SANTA MARGARITA — Local World War II veteran Henry Barba was recently honored at the Dodger game in Los Angeles on October 11—just a few days later, he celebrated with 108th birthday on Oct. 19.
The LA Dodgers aired a presentation honoring Barba’s contributions to the country. As a life-long Dodger fan, he enjoyed the day, complete with a Dodger Dog and a Bud Lite.
“He had a grin on his face the entire time. He was in Heaven,” said family friend Carrie Zeidman, who went to the game with Barba and his grandson Danny Barba.
She added, “He has been a Dodger fan his entire life.”
Barba began listening to Dodger games on the radio when they were based in Brooklyn (1884-1957). During a Dodger losing streak, Cheri Roe of the Santa Margarita Historical Society asked Barba why he didn’t pick another team. He replied, “Because that’s not what a fan does. You don’t just leave your team because they are losing.”
In fact, Barba is such a fan of the Dodgers that even a broken hip wouldn’t stop him from missing a game. On the morning of Oct. 11, Barba fell and broke his hip, yet he insisted he still go to the game and declined pain medication to avoid “brain fog.”
According to Zeidman, she didn’t hear Barba complain once about feeling any pain in his hip. He was too busy having fun!
For the past eight years, Zeidman and Roe have been working on getting Barba honored at a Dodger game. By chance, Zeidman ran into a sports agent who happened to be best friends with the Dodgers team owner.
Barba was able to sit between home plate and third base. He even brought his childhood leather baseball glove, just in case he needed it.
Here is more on Henry Barba’s story as a United States Army Veteran:
Barba was born 108 years ago, on Oct. 19, 1913, in a home that still stands in Santa Margarita.
Like most in the area at the time, Barba grew up farming and ranching.
In 1940 Barba was drafted into the U.S. Army. When he heard he was drafted, it was no surprise. All he thought was, “Well,… this is it.”
Then Barba headed to basic training at Camp McQuaid in Watsonville, CA.
He was assigned to the 250th Coast Artillery Battery G, also known as the Glamour Boys, and off he went to Kodiak Island, Alaska.
Despite the cold, life in Kodiak wasn’t so bad. The troops lived in tents, but coffee was always hot, and they got three square meals a day.
In 1941 it was declared that anyone ages 29 and older were to be sent back to Seattle and discharged. Barba just missed the cut being 28 years old at the time. It turned out it didn’t matter anyway because then, on Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed.
The boat turned around and headed back for Kodiak Island.
One of Barba’s duties was the spotlight. At night he would scan for enemy aircraft or their artillery. The only thing was if he did spot an enemy, all anyone had were wooden guns!
The island had no cannons, just wood phone poles made to look like guns and decoy airplanes. There were only five rifles on the entire island!
When the war finally ended in Europe, Barba felt happy and proud. When the war ended in the Pacific, where his brothers and friends were stationed, he was elated.
Barba and many others who were in the military at the time knew Japan was ready to fight for ten years on their homefront. According to Barba, the U.S. anticipated so many deaths in the Pacific and had so many Purple Heart medals made that they are still giving out medals from the same batch made in WWII.
Henry Barba made it through WWII unscathed. But that wasn’t the case for many of his family and friends who saw the many horrors in the Pacific and Europe.
One friend, Joe McKuzick, a Santa Margarita native, survived the Bataan Death March. Barba’s grandson Daniel Barba remembers hearing Joe talk about the horrors of the march.
And another Santa Margarita friend, Frank Oster, who made it back from Europe.
But two boys from the Pozo area did not come back alive.
Charles R Vaca, CPL 363 Infantry, Apr. 19, 1923 – July 9, 1944, and David L Vaca, PFC 363 Infantry, Aug. 10, 1923 – September 14, 1944, both died at the age of 21 in Sicily right before the end of WWII. Both are buried in the Santa Margarita Cemetery.
It is a privilege to talk to someone like Barba. Many of us take someone like him for granted these days. And I hope that even after Veteran’s Day, we can appreciate people like Henry Barba a bit more.