William "Bill" Kenyon - Champion of Army Mail
William Kenyon had a long history with the Postal Service. Starting as a young man cleaning mail bags, Kenyon would proceed to become a highly respected Postal Inspector and organizer of the Army Postal Offices during WWI.
William Kenyon's Early Career
Born in South Carolina in the 1870s, William "Bill" Kenyon was a student at Clemson College when he began his career with the United States Post Office. For 10 cents an hour, Kenyon worked in a mail room emptying and stacking the mail sacks and cleaning up litter. Due to family finances, Kenyon was force to drop out of college his third year and returned to his home in Chareleston.
When he returned, he took the Railway Mail Service exam and became a substitute railway cleark. Over the next five years Kenyon traveled throughout the U.S., Cuba, and the Philippines, bearing witness to the Spanish-American War.
By 1906, Kenyon had been appointed a Post Office Inspector in New Orleans. His jurisdiction included 21 parishes and part of Texas.
William Kenyon - Postal Inspector
William Kenyon became an Inspector during the height of the Yeggmen. Yeggmen were safe-rackers who used nitroglycerin, a fuse, and dynamite to blow open Post Office safes. Much of Kenyon's early career in Louisiana dealt with the Yeggs. In 1911, Kenyon transferred to the New York Division, where he was sent to South America to deal with parcel thefts. Over the next few years, Kenyon traveled the world as a Inspector.
When World War I broke out in 1917, Kenyon was sent to France to help assist with establishing postal services for the military. By the time Kenyon arrived, five APOs (Army Post Offices) had been established in France for the 15,000 troops initially sent, but thousands more were coming. Kenyon had an urgent duty to establish Post Offices where new troops would be stationed.
William Kenyon and the APOs
Kenyon spent eight months in France as a civilian setting up roughly 30 APOs. Upon returning stateside, he was tasked with reporting the conditions of APOs and mail systems abroad. Just a few weeks after returning, he was called to service as a Captain in the Army. Captain Kenyon was quickly sent back to the APOs in France, and then to Germany as Chief of the Army Postal Service.
Captain William Kenyon spent a year as Chief of the Army Postal Service before being released from duty and returning to his position with the Postal Inspection Service. When the Second World War broke out, the Army recalled Col. (promoted) William Kenyon and named him Acting Chief of the Army of Postal Service.
Today, Army Mail is still organized and distributed through the APO system developed by Kenyon and other civilian and military postal personnel of WWI.
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