WWII Veterans Exhibition
Gallery Photo Untitled Document
Alva (A. J.) and Doris Ferrel, Hay Springs, Nebraska
Excerpts from essays by Emily Sexson and Mandy Williams
Original photograph by Maria Fisher

The 27th Infantry, 25th Division, Ferrel's group, was first shipped to Hawaii and issued wool overcoats and other supplies that made him and his fellow troops almost certain they "were headed for Alaska." The Army offered no information as to where the regiment was headed. . . . After 28 days on the ship, the soldiers were surprised when they arrived at the jungle-covered island of Guadalcanal. . . . Ferrel said the jungle was thick with Japanese and the combination of three U.S. regiments kept "killing and pushing" the Japanese back until the Americans had control of the island.

Afterwards, they took "what was left" of the initial group and the replacements for lost soldiers to New Georgia. It was there that Ferrel lost one of his closest companions and came near to losing his own life. Ferrel's good timing helped him dodge a sniper's bullet when he tripped over a log and fell, just as it whizzed past his ear. He said, "I could hear the bullet snap by me." The sniper, however, didn't miss the next United States company that came down the same path that day. His bullet hit Ferrel's friend, Percy Hankins, his constant companion since the two were drafted in Nebraska. News of Hankins’ death didn't reach Ferrel until a few days later because of the separation of the companies and the thickness of the jungle. [Later, A. J. met and married Percy’s sister Doris.]

Doris said that one day while she was doing chores, the letter came about her brother, Percy. She recalled, "It was the worst day; my mother fell apart. It was so sudden, and seemed very unimaginable. My mother was depressed a lot of the time, so I spent much of my time outside with my father." She said she was very close to Percy, and that he was always getting into trouble, off doing something he wasn't supposed to. She explained, “The army left the body out there to lay in the mud for a few months before they buried it. After he was buried for a few months, they dug up his casket and sent it back to my parents, and they buried him in the Rushville cemetery. I think they sent back an empty casket, but it made my parents feel better.”