On the Map – Kenney’s Travels in the East

52 Ancestors

I have not been remiss in posting letters home from Kenney. The truth is, I do not have letters to post until November. Kenney either forgot (because he was too busy) to write home, or the letters have been lost. This has been a series of posts that have been great for putting Kenney on the map as we follow him through his adventures in the Navy. Previously he had been bouncing back and forth between Pearl Harbor, Long Beach, and Puget Sound – all around the Pacific. Big changes are happening to Kenney. Not only has he completely switched coasts, but his routine is also about to get upended.

But my generation and the generation after me have no idea what travel was like for Kenney back in 1942. Families generally had one car that dad used to get to work. Soldiers didn’t. They traveled by public transportation. There was no Uber. Flying was for the wealthy. And the interstate as we know it? It didn’t exist. In fact, it is a product of the war effort. See the Department of Transportations timeline on the interstate system.

Accessed on 19 September 2020 at Progress is Fine, but it’s gone on for too long blog.

So, Kenney traveled by rail. Not just to Omaha as his April telegram indicated, but most likely all the way to Massachusetts. That was the military’s preferred method of shipping soldiers in those days.

Taking into consideration that his telegram to Omaha came from Elko, NV, the red line is the most likely route he took from Seattle, WA to Omaha, NE. The blue line is the most direct rail route from Omaha, NE to Boston, MA. Map c. 1942, Library of Congress.

We know Kenney had reported to his new duty assignment by May of 1942. Since the shakedown cruise on July 13, the U.S.S. Massachusetts was fine-tuning her infrastructure, conducting crew training, and drill, drill, drill. If you are a Veteran of any military outfit, you know what that meant.

Big Mamie had moved from Boston to Penobscot Bay off the coast of Maine where she co-trained with a submarine in Casco Bay (off the coast of Portland). The gunners and the batteries continued drilling to fine-tune their battle routine, machinists, engineers, carpenters, and medical crew conducted simulated damage-controls drills, and the deckhands drilled on catapulting and recovering the Kingfisher scout planes.

Boston Harbor in the south to Penobscot Bay in the north.

The U.S.S. Massachusetts Society (which consists of plank-holders and former crew members) published a memorial book in which they described the aforementioned aircraft recovery similar to picking up a water skier without drowning them in your wake – but in a battleship! How’d you like to be the one driving in that operation? (Yes, yes, I know…steering or navigating. I’m not a total landlubber.)

In Kenney’s July letter, he eluded to other activities that may have been more enjoyable. Navy Commanders knew that drilling wasn’t the only thing there was to building camaraderie and esprit-de-corps. Sports teams were formed, entertainment was scheduled, and dances were held. In fact, the fourth ship dance was held exactly 78 years ago to the date (September 19, 1942) at a local lodge hall. Kenney never told how he met Sears and Roebucks, Ruthie (from his last letter), but I imagine it was at one of the previous dances that were held in Boston.

The U.S.S. Massachusetts also started Division wrestling, boxing, and softball teams that originally played matches between her crew Divisions, but later expanded the matches against other ship’s teams. Kenney doesn’t appear to have participated (he’s not shown in any of the photos). If his exploits in Puget Sound are any indication, it’s more likely he was site seeing whenever he got shore leave.

Excerpt from the U.S.S. Massachusetts Society’s publication: During the many months Mamie was in and out of Casco Bay off Portland, ME, she made use everyday (sic) she was in port of the recreational facilities which the Navy had developed on Little Chebeague Island…The liberty watch would come in the afternoon for football, baseball, basketball, horseshoes or just to swap yarns over a bottle of beer. The truly hard (perhaps, read that fool-hardy) would push a few seals out of the way and go for a swim in the icy waters of the bay.