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Billie G. Kanell Essay

1176 words - 5 pages

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (King James Version, John 15:13). This verse from the Bible is perfectly displayed in the life and death of Billie G. Kanell. To those who do not know his story, Private Kanell is simply considered another small town boy who went off to fight in the war, as many young men did during that time, and never came back. However, to those who know his story, he is considered a very courageous and heroic young man who touched the lives of many others with his selfless sacrifice.
Billie Gene Kanell was born in the small town of Poplar Bluff, Missouri on June 21, 1931 to parents John and Iva Kanell. Kanell attended ...view middle of the document...

Billie’s parents didn’t even think he would pass his physical due to the fact he had bad knees and feet (Thiele). But, he did indeed pass the test and soon set off for Basic Training. It seemed like the whole neighborhood came out to see him off at the train station the day he left (Pruitt). Billie’s father had given him a pearl revolver that he took with him when he left on the train that day (Thiele). Billie and his friend Jessie went to Hawaii, where they went through Basic Training together and then went to Japan. While in Japan, Billie was able to write a short letter home letting all his loved ones know he was safe. He was supposed to attend a training school in Japan, but for some unknown reason was sent to Korea instead. He wouldn’t be in Korea very long at all before his strength and courage would shine through and we would see what a true hero he was.
After a mere eleven days in Korea, Billie joined with two other men named Mullen and Rodriguez. After being with these two men for only an hour, their outfit was sent out five miles on patrol in front of the main lines to relieve another company. They headed up to Hill 717, getting there at about 8 or 9 p.m. (Thiele). Positioned in a machine gun bunker, the men began to get to know each other talking about their different religious beliefs. Billie was a protestant while Mullen and Rodriguez were Catholic. Sometime close to midnight, the sky lit up with flares and tracer bullets. Mullen, who was on watch duty, dived back into the bunker and the three men began shooting at the enemy and throwing grenades down the hill. Mullen recalls, “The sky lit up like it was the Fourth of July. We were eventually overrun. As they overran us we could see silhouettes.” (Thiele). It was estimated that there were five Chinese to one American that night. The Chinese were almost close enough to touch when suddenly an enemy grenade plunked down into the mud between Kanell and the two other men. They were trapped! The Americans referred to these grenades as potato mashers. They were extremely erratic, sometimes exploding within seconds, and other times exploding instantly. There was no time for the grenade to be thrown back out of the foxhole. Before the two other...

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