Wednesday, October 23, 2013 1:00 AM
From the small community of Coldwater, located about six miles southwest of Neshoba County's seat of Philadelphia, the Kennedy family witnessed their first child sail away on a mission of mercy in defense of their country.
Red Cross Nurse Imogene "Jean" Kennedy, twenty-year-old daughter of the late Roy J. Kennedy and Mittie Walton Kennedy, began in early October 1941 a voyage that would bring for her a trail of hardships, tears and personal sacrifice.
During this fateful trip, Army Second Lieutenant Jean Kennedy wrote to The Neshoba Democrat and described her journey to the Easter Pacific:
"We are 'Somewhere in the Pacific' on the U.S.S. Holbrook bound for the Philippine Islands with 2,100 passengers. We six nurses from Fort Benning [Georgia] have a stateroom together."
There is a hospital with operating room on board and we have already had one operation. We also have a good library, theatre, piano, etc. Church services are held every Sunday. This trip is a wonderful experience for us all... On Sunday, we crossed the International Date Line, which meant that we skipped Monday, which was my birthday."
So I didn't have a birthday, although I did have a nice time after all. The cook baked me a cake and officers and everyone sang 'Happy Birthday' when I came to supper that night. I was a little late as my roommate had just given me a pretty blue doll and we named her Miss a-Day Holbrook... We are sailing due west and it is awfully hot."
They say that the heat in the Philippine is so intense that we will have to spend a month (a few days at a time) out of each year on the mountains to cool off. We are scheduled to reach Manila a month from the time we left San Francisco. "
United States planes are flying over this afternoon from Guam, where we will dock tomorrow. Manila is a modern city but we aren't sure whether we will be stationed there or not. Our ship goes on to Hong Kong, China, but I don't think any of our present passengers will go along."
Even though Lieutenant Kennedy considered Manila to be a modern city, fate in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army would later show her a side of the Philippine capital that she would always remember.
Upon arriving in the Philippine Islands, Lieutenant Kennedy was stationed first at Fort William McKinley in Manila for about four months before the Army Nurses Corps transferred her to the Bataan Peninsula on Luzon Island, serving during March and April of 1942.
From the Bataan Peninsula, the Neshoba nurse joined the medical staff at Fort Mills Hospital on Corregidor Island in late April.
Just days after her arrival at the fortress on Corregidor, the Japanese Army overran the local forces, capturing thousands on May 6, 1942.
In mid-July of 1942, Mrs. Roy Kennedy received a letter from Lieutenant Helen Summers another nurse who told the worried mother that she shared a room with her daughter and the two were close friends.
"Over 50 American nurses were left at the fortress and most likely were captured and taken to Manila," wrote Summers, with Jean "looking fine and very cheerful" when last seen.
The letter continued, "Two days before Corregidor fell, ten other nurses and I were evacuated to Australia. How they picked us I'll never know, but they did intend to get more of the nurses out. However, the Japanese took Corregidor before they had the chance."
District One of the Tennessee State Nurses Association met about the same time in Memphis, Tennessee, to honor one of their own.
Meeting at the University Center, the Association held a memorial service in honor of Second Lieutenant Imogene Kennedy, missing in action since the fall of Corregidor.
Lieutenant Kennedy graduated from the University of Tennessee's School of Nursing, John Gaston Hospital, in June 1941.
An American Legion bugler sounded Taps and an official from the Association placed gold stars on the service flag, donated to the Association by the Memphis Red Cross.
Each of the 79 stars on the flag represented area or graduate nurses who joined or would soon enter in the United States Army or Navy. (To be continued).
Civil War Veterans
McLain, David Lidelle - Private; enlisted April 24, 1861, at Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty-one; farmer.
Wounded at Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862; hospitalized with a gunshot wound at General Hospital # 21 at Richmond, Virginia, July 2, 1862.
Hospitalized with exostosis (abnormal bony growth on the surface of a bone) of the femur at the General Hospital at Charlottesville, Virginia, June 23, 1863 to September 21, 1863.
Transferred to the General Hospital at Lynchburg, Virginia; Muster Roll, October 31, 1864: "Absent on wounded furlough for sixty days."
World War II Veterans
Kennedy, Glendon Woodrow* - Private to Staff Sergeant; enlisted on September 30, 1942 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi in the United States Army; age twenty-two; farmer; nick-named "Bill," served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations on Trinidad Island, British West Indies.
Served also in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre of Operations as a section sergeant at the 5307th Compound Unit.
Participated in the campaigns of Northern Burma and India; wounded in action in Burma, April 3, 1944.
Awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, American Campaign Medal, Presidential Unit Badge, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with one bronze service star), Good Conduct Medal and the Purple Heart.
Discharged at the Army Air Corps Convalescence Hospital at Miami Beach, Florida, November 25, 1944, combat disability.
Described as five feet eleven inches tall, with brown hair and blue eyes.
Note*: Lieutenant Imogene Kennedy, Technician First Class Charles Kenneth Kennedy, Staff Sergeant Glendon Woodrow Kennedy, Seaman First Class James Truman Kennedy and Staff Sergeant Nelson Guy Kennedy, all veterans of World War II, were children of Roy J. and Mittie Walton Kennedy.
Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum
Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;
Monday thru Friday