Photograph Contributed by Diane Possell
Arrived in Cairo Thursday evening about five o'clock. Quite an interesting trip by air. We flew over Baghdad, the Garden of Eden, the Dead Sea, Jericho, Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
We are living at The Richmond House this time. Rajah (yes, I still call her that most of the time) is having the time of her life. She won't let Bob sleep in the morning or nap in the afternoon, and has a grand time just making his life miserable.
We took care of our money exchanging during the past three days. Today we turned our Egyptian pounds into army checks. We came out of Arabia with Rupees. By watching the market and selling right, we were able to make a little money. Money changing is without a doubt a fascinating game, but I'll stick to working for a living.
Hope that it will be possible for me to be home for Christmas. We checked with the War Administration this morning and may work our way back if it will hurry things along.
October 10, 1945; Cairo
After having been here eleven days, things are beginning to move. Two of the men leave here tomorrow for Alexandria. Two more of us will follow in a couple of days. We hope to be at sea by Sunday.
November 7, 1945; Port Said
Photograph Contributed by Diane Possell
Just moved from Cairo yesterday. May get a ship right away we hope. Something like one hundred and fifty people, including women and children, came in headed for Arabia and the job we just left. They were in Gripsholm, which was held up at Malta for repairs and the Mead brought them here and then headed out for India.
We got in on some of the excitement in Cairo, last Friday and Saturday. Some riots! These people play rough! We stayed on the streets and didn't miss much.
The day before, we saw King Farouk twice. He's very popular with his people. They lined the streets all along the way for miles, just to be able to catch a glimpse of him.
Max just came in with our passports and said that they believe we'll get out today. I'll mail this just as we leave so you can guess, within a week, where we are.
November 26, 1945
The latest news is that the "Sea Porpoise", an army transport, is coming here to take all the available troops home. And, it is just possible that we may be able to obtain passage on her. She was supposed to have left the States about November 18th, which would have gotten her here around the 30th and would have sailed for home around the first or second.
Something has delayed her but we are told that she is to leave the States tomorrow and will arrive here December 9th. We would leave here the eleventh and reach New York around the twenty-fourth.
I made a trip on my own to Alexandria and while there, watch the Gripsholm pull out for home, loaded with men, women and children that have been trying to get home since before the war. No chance there for us.
This delay is very trying. We are all so impatient to get home.
It gets very cold here at night, already. I know that it will be an even colder and rougher trip back than it was on the way over. I'd start swimming, I guess, if I could get through customs.
More than a month since I've had word from home and who knows how much longer.
December 5, 1945
Tell the kids that they've still got a Dad, but that he's still in Egypt.
The latest "for sure" news is that a converted Liberty ship will arrive on the thirteenth to take us to New York. This I believe since it seems quite definite. Since a Liberty ship must take twenty-one days to make the trip, the best we can expect is to be in the States by January 5th.
I would have loved to have been with you and the kids and the others around the Christmas tree. I know that you'll soon be searching the lots for just the right one. This will be the second Christmas away from home. I'm supposed to be a big boy, but I don't feel like one tonight.
There doesn't seem to be anything to write about. I've long ago seen all of this country and its people that I care to. It's all very drab and dirty. In this country, a few are very rich and all the rest are in a pitiful state of poverty. No education, very little food and miserable clothing. The smallest boys on the streets are shrewd and sly and I'm sure they have no childhood at all.
I have made friends with several of the men in the Shipping Office (I spend most of my time there) and one of them asked me to his home one evening. We had dinner and listened to the Army and Navy football game.
My only chance to hear good music, outside of the theater, is on a radio and what a treat it is. I was lucky enough to see "A Song To Remember" last week, so I went three times. The week before I saw Bing in "Going My Way" two times.
We had a very anxious and exciting evening last week. News came in that the Cornell Victory would clear in at seven o'clock and would have eight spaces on her. What a shout went up! We called the Bechtel agent to come down and make arrangements for our tickets. Then we beat it to the hotel to pack. We ate an early dinner and waited for the agent to come and take us through customs. He finally showed up around eight to tell us that the report was erroneous -- the ship was full!
You've never seen such abject disappointment.
Well, it seems quite certain about the Cornelius Gilliman for the 13th so I'm hoping.
Merry Christmas to you all.
December 19, 1945
Aboard the S.S. Exanthia, 3 Hours West of Gibralter.
Photograph Contributed by Diane Possell
In about three hours we'll be back in the Mediterranean again.
It goes like this -- Last Tuesday, the S.S. Exanthia sailed into Port Said and anchored for fuel oil. They reported no spaces were available. The day before, news had come in that the Cornelius Gilliman would not be at Port Said until Christmas Day. So this particular day, I got up early and hired a launch to take me down to the canal where the Exanthia was anchored. I was able to talk to the Captain and arrange passage to New York. I flew ashore, had the War Shipping fix up the necessary papers, while I was cleared through customs and finally made it aboard ship in time to sail just after noon.
It was a most beautiful afternoon as we made our way out of the canal and into the sea. That very same night we ran into a storm and heavy seas that lasted until Sunday morning, the entire length of the Mediterranean.
Monday afternoon we sailed serenely past The Rock and out into a calm Atlantic. We expected to be in New York easily by Christmas Eve.
About midnight, we ran smack into another storm and for the next two days the ship took a terrible beating, making very little headway, as we were plowing right head-on into tremendous seas. The radio told us that we were catching the southern edge of a hurricane that was paralyzing shipping in the Atlantic north of us.
It finally became apparent that we were taking on more water than the pumps could handle through a badly damaged hatch cover. Our forward gun tubs were nearly torn off. So, at twelve o'clock yesterday we turned around and headed back for Gibraltar. We are making excellent time and should be at The Rock by seven o'clock. The Captain thinks that we can be repaired there.
With luck in repairs and weather, we may still see New Year's back home.
I may go ashore to the Spanish city of La Linea, just opposite The Rock. I'm told that the Arab influence is felt even here, dating from the time the Moors invaded Spain long ago. There are still Arabic mosques in Southern Spain.
If only I had known that I would be in Egypt so long, you could have written me there.
Upon returning to the United States, Wallie joined friends in a business co-op and settled in Embarrass, Wisconsin. The business did not succeed and eventually, Wallie went to work for the United States Navy and was transferred to Guam. In the late 1950's, Wallie bought a home in the high desert in Hesperia, California.
Wallie and his wife Gerrie have three children, Richard, Diane and Danny, and five grandchildren. Wallie was killed in a tragic automobile accident on the way to his son Danny's wedding on November 25, 1960 in Hesperia, California.
On November 2, 1944, Wallie Ballor left his home and family in Lynwood, California to go to Arabia to work for the Bechtel-McCone Oil Company. The excerpts provided here are derived from his letters en route and in the Near East by his daughter Diane as a seventh grade project in 1946.