PRINCETON — American Legion Post 125, Princeton, has recognized Eugene “Geno” Ballatti, 92, as its oldest honor guard member. He is the U.S. flag carrier.
Ballatti was born in Mark, a small mining town in north central Illinois. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in September 1942 and served as a signalman on two different aircraft carriers. He was first assigned to the USS Bogue from January 1943 through July 1944. The USS Bogue was used to patrol the Atlantic looking primarily submarines, of which they sank 12 — 11 were German and one was Japanese.
Ballatti was then assigned to the USS Randolph, CV15, which was sent to the Pacific. Again, Geno was a signalman. This ship was commissioned in 1944 and sent in January 1945 to the Pacific theater of operations. This ship was part of Task Force 58.
During a stop at the Ulithi atoll, the USS Randolph was attacked and hit by a Kamikaze plane which killed 30 sailors and injured more than 100. Ballatti survived the war and processed out in October of 1945. He now lives in Princeton.
Ballatti has many stories of his wartime experiences, and will share them with anyone that likes to hear them. He has been a member of the American Legion since 1982, and a member of the VFW since 1950.