1942-12-01: Letter from John Paul Merton (Thomas Merton's younger brother) to his uncle, Walter Jenkins



1942-12-01: Letter from John Paul Merton (Thomas Merton's younger brother) to his uncle, Walter Jenkins


John Paul Merton writes to his uncle while serving in England in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. He speaks of his upcoming marriage in Birkenhead to Margaret Evans.John Paul Merton was Thomas Merton's younger, and only, sibling. The boys spent much time apart, Thomas traveling with his father Owen, the painter, in France and England, where he was schooled. John Paul lived with his maternal grandparents, the Jenkins, and went to schools in New York and later military academy, graduating in the last class in 1935 from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania's academy. He attended Cornell and was there first interested in Catholicism, taking up flying with the Catholic chaplain, Fr. Donald Cleary. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1941, intending to get involved in the Second World War and the United States was not yet committed. He went by the nickname "Mert". One of the correspondents in the letters in the Merton Collection, Thomas O'Brien, gave his flight training. John Paul visited Thomas Merton at Gethsemani during a leave in July of 1942. He expressed interest in becoming baptized Catholic and received expedited instructions from Thomas and Dom James Fox because he had only a week's leave. He was baptized July 26, 1942. In August 1942, John Paul was sent into action in England. While on leave in England, he met Margaret May Evans and married her in February of 1943. On April 16, 1943, he embarked in a Wellington bomber over the English Channel. For unknown reasons, the plane lost altitude and crashed. John Paul's back was broken, but he was taken aboard a dinghy with some survivors. He died the 17th, which was the Saturday of Passion Week. The others were rescued Holy Thursday, and Thomas Merton learned of his brother's death on Easter Tuesday. Thomas Merton responded with the poem, "For My Brother Reported Missing in Action, 1943", which concludes the The Seven Storey Mountain. (Source: The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia, pp. 294-295.)




Thomas Merton Center Collection; Section A (Correspondence); Merton, John Paul; 1942/12/01.



© The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. All rights reserved.


World War, 1939-1945


Handwritten letter, signed

First Lines

First line: 'Your Xmas card came yesterday and your most welcome letter today, and I thank you much for them both'...

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