Her dad for­bade her to read his Pearl Har­bor scrap­book, but Mary Ussery fi­nally opened it

Ledger-Enquirer - - Front page - BY WAYNE CREN­SHAW wcren­[email protected]­con.com

Mary Ussery’s dad, a Pearl Har­bor sur­vivor and Guadal­canal vet­eran, told her not to look at his scrap­book from the war.

Even in the 18 years since his death, she kept that prom­ise un­til Thurs­day morn­ing, the day be­fore the an­niver­sary of the Pearl Har­bor at­tack.

Roger Ussery, a Lau­rens County na­tive, was an Army pri­vate when Ja­pan launched the sur­prise at­tack on Dec. 7, 1941. He was an eye­wit­ness and recorded it in his scrap­book, as well as other hor­rors he saw dur­ing the war to come. That in­cludes bru­tal com­bat on Guadal­canal, in which he was se­ri­ously in­jured.

He re­ferred to the Pearl Har­bor at­tack as “when the Japs stuck us in the back.”

Ussery told his daugh­ter that his scrap­book wasn’t fit for her to see, at least un­til she was old enough. She kept the book at the bot­tom of a

drawer and obeyed his or­der.

Lis­ten­ing to cov­er­age of the fu­neral of former Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, a World War II pi­lot, and know­ing the Pearl Har­bor an­niver­sary was com­ing up, she kept think­ing of her dad. Some­thing told her it was time to look at his book. She had peeked into it briefly be­fore, but out of re­spect for him, she never looked through it at length.

So dur­ing the predawn hours Thurs­day, she de­cided she was now old enough, got up and pulled the book out. What she found is that her fa­ther had cre­ated a his­tor­i­cal trea­sure of the war, com­plete with his own draw­ings of Ja­panese gen­er­als, sol­diers and bat­tle ar­eas, news­pa­per clip­pings with his first-hand ob­ser­va­tions and var­i­ous mem­o­ra­bilia taped onto the pages. That in­cludes a piece of a Ja­panese Zero fighter, in­signia from uni­forms of Ja­panese troops and some grue­some pho­tos. One photo shows a Philip­pine na­tive smil­ing while hold­ing the sev­ered head of a Ja­panese sol­dier. An­other shows bod­ies of Amer­i­can, Aus­tralian and Ja­panese sol­diers scat­tered along a beach so thick it earned the nick­name “Mag­got Beach.”

“I’m not one who ever cries,” Mary Ussery said. “Every­one who knows me knows that I’m re­ally tough, but it took all I had to get through some of it this morn­ing.”

She is con­sid­er­ing do­nat­ing the book to a mu­seum so it can be pre­served for oth­ers to see.

At Guadal­canal, Ja­panese gun­fire broke a tree limb over Ussery’s head that fell on him and broke his back. That was the end of the war for him. Even while still in a back brace, his daugh­ter said, he worked his way to a de­gree at the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia and be­came a county agent. He later earned a de­gree in spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion and taught stu­dents with be­hav­ioral dis­or­ders.

“Be­cause of what he had seen, he wanted to find good in ev­ery­body and he wanted to help ev­ery­body,” she said. “These are kids no­body else could do any­thing with, but he was like a pied piper when it came to young peo­ple. They fol­lowed him. At his fu­neral, you couldn’t put an­other stu­dent in there.”

In one of the books she found a poem he wrote, likely while he was still in a hospi­tal after Guadal­canal. It was an ode to his friends still on the bat­tle­field, called “Our He­roes on Guadal­canal.” The last verse is:

“Now I shall end by say­ing this, I leave you now in solemn bliss, By say­ing a prayer for that good pal, Who is fight­ing his heart out on Guadal­canal.” Wayne Cren­shaw: 478-744- 4477; WayneCren­shaw1

PHO­TOS BY JA­SON VORHEES [email protected]­con.com

Mary Ussery holds the scrap­book her fa­ther, a Pearl Har­bor sur­vivor, kept dur­ing his ser­vice in World War II, and for­bade her to read un­til she was old enough.

Mary Ussery reads a poem by her fa­ther, Roger Ussery, a Pearl Har­bor sur­vivor, from his scrap­book. It was an ode to friends still on the bat­tle­field.

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