Biographical Poetry posted March 8, 2020

This work has reached the exceptional level
Returned To Sender: Service Suspended

Between These Pages

by Mrs. KT

For my children... that they may know...

Some treasures are buried deep in the ground;
Some are in plain sight, waiting to be found:

For reasons that now seem so clear,
I wandered into
front room near.
A cozy place I yearned that day.
Tea in hand, I prepared to stay.
Planning to read in
fav'rite chair,
searched my fam'ly's bookcase there.
My eyes turned to worn Navy book;
Its presence called; I reached to look:
Blue Jackets’ Manual – frayed guide;
My father’s
name written inside.
From within, two envelopes fell, 
And with them, their contents as well.
I handled both with tender care;
Their size small, the postage now rare.
My father’s writing was still clear,
Addressed to
brother he held dear.
One posted, 1941,
When World War II had just begun.
The other, 1942,
Same address on
note of sky blue.

My father’s thoughts, no mistaking;
I tried to read without shaking,
For he mailed these letters with hope,
Unaware of war’s heinous scope.
My father wrote of days to come,
How Pearl Harbor had left all numb,
How he prayed for brother each morn,
How in June,
first child would be born.
My father spoke of hunting days,
Of siblings' joys and laughing ways,
Of holidays and winter eves.
Through it
all, brother’s love did weave.
Caught in Philippine’s surrender,
Stamped in red: “Returned To Sender.”
These letters were never received,
And when returned, his heart would grieve.
My father was such a private man,
Seldom speaking of war with Japan.
But I’ve been told, during those years,
He lived to calm his fam
’ly’s fears.
I gently held these small treasures;
Their dearness could not be measured.
My father’s voice was once more heard.
Deep emotion, his letters stirred.
I know not what I would have done,
Had I lost to war a loved
But I do know such crippling grief,
Would shatter my deepest beliefs.
Instead, my father stored away
Any rancor he held those days,
And lived his life with fervent love
For fam
’ly, country, God above.
Across four seas and eighty years,
Through daily life and untold tears,
These letters had traveled through time,
Tucked within text that was now mine.
As daylight faded, it was clear,
From this safe place, they would not veer.
In this book, they would still remain
Until they called for me again.
Some treasures are buried deep in the ground;
Some are in plain sight, waiting to be found…

Poem of the Month contest entry



Author's Notes:
My parents, Daniel M. Kenel and Ann R. McNeil Kenel, pictured above in the photograph on the day of their engagement in 1941, were avid readers and lovers of varied literature. When my parents passed away, I inherited boxes of their favorite novels and books. My parents also had a habit of placing notes, newspaper clippings, photographs, etc inside the pages of many of their books. While the Blue Jackets' Manual has been in my possession for a number of years, I wasn't cognizant of the manual's importance, nor was I aware of what was tucked inside of it until I opened it during the afternoon hours of December 20, 2019, and leafed through its pages. I have no recollection of either my father or my mother ever mentioning the significance of the manual or the two returned letters that my father had written to my uncle, Sergeant William A. Kenel, US Army Air Force, while my uncle was stationed at Nichols Field, Manila, Philippine Islands, prior to the Japanese invasion of the Philippines on December 8, 1941.

After the Japanese invasion of the Philippines on December 8, 1941, all incoming mail service was suspended. My father wrote the cream-colored letter on December 15, 1941, and mailed it on December 16, 1941. He wrote and posted the blue letter on January 20, 1942.

My grandmother, Lucy Rose Kenel, continued to write and mail letters to her "Bodie" up until the time the family was officially notified of his death in 1945 - despite the fact that every letter posted after December 8, 1941, was returned to her, marked "RETURNED TO SENDER; SERVICE SUSPENDED."

The last letter my father's family received from Sargeant Kenel is postmarked November 23, 1941, prior to the onslaught of the Japanese hostilities. Following the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942, my uncle survived the Bataan Death March and thirty-one months as a Japanese prisoner of war at Cabanatuan Prison. During that time, the U.S. Red Cross provided prisoners with small, prescriptive cards that contained the heading, "Japanese Imperial Army." My grandparents received three of these cards, but they are without dates. In essence, the cards just informed my uncle's loved ones that he was still alive. These cards had to meet the approval of U.S. censors; messages were limited to fifty words. The last card arrived after Seargent Kenel's death, but prior to notification of said death from the United States War Department.

On June 15, 1945, my father's family received notification from the United States' War Department that Sergeant Kenel had been killed aboard the Arisan Maru by the American submarine, the U.S.S. Snook on October 24, 1944, as he and 1,774 fellow prisoners of war were being transported to Japan to labor as slaves in Japanese industry. He was 24 years old at the time of his death.

On September 18, 1945, Sergeant William A. Kenel was awarded The Purple Heart posthumously.

THE BLUE JACKET's MANUAL - 1943. UNITED STATES NAVY. Eleventh Edition. Published by United States Naval Institute in 1943 . This is the manual of the United States Navy in 1943 covering all the information necessary to make an able seaman, including knowledge every enlisted man should know, seamanship and gunnery, and physical skills. Property of Daniel M. Kenel, P.O. 2nd, U.S. Navy: 7/1944 - 3/1946 Aircraft Metalsmith, E-5

A short, but informative video entitled, "What Was the Bataan Death March" can be found below:

Thank you for reading.
Diane Kenel-Truelove
March 7, 2020

Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Save to Bookcase Promote This Share or Bookmark
Print It View Reviews

You need to login or register to write reviews. It's quick! We only ask four questions to new members.

© Copyright 2024. Mrs. KT All rights reserved.
Mrs. KT has granted, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.