S1c Ivan Joseph Huval,
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- S1c Ivan Joseph Huval,
S1c Ivan Joseph Huval
Ivan Joseph Huval was 20 and a seaman first class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. But seven of his wonderful letters home to Louisiana were saved by his oldest sister, Ivalow, and later by her daughter, Carol.
The first letter, dated Oct. 22, 1940, was written the day after the battleship arrived at Bremerton, Washington, for repairs. Mr. Huval had enlisted in the Navy in late July 1940 and after training joined the crew of the Arizona at its home port at San Pedro, California.
“Received your letter yesterday & was tickle pink,” he wrote. “I received two letters from home Monday & one from Sis also. I was the happiest Sailor in the navy when I received those letters, for it was the first since I left training.”
He told Ivalow that his station was on an anti-aircraft gun. “I just sit on the gun platform with ear phones, and I can talk back by just pushing a button. I take orders from the captain & relay it to the gun crew. First time on, I done fine so I’m station there always.” He was chosen for the job, he wrote, because “they just pick the big boys for this division… so I was tall and that’s that.”
“Ivalow, I spent four miserable hours last Saturday nite. I was on the Searchlight watch from midnight til four in the morning & the wind seemed harder around two, all by myself up on the tower. I wouldn’t dare leave go of the rail for it would have thrown me overboard. How cold it was and what a fog, the hours seemed to be days. I really laughed at myself the next day. How I would grin to say that’s the Navy for you.”
Mr. Huval, who weighed 165 pounds, said he joined the ship’s football team — a sport he’d always wanted to play. “I’m playing end and I do look big with a uniform & I also feel strong and just simple feel good.”
“I better close before this letter gets too boring and please write soon, nice long letters. It seems I won’t go home this year at all. This darn war scare just won’t let us do it. I wish we could get into it or have peace. I still get awful homesick at times and tears just can’t help but roll down my cheeks at night sometimes.”
Mr. Huval wrote again on Jan. 12, 1941, just before the Arizona left Washington for a brief stop at San Pedro and then on to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
“We have much more ammunition now than we had when we first came here. But you should reasoned it out before I told you. Everything now aboard ship is just like in war time.”
He said he had spent the previous weekend in Seattle, “and the more I go there the better I like the city. Just the Nevada and Arizona are here now, less sailors, so you can have your choice between the pretty girls, and I took advantage. Gosh! And did I meet some beautiful ones and very nice. I was out with a coed from the University of Wash. and was she a honey. I enjoyed myself very much and I’m sure she did, or do I? Well she’s writing to me anyway, and I do love to get letters and write them.”
His next letter was written Feb. 16, 1941 during the middle of a week in which the ship was out to sea for practice and anchored at Maalaea Bay on the south coast of Maui 125 miles southeast of Pearl Harbor.
“Well, I got my first experience of hearing the guns shoot,” he wrote. “The anti aircraft shot three rounds Thursday and do they sound loud. Good thing my earphones are built in a helmet, looks like an aviation helmet. I stand on a little platform about middle ways of the gun and do I get a jar and in the meantime set the sights. All the orders are given over these phones and I have to yell them out so all the gun crew can hear. Gosh, when I yelled out commence firing I was rather shaking, but after the first shell went out it was O.K.”
The next letter, dated June 19, was written while the Arizona was back in port at San Pedro — adjacent to the city of Long Beach — for about a week and a half.
“I am enjoying the best of health in spite of the blues and homesick. You see we now are in Long Beach and it seems I’m just a walking distance away from home and still yet can’t reach that destination I so long for.”
He described going ashore with friends and sightseeing in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and Hollywood. “I very seldom go ashore but when I do I seem always to have loads of fun and I still go for sports very much.”
“Yes, Ivalow the war is rather creeping on us… I wish I could tell you of the little experience I saw just before leaving Hawaii but I can’t, but when I saw it, it really brought the war closer for the U.S.A. When we are at sea every time a ship is spotted over the horizon we all man our battle stations and keep the guns train on it till we can make out what kind of ship it is, thats how really close we are in war and this war will be fought by air and sea, you can bet on that. But if war was declared this very minute it wouldn’t surprise me one bit and I would feel no different, only one thing I wish for if war was to break out, I would like to see all the family once more, then I think I wouldn’t mind going into war at all.”
He wrote again in July, a shorter letter, in which he said he could tell little. “Now they are stricky than ever telling us not to write anything about the Navy or where we are.”
He did share that he’d seen several good movies — “That Night in Rio,” “The Great American Broadcast,” and “Rage in Heaven.” Movies shown on deck were a popular evening activity, and he said he looked forward to seeing “Ziegfield Girl” that night.
“Oh! Yes Sunday I saw Loretta Young in person. She came aboard ship and I happen to be with the old gang of boys and we had a little chat with her. She’s O.K. but doesn’t look like her self on the screen.”
When he wrote again on Sept. 3, Mr. Huval said he was happy to hear about the birth of his niece, Carol, and promised to send a gift “as soon as I can. You see I have most of my money in aviation now and its’ indeed a struggle for me, after I send money home, I have just 20 or 25 to myself each month. I have to pay $5.13 each month for my (life) insurance. I’ve been paying this every since I became a Seaman 2nd class and my policy is for $3,000.”
“Certainly wish I could plan on going home soon, really do envy you. This life we lead now is rather dull or at least I think so. But this war can’t last forever and I hope it changes soon or I’ll be regretting I ever joined the Navy. Military duty can be the most boring thing I ever saw, not work to it but just tiresome.”
He mentioned more movies he’d seen and said he was listening to band leader Kay Kayser’s radio show while he was writing the letter. He said his favorite song was one by Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra — “My Sister and I.” It “reminds me of Los Angeles and Long Beach a lot and that’s the Sailors Paradise, and I do mean Sailors in uniform rate with the people.”
In the final letter, dated Oct. 7, 1941, he wrote, “Believe it or not I have a promise to go home sometime next month, say around Thanksgiving, oh! I’m so tickle and I hope it really happens that I can get a leave, something I long for a long time. Yes! It’s funny but I still get homesick for home and the folks, can you beat it, a big boy like me getting soft and blue, but it’s probable the dear Mother and Dad Sisters & Brother I have, don’t you agree.”
Any hope of that Thanksgiving leave ended the night of Oct. 22 when the Arizona and Oklahoma collided while practicing at sea. The Arizona had stay at Pearl Harbor for repairs.
Mr. Huval’s body was never recovered from the Arizona after it was bombed and sank. His sister, Ivalow Huval Ballay, saved the letters and her daughter, Carol Ann Marmande, shared them in 1996 with the Covington, Louisiana, branch of the St. Tammany Parish Library. Mrs. Ballay died in 2000.
Mr. Huval was born June 25, 1921 to Alfred Huval, then a farmer, and Stella Guidry Huval, a homemaker. Ivan was the oldest son and second oldest of about eight children. He completed 7th grade and by the time of the spring 1940 Census was the assistant caretaker at a private estate in St. Tammany Parish 40 miles north of New Orleans. His father was the caretaker. Ivan worked 52 weeks in 1939, earning $420.
He enlisted after seeing a Navy recruitment poster at the post office. It offered the opportunity to see the world, and travel was something Mr. Huval dreamed about doing.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Covington is named in Mr. Huval’s memory.
Sources: Special thanks to the St. Tammany Parish library for sharing the letters. Other sources include: the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune; Census; Navy muster rolls; U.S. Veterans Administration master index. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.