“We were supposed to know everything about the Japanese Army — where all the troops were located and how many — so we could put an equal number of soldiers in front of them.”
As a military intelligence officer during the final months of World War II, it was the job of 1st Lt. J. Wallace “Wally” Ferrall to learn as much as he could about the Japanese fighting forces.
“We were supposed to know everything about the Japanese Army — where all the troops were located and how many — so we could put an equal number of soldiers in front of them,” said Ferrall, who was training at a camp in Maryland. “It was all very secret. We were training for the invasion of Japan.”
The Allied forces dropped atomic bombs on the enemy, bringing the conflict rapidly to a conclusion, before Ferrall needed to use the information he gathered.
“If the war hadn’t ended, I probably would have gone to the island and fought.”
Ferrall, who now lives in Plain Township, was born and raised in Canton and graduated from Canton Lehman High School in 1940. He finished three years of additional schooling at Otterbein University before he enlisted in the Army.
After basic training, Ferrall was transferred to Sheppard Field in Texas because he had said he wanted to be a pilot.
“There were tons of people there — a bunch of guys like me who went down from all over the country,” he recalled. “And when we got there, the Army said they didn’t need that many pilots.”
After several other transfers — “I got lots of experience riding the railroad” — Ferrall settled into Military Intelligence School at Fort Ritchie, Md. Along the way he also was sent to Officer Candidate School, where he rose in rank to become a lieutenant.
Then he waited for the part of the war for which he was trained to unfold. It never did.
“From Fort Ritchie, I was shipped to Fort Lawton, Wash., to be shipped overseas,” recalled Ferrall. “On the way over — I was on the train — the war ended.”
So, the Army instead sent him to Hawaii, where he was given the job of encoding and decoding messages sent between the Pacific forces and military types in Washington, D.C. That office — Headquarters of the United States Army Forces in the Middle Pacific — is also where Ferrall met his wife.
“I had the same job, working for the War Department as a civilian,” said Jane Miller Ferrall, who hailed from Des Moines, Iowa. “I received the messages on tape that came in from teletypes, and I would type them up.”
She arrived a month before her future husband, she recalled, and he left to come home a month before she departed Hawaii. By that time, they were a couple. War, or at least the ending of it, had brought them together.
Page 2 of 2 - “Mom kept the letters I wrote home,” she noted. “In one of them, I wrote ‘Tonight I met Wally Ferrall. I sure want to see more of that man.’ ”
They have shared their lives for almost seven decades, celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary last year.
In the 1950s, they built their home and helped develop, with Donald Ink, the allotment in which it sits not far from Fulton Drive NW.
“We picked this lot, on a hill,” she said. “At night, we can see the lights clear up to the (Westfield Belden Village) mall.”
The couple also has owned and operated stores — Toy Corner, Ivy Corner and Gaslight Bootery — in the area of 30th Street Plaza, as well as a toy store in Akron and a swimming pool store in Massillon. Their son still operates a North Canton venue of that latter business.
The couple raised two sons. Kent Ferrall lives with his wife Mary in North Canton and Kim Ferrall lives with his wife Kyle in Houston, Texas.
It is a family that exists not in spite of World War II, but rather because of it.