George W. Blake
George was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. His had three brothers and his father worked in the stockyards. While in school George met his wife Noreen when he was 15 and Noreen was 13. George finished high school in 1939 and got a job at the Wm. H. Block department store.
Some of his friends belonged to the Naval Reserve Unit in Indianapolis and were constantly trying to get George to join their unit. Finally, in January 1940, George joined the Naval Reserve. Their duties were going to training drills once a week and taking a two-week training cruise once a year. His unit was assigned to the USS Sacramento; it was a sister ship to the USS Panay, which was sunk in China. There were five gunboats on Lake Michigan and they held gunnery practice on the northern end of the lake.
Eventually 250 reservists from Indianapolis were called to active duty for one year. George went to Chicago and sailed on the USS Sacramento up the St. Lawrence River around to the Boston Navy Yard. After receiving new boilers they were sent to Hawaii for a year of active duty. At first he thought he had hit the jackpot, they were detailed to the "Pineapple Patrol," from Diamond Head to Barbers Point. They did this for two weeks at a time and then swapped duties with the USS Ward. The Sacramento would be in port for two weeks and the USS Ward did the patrolling. The Ward would then come into port and the Sacramento would resume patrol duty.
On December 7, 1941, the Ward was on patrol and fired the first retaliatory shot of WWII by sinking a Japanese midget submarine at the channel entrance to Pearl Harbor. During the attack George was assigned to an ammo handling party. After seeing that the surface did not come into action, George’s party was told to help where they could. In the book "Day of Infamy," reference was made to a cook who cut down the canvas covering the guns. George was not a cook; however it was he who observed a Boatswain trying to untie the awning cover over the deck and was having trouble getting the knots untied. George reached into the galley nearby and grabbed a knife and started cutting the lines to get the canvas down, much to the disapproval of the Boatswain. He spent the rest of the attack on a 30-caliber machine gun on the fantail.
Two weeks after the attack the USS Sacramento was sent to Hilo along with five Japanese Sampans. The Navy had taken over these boats and converted them to sub-chasers. After the Army moved into Hilo with its coastal guns the Sacramento was sent back to Pearl Harbor where they picked up a squadron of PT boats and tendered them back to Palmyra Island. This lasted a few months and the PT boats were sent to Guadalcanal before being sent back to Pearl Harbor.
Later the Sacramento picked up approximately 50 Navy personnel to transport them back to San Diego for Dishonorable Discharge. After unloading the prisoners we were assigned to train Armed Guards. The ship would take a group out on Monday, let them fire the 4" guns and bring them back to San Diego and receive another group for gunnery training. It was during this time that George got leave and went back to Indianapolis to marry Noreen on 3 February 1943.
George was then assigned to new construction, the light cruiser USS Springfield, on the East Coast. They went back to the Pacific and joined the Third Fleet under Admiral Halsey. George stayed on the Springfield until the war ended. After much bitching and griping he was finally taken of the ship's essential list and allowed coming back to the states with his shipmates. His "one year vacation" in Hawaii turned into five long years.
After the war, George returned to civilian life working for the U.S. Post Office in Indianapolis. He then moved to Fresno California to help Noreen’s father to run a parking lot for eight years. In 1954 George joined the Fresno Police Department and worked there until retirement in 1975. After retiring George and Noreen began traveling via ship and have since made 24 shipboard cruises. On five occasions they took their whole family to Hawaii.