MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — July 18th, 1950–a young Walter Ballard got his first taste of combat as a U.S. Army soldier during the war in Korea. His unit, part of the 1st Cavalry Division, sailed to Korea from Japan.

“From Yokohama, Japan on LSTs–it was kind of a slow trip—what they called LSTs–long, slow target,”
said Ballard. The war had only begun a couple of weeks before that–on June 25th, 1950. Ballard was in the artillery and many times he was very close to the North Korean invaders.

He said, “Two or three times they were actually behind us–ahead of us and behind us.  There are some of them that would use deception–they’d dress themselves in their white clothing, break their rifles down and join the refugees that were headed south.”

Ballard was able to leave the Army and the war after almost a year–his father died back home and he was the oldest son.  After a stint in farming, Ballard found work in Mobile. He remained active with fellow Korean War veterans and was instrumental in establishing the Korean War Memorial at Battleship Park. “I was on the building committee that helped get it going,” said Ballard.

To that end, he was also on the ground in Korea, when the monument’s namesake bridge–Vickery’s bridge, named for Captain Grady Vickery–was actually destroyed in a weird twist of fate. “His platoon guarded a bridge and kept the North Koreans from dynamiting it or artillery breaking it up,” said Ballard. “And then our air force inadvertently bombed it and dropped it in the river after all…”

In 2018, Ballard joined an elite list of veterans from the Gulf Coast being named Veteran of the Year by the South Alabama Veterans Council. “I didn’t really feel like I deserved such an honor since there were so many who had done so much more than me,” he said. But there are two other Veterans of the Year who might disagree–veteran advocates Col. Pat Downing and Dr. Barry Booth joined us as we spoke to Ballard and presented him with another award–our Serving Those Who Served award.  

Ballard responded, “Thank you very much–that’s so great.” Our thanks to Walter Ballard for his service.