He received a premature birthday cake from Las Positas’ Veteran’s First program, celebrating his 102nd birthday on Thursday. It’s remarkable that the Ohio native is with us today given what he survived during his service in the Navy.
On Dec. 7, 1941 he was preparing for a football game as a member of the USS Pennsylvania team. The battleship was in dry dock. When the Japanese surprise attack started, he reported to his battle station— in the crow’s nest (the observation tower) 35 feet above the deck. He told listeners that getting up the ladder with his shoulder pads was a challenge.
During the attack, a 500-pound bomb fell between his position and the superstructure. It shook him, but he was not injured.
After Pearl Harbor, he went on to serve as a quartermaster on the Pennsylvania throughout the war and beyond. The Pennsylvania’s big guns supported amphibious landings on every island except Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
His other harrowing experience was off Okinawa, one day before the Japanese surrendered. The battleship took a torpedo near the propellers. It hit right at the quartermasters berths. He had 26 men one day, the next day he had 6. The ship was towed into shallow waters so it could not sink.
It was repaired and he later was on board during the Bikini Atoll nuclear weapons tests. The first one, he told listeners, created such a wave that it looked like the aircraft carrier Saratoga was standing on its stern. He was responsible for monitoring animals that were subjected to the radiation from the blast.
Ganitch made the Navy his career, retiring in 1963 as a Senior Chief Quartermaster. He worked a variety of jobs over the next years, retiring in 1996 after a few years on security at Alameda Naval Air Station at the age of 77.
The constant in his life was his wife, Barbara. They have four daughters who gave them 13 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and eight great-great grandchildren.
It’s impressive that he’s still driving as 102, pulling up to Las Positas in a hybrid. He told Veteran’s First leader Todd Steffan that he learned to drive in a Model T. He volunteers for a variety of veterans’ organizations and has been head usher in his church for about 50 years.