding. Had it exploded on contact I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you. We lost twenty-three men, with many more injured.

Later, in the Philippines, there was a whole fleet of ships because the invasion was going on. A kamikaze hit one of the destroyers and it set off the torpedoes. I had one hand holding on, another hand trying to turn the ship. One torpedo went right underneath us. When it went off, the ship was tilted enough that it just missed.

By the end of our time in the Philippines, our guns would no longer shoot straight. They sent us back to the States to get refitted. We were back for about three months. In the meantime, we got ready for the invasion of Japan. On August 12, 1945, after both bombs were dropped, we arrived in Okinawa and that same night, a Japanese plane aimed its torpedo at my ship. It hit the propellers on the right side. Twenty-six quartermasters died that night. The next morning, the Japanese asked for peace. We were towed to shallow waters so that if we sank, we would just sink in the mud instead of any further down. We were able to stay afloat. Then they towed us to Guam. The war was over.

We started having problems with one of the remaining propellers on the way back to the States. We stopped the ship and put divers over the side to see what they could do for it. Then sharks surrounded the ship and we pulled the divers back out of the war. We put marines with rifles in boats to keep the sharks away from the divers while they worked on the propellers. They got them fixed so we could get back.

The military wanted to see what effect the atomic bomb would have on ships. There were plenty of damaged ships from the war to use for tests. This was September, 1946. We operated on a skeleton crew at that time. We scheduled two tests. One in the air, one underwater blast. They put us in the harbor and we anchored the ships and they told us to look away from it. Even with my eyes closed, I still saw the flash. After testing on ships, they wanted to know what effect it would have on animals. I'm a farm boy, so they put me in charge of the animals. Pigs, goats, mice, sheep. We put them various places throughout ships and spread the ships out. We put an atomic bomb at the middle of all the ships, under water. We watched a big wall of water go over the ships. I took inspectors aboard to show them were all the animals had been. After that, they told me to throw away my clothes and take a good shower. That was all the protection I had. Must not have affected me too much because I have all these grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren. In 1948, they decided our ship had become too radioactive. They ended up torpedoing it.

That same year I was assigned to the USS Mt Katmai, an ammunition ship. Our job was to supply other ships so they wouldn't have to come back to port. I was on that for sixty-eight months. This one day, the lookouts reported a floating mine dead ahead. We had eight-thousand tons of ammunition. We steered and the wash of the ship had pushed the mine aside. We had nowhere to go. I could count the spokes on it. We were very fortunate it didn't go off when we passed through it. We set it off with rifles later.

I married my first wife in 1953. I adopted her three kids. My first wife died in 1961 and was single for two years. I met my second wife when I was recruiting. I married her in September, 1963. I retired from the navy a month later.

Those last couple years I was in the navy, I worked in a bowling alley in East Oakland. One of the bowlers there asked me to come work for him. He was a fishing net manufacturer. I worked for him for twenty years. After I turned sixty-five, I ended up working security in the naval air station in Alameda. I worked there until they closed in 1996. I've been on the unemployed list ever since.
I've been to Japan many times since the war ended. They were our enemies once, now they're our good friends. To me, it's like a football game, like a sport. You're enemies on the field, maybe you'll go out to supper after. I have no animosity whatsoever. I drive a Japanese car. What is done you can't change. You look to the future.

Now I'm associated with the Fleet Reserve Association, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Masonic Lodge, the Disabled American Veterans, what's left of Pearl Harbor Survivors. I've been the head usher of my church for forty-six years. I'm a volunteer at a VA clinic in Oakland.

Beyond that, I don't do much of anything. I just goof around.

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