Norman W. Bale
Radioman 3rd Class
U. S. Navy
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 01/27/1945 - 07/14/1946
Radio Operator, USS Soley, DD 707

Norman was born in Minneapolis to Norman H. Bale, a telephone company lineman, and Beatrice Whitfield Bale. His parents divorced when he was very young, and he went to live with his maternal grandparents, the Whitfields, where his three aunts and an uncle "were like sisters and brothers." Other siblings included half-sisters and -brothers. The family, he recalls, "had a very difficult time" during the Depression, although "We always had enough to eat," he says. His grandfather, "Pop", as Norman called him, was a school janitor but also found employment in the Works Projects Administration. He also served as an official in the Congregational church. Norman enjoyed outdoor winter games such as skating on frozen lakes in Minneapolis parks. He also held a paper route while attending Central High School. Graduating in May of 1945 he entered the U.S. Navy and completed boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Station near Chicago. He traveled by LST to Camp Catlin on Oahu, Hawaii. There he completed radio school, which included learning Morse Code, just as the war ended. "Hallelujah! It was the greatest thing that happened," he recalls. "We knew we were getting ready to go into the battle of Japan and it was going to be a bloody battle because they weren't going to give up." He was sent to Kwajalein aboard a small aircraft carrier, and there was assigned to a destroyer, USS Soley (DD-707). He served as a radioman, encrypting code at about 25 words a minute. At general quarters, he was stationed as an ammunition passer and loader on a 20-millimeter gun. "We never were in action. I was fortunate," he says. After picking up Japanese prisoners of war on Wake Island, the Soley sailed for Yokosuka Naval Base. When the ship returned to the United States Norman was sent to a naval air station in Minneapolis where he was discharged in August of 1946. He enrolled in the American Institute of the Air, a radio school in Minneapolis, and graduated in September of 1947. He was hired at a radio station in Texarkana, where he met Martha Sue Lee, who was singing in a gospel quartet. On September 3, 1948 they married. (They would have two children, three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.) After serving as program director at a radio station in Atlanta, Texas, Norman joined KWKH in Shreveport in June of 1953. He was soon master of ceremonies of Louisiana Hayride, a post he held until the program ended in the early 1960s. He remembers introducing on air Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, George Jones, and other stars. In 1980 he became a salesman for the station, then worked in a similar position for KEEL radio until retiring in 1990.