Friday, March 10, 2017

WW2 Fallen - George Keathley, Medal of Honor Hero, 85th Infantry Division

Sgt.George Keathley, posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Congressional Medal of Honor Winner George D. Keathley could have been 100 years old today. Actually, it is more likely that he would be ten years older than that.

According to his military records, George was born on March 10, 1917 in Texas. However, census records show he was born in 1907 or 1908. Did he understate his age so it would be easier for him to enlist in the army? The army would not hesitate to take a 25 year old, but might think twice about taking a 35 year old enlisted man.

His mother was also born in Texas. His father was from Tennessee and worked as a farmer. George had an older brother and sister and he had two younger sisters and two younger brothers, one of whom served as a Marine. By 1940 George was married to his wife Geneva. They had two daughters.

He served as a staff sergeant in the 338th Infantry Regiment, 85th Infantry Division. He died on September 14, 1944 on Mt. Altuzzo, Italy.

Sgt. Keathley's Congressional Medal of Honor Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, in action on the western ridge of Mount Altuzzo, Italy. 

After bitter fighting his company had advanced to within 50 yards of the objective, where it was held up due to intense enemy sniper, automatic, small arms, and mortar fire. The enemy launched 3 desperate counterattacks in an effort to regain their former positions, but all 3 were repulsed with heavy casualties on both sides. All officers and noncommissioned officers of the 2d and 3d platoons of Company B had become casualties, and S/Sgt. Keathley, guide of the 1st platoon, moved up and assumed command of both the 2d and 3d platoons, reduced to 20 men. 

The remnants of the 2 platoons were dangerously low on ammunition, so S/Sgt. Keathley, under deadly small arms and mortar fire, crawled from 1 casualty to another, collecting their ammunition and administering first aid. He then visited each man of his 2 platoons, issuing the precious ammunition he had collected from the dead and wounded, and giving them words of encouragement. 

The enemy now delivered their fourth counterattack, which was approximately 2 companies in strength. In a furious charge they attacked from the front and both flanks, throwing hand grenades, firing automatic weapons, and assisted by a terrific mortar barrage. So strong was the enemy counterattack that the company was given up for lost. 

The remnants of the 2d and 3d platoons of Company B were now looking to S/Sgt. Keathley for leadership. He shouted his orders precisely and with determination and the men responded with all that was in them. Time after time the enemy tried to drive a wedge into S/Sgt. Keathley's position and each time they were driven back, suffering huge casualties. Suddenly an enemy hand grenade hit and exploded near S/Sgt. Keathley, inflicting a mortal wound in his left side. However, hurling defiance at the enemy, he rose to his feet. Taking his left hand away from his wound and using it to steady his rifle, he fired and killed an attacking enemy soldier, and continued shouting orders to his men. 

His heroic and intrepid action so inspired his men that they fought with incomparable determination and viciousness. For 15 minutes S/Sgt. Keathley continued leading his men and effectively firing his rifle. He could have sought a sheltered spot and perhaps saved his life, but instead he elected to set an example for his men and make every possible effort to hold his position. Finally, friendly artillery fire helped to force the enemy to withdraw, leaving behind many of their number either dead or seriously wounded. S/Sgt. Keathley died a few moments later. 

Had it not been for his indomitable courage and incomparable heroism, the remnants of 3 rifle platoons of Company B might well have been annihilated by the overwhelming enemy attacking force. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.

His last words were "Please write my wife and tell her I love her, and also I did everything I could for her and for my country. So long, Dozier, give 'em hell for me, I'm done for." 

His widow never remarried and died in 1993 at the age of 81. His daughters would be in their 80's if still alive today.

His remains were buried at Florence American Cemetery and Memorial in Italy.

Thank you George for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for George.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

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