War and History Poetry posted February 14, 2009

This work has reached the exceptional level
A POW's act to keep hope alive during World War II

Carving Hope in Cabanatuan

by Mrs. KT

In memory of the prisoners incarcerated in Cabanatuan Prison during World War II, in particular, my uncle, Sergeant William A. Kenel, (1921 - 1944) U.S Army Air Corps (Please Read Aloud.)



 each new 
dawn, through rain,
 sickness, torture,
the walls of Cabanatuan Prison
whispered, moaned, and begged for rescue's sweet balm.
Few would know it
or ever
live to
Yet, even 
prison could not
destroy their faith and belief that one day,
their horror's gates would be flung open to
embrace freedom:
no longer
but men
now whole and
freed from bondage
able to bask in their families' love.
To that end, the young soldier prayed, and when
faint moonlight shone,
he began
dull knife,
found one day
by accident,
a figurine, that should he not survive,
would bear testament to his existence.
By night he carved.
By daylight,
wrapped in
and hid
between two
slats of bamboo,
his secret lay waiting to take its shape.
When damaged hands ceased trembling enough to
bring it to life,
he polished
her stance
way she
held her head
when they would race
together through the fields to Miller's Creek;
he laughing, she barking, at the pheasants
roused from their nests.
spurred him
this small gift,
formed with deep love
should those who spoke his name back home never
again hold him in their arms or gaze at
their young soldier. 
Each night he 
carved to
here in this
forsaken land:
Sergeant William Kenel: U.S. Air Corps
September 15, 1944.
When hell ended,
he was not
find their
way back home.
But his carving did, swathed in the same rags
he had wrapped it the month before he died:
One small carving;
one supreme
act of



The challenge is to write a poem that includes the words provided. The poem can be of any type. The words: rag - love - family - creature - flung - rack - shape - horror
Rhyming is optional. Writers have the option to leave out one word, but the poem must include at least seven of the eight words listed. Words can be made plural (for example creature/creatures). I chose the poetic format of Multiple Tetractys to present my offering. Syllabic Count: 1/2/3/4/10/10/4/3/2/1 etc

In writing this offering, I have drawn upon my father's family's history regarding the actions, suffering, and imprisonment of my uncle, Sergeant William A. Kenel, U.S. Army Air Corps who survived being a Japanese prisoner of war and the atrocities of Cabanatuan Prison for thirty-one months following the fall of the Philippines during World War II, but perished along with over 1500 fellow American prisoners aboard the Japanese "Hell" Ship, the Arisan Maru, when the U.S.S. Snook mistook the markings of that prisoner of war ship, and torpedoed it. Sgt. William A. Kenel was among the 12,000 American soldiers who were surrendered to the Japanese at the tip of the Bataan Peninsula on April 9, 1942 during World War II. He survived the infamous Bataan Death March where over 1,000 soldiers perished during the nine day, 55 mile long trek. On October 11,1944, he, along with 1774 other prisoners was crammed, at bayonet point, into the cargo hold of an unmarked Japanese "Hell " ship, the Arisan Maru, that sailed from Manila, Philippine Islands to the Japanese mainland. On October 24, 1944, the vessel was sunk by the American submarine, the U.S.S. Snook in the South China Sea. The captain of that ship committed suicide when he learned that his torpedoes had killed over 1500 men who had been chained in the cargo hold of the Japanese ship. For his valor, my uncle was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. He was twenty four years old when he perished.

I never knew my uncle Bill, but I am honored to possess one of his carvings given to me by my father: a mother robin sitting upon her nest framed by branches of dogwood.

Please Note: The newspaper clipping is from the Saginaw News, August 15, 1945 - an Honor Roll of the young men and women killed and /or missing in action from Saginaw County, Saginaw, Michigan. The caption below my uncle's photograph, referring to where he was killed, reflects the social climate of the day.

Appreciation is extended to Snapdragon for the expressive artwork entitled, "Thwarted." The prisoners at Cabanatuan initially were housed in huts; later barracks were built. Prisoners did not sleep on mattresses or bunks, but rather, on bamboo slats. The prison was surrounded by a wire fence.

For further reading regarding the fall of Bataan and Cabanatuan Prison, I suggest "Ghost Soldiers" written by
Hampton Sides, 2001.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Snapdragon at FanArtReview.com

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