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Photographer's diary recounts life with Douglas MacArthur

By Ed Brock

Linnie Widney actually spoke to Gen. Douglas MacArthur one time.

"He told me to write a letter for him," said 90-year-old Widney, one of MacArthur's former secretaries during the first year of the occupation of Japan.

In his cozy red brick home in Morrow where Widney and his wife Betty have lived since the early 1960s, Widney pores over black and white photos of his younger self in uniform. That was 1945 and Widney started his tour of duty, and the diary he kept of those times in a black 3-by-5 inch notebook, in the Philippines.

Actually, the diary starts with his departure for the Pacific Theater from San Francisco on the USS General Howze on July 8, 1945.

"Breakfast of omelet. Gave it back only slightly used," Widney wrote at the beginning of his July 9 entry.

Nearly one month later, after battling seasickness, boredom and headaches from a training accident along with avoiding the remaining Japanese forces, Widney arrived at the Philippine capital of Manilla.

Before the war Widney had graduated from a business school and so he was assigned to MacArthur's secretary pool.

"I was very good at shorthand," Widney said.

As the war ended one of Widney's duties was to type up the speech MacArthur delivered at the Japanese surrender on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945. He has a signed copy of that speech, along with several of MacArthur's letters.

Widney said he often saw MacArthur coming in and out of the Daiichi building in Tokyo where they were headquartered.

"They say he's the best there ever was and I believe it," Widney said. "When we got to Japan finally the people loved him."

And during his time in Japan Widney was also impressed by those newly conquered people.

"The folks were just always around us. It is just amazing how they took it," Widney said.

He was less impressed by the Japanese camera he had to use because his regular camera, which he had shipped to himself before departing for duty, never arrived.

"It was here when he came back," 82-year-old Betty Widney said.

Photography is one of Widney's many hobbies. He has his own darkroom in the basement and a lifetime collection of images. He shot fields of flowers and old mills and buildings throughout Georgia, many of which are no longer standing.

"Anything that's beautiful," Widney said of his photo subjects. "Any kind of pretty background."

Some of those pictures will be on display at the old school house at Stately Oaks during the annual reenactment of the Battle of Jonesboro on Oct. 8 and 9.

Her father has always been interested in history, said Widney's daughter Carole Galimore.

"Also, he's been really interested in keeping students interested in history," Galimore said.

So Widney used to tell his tales to young people, including Galimore's son's class when he was in school.

Galimore's son Justin has now transcribed the contents of that little black notebook into a printed format, but Galimore said she isn't sure if they will ever try to get it published.

"It's really interesting reading," Galimore said.