59 years later Memorial honors WWII death at sea

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

James F. Brasher Jr., a 20-year-old aviation machinist, was killed when a Japanese kamikaze attack airplane hit his U.S. Navy vessel during World War II.

Nearly 59 years later, a memorial was placed at Sterrett Cemetery in his honor.

Brasher’s sister, Mrs. Hubert (Geraldine) McGuire discovered only recently that she could have a memorial marker placed in the family cemetery at no cost from the Veterans Administration.

She was walking in the cemetery with her son, Tim McGuire, she said, when he asked, &uot;Mother, have you ever thought if we don’t put a marker, no one will ever know there was a junior?&uot;

The only marker in the cemetery for James F. Brasher was that of her father.

McGuire’s brother was killed during a kamikaze attack on his ship, the USS Sewanee and buried at sea, so the family never had a burial or a marker noting his existence.

However, McGuire still has her brother’s Purple Heart, the flag that draped his body, the war log of the ship from the deck of which he was buried at sea and the letter informing his parents of his death.

Looking at all of the reminders of her brother’s untimely death recently brought a lump to McGuire’s throat as she said it brought all the memories back.

The letter to her parents read, &uot;The Navy Department regrets to inform you that your son James Ferman Brasher Jr. aviation machinist mate third class USNR was killed in the service of his country.&uot;

While the letter was dated Nov. 11, 1944, McGuire said her brother was actually killed on Oct. 25 of that year.

The ship’s war log called the brutal attack on the Sewanee &uot;suicide hits&uot; of Oct. 25-26. She also recalled that a friend of her late brother, Claudell Bratcher’s family, also received notice of death due to the closeness of the family name.

The memorial for James F. Brasher Jr. includes a reference to

Bible scripture from Revelations 20:13, &uot;And the sea gave up the dead which were in it …&uot;

The official ceremony at Sterrett Cemetery, located directly across from Beulah Baptist Church, was held June 8, two days before the anniversary of McGuire’s brother’s 79th birthday (June 10, 1924). The Rev. Earl Hardy of Pell City presided at the memorial service.

McGuire’s son, Tim, greeted family and friends and spoke at the memorial to the 75 people who were in attendance.

McGuire said she received the memorial by applying to the Veterans Administration Office in Columbiana through Kilgore Funeral Home in Leeds