Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Eugene "Nip" W. Keeling, Sr., July 11, 1985

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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KELLY: I am in Nelson County, Kentucky, in the home of Eugene W. Keeling, known by his friends as "Nip," entered the service in 00:01:00September . . . on September 11th, 1942. He was discharged from the Navy, January 25th, 1946. He was discharged as an Aviation Machinist Mate Second Class. He took his boot training in the Great Lakes, served on a PBY . . . in a PBY squadron at Quonset Point, Rhodes Island, on submarine patrol duty off the Atlantic Coast. Then he was on a . . . he was a machine gunner on a torpedo bomber in the Pacific. He was on two aircraft carriers. He was on the USS Yorktown, the new one, after the first one had been sunk, and he was on the carrier for over . . . probably over a year on the USS Monterey at the same time that Gerry Ford was serving as a gunnery officer. He had known President Ford and had talked to him, and he was Ger-. . . Gerry Ford was the . . . was the boxing coach.

KEELING: [Inaudible].

KELLY: Did you take boxing?

KEELING: Yeah. Yeah, I did.

KELLY: Did you?

KEELING: Yes, sir. [Chuckle]

KELLY: And then in the Pacific, his Task Force 58 participated in the invasions of Tarawa [and] Kwajalein. His unit made bombing runs against Truk Island, which was a strong naval base for the Japanese. And then he was on the SS Henry Bergh, which was wrecked on a reef in the Farallon Islands about a 130 miles west of San Francisco in early `44. He had a permanent . . . permanent injury to his right leg while 00:02:00serving on the Monterey when it was under attack. He and some of the other members of the crew jumped from the flight deck some thirty feet to the hangar deck, and he still feels the consequences of that jump. "Nip," why don't we just start out with your squadron . . . the PBY squadron when you were doing submarine patrol duty, [and] talk a little bit about that to begin with. You were operating out of . . .

KEELING: Quonset Point, Rhode Island, . . .

KELLY: Yeah.

KEELING: . . . Naval Airbase, umhmm.

KELLY: And did you go sort of on a daily run out on the Atlantic Coast?

KEELING: Yeah. Up and down the coast, yeah. I . . .

KELLY: Did you ever sight any submarines?

KEELING: No, I can't say we did. We'd . . .

KELLY: This was . . . this was in late `42, . . .


KEELING: Yeah, umhmm.

KELLY: . . . when you were doing this? And . . . and . . .

KEELING: And early `43.

KELLY: Early `43.


KELLY: So . . . so nothing big happened during that particular . . .

KEELING: Not really, . . .

KELLY: . . . tour.

KEELING: . . . no.

KELLY: Okay. And then you . . . you asked to get on a ship.

KEELING: Oh, yeah.

KELLY: What . . . what ship did you go on then?

KEELING: I went aboard the aircraft carrier Yorktown. And then I decided I'd like the Monterey, the . . . they were asking for . . . we formed out to the Pacific for a little action, so . . .

KELLY: You were looking for action.

KEELING: [Chuckle] That's what I thought, yeah, a little action.

KELLY: Now, you were . . . you were a machine gunner on a torpedo bomber . . .


KELLY: . . . called a TBF.

KEELING: Yeah, and also a plane captain, yeah. I s-. . . I . . . I wa-. . . I was also a plane captain on an F-6F fighter . . . fighter plane too, umhmm.

KELLY: While you were on the . . .

KEELING: Mar-. . .

KELLY: . . . Monterey?

KEELING: . . . Monterey, right.

KELLY: Okay. Just . . . let's take the Monterey and . . . and . 00:04:00. . and take you into your first action. You . . . where are you boarding the Monterey?

KEELING: I went aboard the Monterey in . . . in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Navy Yards.

KELLY: Do you remember the date?

KEELING: It was about June, I'd say.

KELLY: Forty-three?

KEELING: Roughly, yeah.

KELLY: Okay. And then from there you went through the Panama Canal?

KEELING: Panama Canal.

KELLY: And then into the Pacific.

KEELING: Well, we went down with the . . . yeah, with . . . we went through the canal on shakedown crew to . . . to Porto Spain, yeah. Yeah, down in the islands, you know.

KELLY: In the islands. All right. And then . . . then from there where did you go?

KEELING: We came back up Pennsy- . . . up to the Philadelphia Navy Yards, and . . . and then we grouped and went to . . . through the Panama Canal to the Pacific.


KELLY: Where was your first action in the Pacific, do you remember? Was that Tarawa?

KEELING: Yeah, back in Tarawa, the Gilbert Islands.

KELLY: Okay. What do you remember about Tarawa?

KEELING: Well, [chuckle] it was pretty rough for those sailors, . . .

KELLY: Was it . . .

KEELING: . . . soldiers and Marines, all . . .

KELLY: . . . was this where you made your . . . on . . . on this aircraft carrier, is this where you made your first bombing run, and were you with the . . . with the aircraft that . . . that made that bombing run?

KEELING: Yeah. Yeah.

KELLY: Can . . . can you describe that? Do you remember taking off? Just kind of talk . . . just go from taking off on the deck . . . I guess by then you'd already done some taking off on deck with your pilot. Who . . . who was your pilot, by the way? Or do you remember?

KEELING: I . . . I . . . right now I don't remember. A long time ago, isn't it?

KELLY: Been forty-some years.


KELLY: Well, anyway, you take off of that flight deck. [Chuckle- 00:06:00Keeling] Was that a . . . can . . . can you kind of explain that feeling of . . .

KEELING: Well, it's . . . it takes a little nerve. [Chuckle]

KELLY: When . . . when they . . . when they launched you, how'd they do that?

KEELING: Well, we catapulted some and we ran them off the . . . you know, from the . . . from the rear end, the port . . . from the rear in the ship to the . . . we flew them off, you know, like a . . . yeah, but the big ones, we catapulted off, yeah.

KELLY: Well, when . . . when you . . . when you were making that run against Tarawa, are . . . are you going to make . . . be dive bombing, or what . . . what kind of . . . what do you . . . how are you bombing and what are you doing there as a crew member?

KEELING: Well, you . . . of course we went in those . . . I think we flew in around 330 miles an hour. That was the speed of a torpedo bomber. And you just went in, dropped you bombs and your torpedo and . 00:07:00. . and hoped to get out of there [chuckling] alive.

KELLY: Umhmm. Well, when you . . . when you went in there the first time, you're flying in squadron formation of so many planes?


KELLY: How many planes were there in the formation, do you know?

KEELING: Well, of course, there was four aircraft carriers. We had around a hundred planes to the . . . fighters and torpedo bombers per ship.

KELLY: Umhmm. And . . . and . . . and then when you took off for that first run on Tarawa, do you . . . do you kind of recall that?

KEELING: Yeah, it [chuckling] . . .

KELLY: When . . . when you took off and went airborne, I g-. . . I guess that . . . when you . . . when you took off the deck, you went airborne and sort of circled and got into some kind of a formation, . . .

KEELING: Yeah, right.

KELLY: . . . and then . . .


KELLY: . . . then headed for the island.


KELLY: About how far out were you from Tarawa when you took off, you know? Fifteen or twenty miles or . . .

KEELING: Yeah, at least, maybe farther.

KELLY: And as . . . as you were going toward Tarawa, did you know you were going toward Tarawa to make the bombing run?


KEELING: They kept us pretty well in the dark. You . . .

KELLY: You didn't . . .

KEELING: They didn't tell us much.

KELLY: . . . much about where . . . where you were. Well, at . . . do you . . . do you recall making that first run, that first diving in on the target?

KEELING: Yeah. [Chuckle]

KELLY: Just describe that, will you?

KEELING: Well, . . .

KELLY: You're at how many thousand feet going in?

KEELING: I would say we were at . . . around three [thousand feet] and, of course, we . . . we'd go down pretty low . . .

KELLY: When you dropped . . . when you dropped your bombs?

KEELING: Yeah, you were . . . you were pretty low on the ground.

KELLY: A couple hundred feet above, or . . .

KEELING: Yeah, I'd say 300 feet, maybe five.

KELLY: Umhmm. When . . . when you . . . when they . . . when the m- . . . where were you in the airplane? Where . . . where was the gunner?

KEELING: Well, we had a turret gunner and we had a tail gunner.

KELLY: Where were you?

KEELING: I was a turret gunner.

KELLY: As . . . as a turret gunner, how much vision do you have below you and . . .

KEELING: You could . . . you could . . . you had good vision, yeah. Yeah.

KELLY: Where . . . where is it?

KEELING: Mostly it's to the . . . each side and to your top because 00:09:00you're on the turret . . .

KELLY: Because you're kind of the top and east?

KEELING: Yeah. Yeah.

KELLY: Can you see . . . do you see below and out and above?

KEELING: Yeah, you could see out but you couldn't see below too . . . too well. You could see some, yeah.

KELLY: As the . . . as they were diving, were you able to see the target?

KEELING: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

KELLY: Well, when they . . . when they came in formation flying straight and level [at] three thousand feet and they started diving, did they kind of go over on the side and down, or did they go nose down?

KEELING: We banked. We came to a bank.

KELLY: Banked.


KELLY: And . . . and you were banking in this particular time, and . . . and going in to the target.


KELLY: Are you getting any information from the pilot, "We're going in," or anything like that on the intercom, or . . .

KEELING: Everything was kept pretty quiet. [Chuckle]

KELLY: At that time they . . . you . . . you were just kind of riding and . . . and watching for enemy aircraft.


KELLY: Did any enemy air- . . . did you see any enemy air- . . . enemy aircraft in those operations against Tarawa, any of them attack you while you were . . . did you get to shoot at any of them yourself?

KEELING: No, no, no, we didn't, uh-uh. Of course we'd already . . . 00:10:00we'd already bombed the islands for . . . well, we bombed . . . of course it was bombed four days before the invasion crew went in, you know.

KELLY: Yeah.

KEELING: Well, between four and five days [inaudible].

KELLY: You . . . did you participate in . . . in the bombing of the island four or five days yourself?

KEELING: Yeah, before . . . before the invasion, before the army went in.

KELLY: Before the marines went in.

KEELING: Yeah, . . .

KELLY: Okay.

KEELING: . . . marines and army both.

KELLY: About how many times are you going to bomb this island, your squadron, your plane?

KEELING: Well, I believe we . . . we hit it either four or five days, I can't remember which.

KELLY: Did you hit it once during the day or several times during the day?

KEELING: Oh, several times, yeah.

KELLY: I mean would you say three or four times a day during that four days?

KEELING: Yeah, at least. At least.

KELLY: So about sixteen runs, something like that?

KEELING: Probably, yeah.

KELLY: Umhmm. And . . . and so when you hit it, were . . . were you able to see the ground and see the target?

KEELING: Oh, yeah. Yeah, you could see the target.

KELLY: Well, do you remember seeing anything and, particularly, do you remember seeing Japanese run or seeing any pillboxes or machine guns or 00:11:00artillery pieces or anything?

KEELING: No, not really. The . . . they were . . . they . . . they were pretty well covered with heavy concrete.

KELLY: Did . . . did you see some of the bunkers? Could you tell a bunker from when you were coming in there that . . .

KEELING: Not really.

KELLY: You couldn't see them?


KELLY: Did you see anything explode after they dropped the bomb or . . . like a gas dump or an ammunition dump or anything like that?

KEELING: Yeah, we saw . . . we saw some, yeah, fires.

KELLY: Umhmm. Saw some fires.

KEELING: Saw some black smoke, black smoke . . .

KELLY: From, maybe, previous bombers or . . .


KELLY: . . . on your own run or did . . . did you do any firing at the ground while you were going in, or . . . or were you just sitting there watching for aircraft mostly?

KEELING: Just looking. [Chuckle] Not much to shoot at.

KELLY: Yeah. You . . . you never . . . during the time that you were attacking Tarawa, bombing Tarawa, dive bombing Tarawa, you . . . you never had any Japanese aircraft engage your squadron or yo-. . .


KELLY: . . . or your . . .

KEELING: We didn't, uh-uh.

KELLY: Okay. As you were . . . as you were sitting off several miles 00:12:00maybe fifteen or more, whatever, your . . . your task force there, what all are you seeing around that . . . this aircraft carrier, Monterey, USS Monterey? You're seeing destroyers and escort ships of different types?

KEELING: I would say there was fifty . . . around fifty ships in a task force, that was Task Force 58.

KELLY: Umhmm. Was there more than one aircraft carrier in it?

KEELING: Oh, yes, there was four aircraft carriers.

KELLY: What were the other three?

KEELING: Well, the Cowpens and the . . . I believe the Yorktown was with us. I also believe the Independence was with us. There were several different carriers . . .

KELLY: What . . . what else was in that task force? There was . . .

KEELING: The battleship Iowa, the battleship New Jersey, they were the largest battleships in . . .

KELLY: Those two battleships?

KEELING: Yeah, right. Of course we had several battleships. Of course several cruisers, destroyers.

KELLY: Was the Maryland with you?

KEELING: I can't remember.


KELLY: "Skeets" Kelly was on the Maryland. It's the reason why I was asking you.

KEELING: Is that right? I can't remember.

KELLY: And so as . . . as you . . . as you came back to . . . to land on that aircraft carrier, can . . . can you describe that, what went on there, that landing? Could you see most of . . . did you see the . . . see this . . . this deck and . . .

KEELING: Oh, yeah.

KELLY: . . . and see the wheels going down?

KEELING: Looks mi- . . . looks a little small down there. [Chuckle] That deck looks a little small.

KELLY: When they landed, did . . . did they come in kind of low for some distance, or did they . . .

KEELING: Oh, yeah. Yeah, we leveled off and, of course, then the tail hook . . .

KELLY: Caught you.

KEELING: . . . caught us, yeah, and arresting cables.

KELLY: Did they ever miss that tail hook?

KEELING: Yeah. Sometimes if one was shot out [chuckle], yeah.

KELLY: Did you ever see that happen?

KEELING: Oh, yeah. It was . . .

KELLY: Where they just went on and then dumped over in . . . in . . .

KEELING: Well, we had arresting cables that would catch them, and the 00:14:00plane would nose over, yeah.

KELLY: Catch them before they went in the water?

KEELING: Yeah. And we lost a few. Yeah, we lost a few.

KELLY: At Tarawa, are . . . is your ship going to get attacked any, the USS Monterey?

KEELING: I don't believe we . . . we were. I don't believe we were fired on at all.

KELLY: Most everything was going out.


KELLY: Yeah.

KEELING: We'd thrown everything at them we had. [Chuckle]

KELLY: Okay. When the . . . when the . . . when the troops landed, where . . . you . . . you . . . were you still going to fly in support of them?

KEELING: Yeah. Well, we . . .

KELLY: This . . . this was in November of `43 when they . . . when they make the landing there. Are you going to see the flotilla of . . . of the invasion force from the air or from the sea, or are they too far away from you? Do you . . . did you see that part? Did you see them . . . did you see them land and going ashore and getting ashore?

KEELING: We saw some of them, yeah.


KELLY: While you were making some of your runs?

KEELING: Yeah, umhmm.

KELLY: Well, when they're going ashore, were you all continually making bombing runs?

KEELING: Oh, yeah, we were in the air, yeah.

KELLY: Do . . . do you recall seeing the invasion force, you know, the smaller craft, the LCI, the little Landing Craft Infantry and the LCM, did you remember seeing those coming ashore?

KEELING: Yeah, yeah.

KELLY: Did you see them actually put down and . . . and the troops start debarking and going ashore?


KELLY: Did you see the . . . did you see . . . could you tell if some of them were . . . were kind of taking . . . being casualties?

KEELING: Yeah, they . . . of course, they caught the tide out. And they got caught on barbed wire, a lot of them did.

KELLY: Were you able to see that from . . . from some of your runs?

KEELING: Well, we . . . we were told later. [Chuckle] Of course you couldn't, you know . . .

KELLY: What . . . what . . . what did you see? Can . . . can you recall what you saw and describe what you saw when they were going 00:16:00ashore?

KEELING: Well, they caught the tide out and a lot of the . . . of course, a lot of them got caught on barbed wire and . . .

KELLY: Would they have not have got . . . been caught on barbed wire if the tide had been up?

KEELING: That . . . that was what I was told later on. [Chuckle]

KELLY: Umhmm. Who . . . who was telling you this?

KEELING: Well, we . . . it was just talk.

KELLY: Talk among the troops?

KEELING: Of course everything was pretty hush-hush out there then, you know. Wasn't much . . . they kept us in the dark. [Chuckle]

KELLY: Yeah, the . . . the casualty ratio, I think, was . . . was the highest . . . probably the highest at Tarawa than anywhere. I forget. Seems to me like there was about 3,000 . . .

KEELING: I believe about 2800 . . .

KELLY: Yeah, out of . . .

KEELING: . . . marines and sailors or soldiers were killed before they made a stand.

KELLY: Out of about 7,000 or so. Are you all going to stay there and . 00:17:00. . and support them for some time after that landing, a day or two or three or four days?

KEELING: Yeah, we did. Umhmm.

KELLY: And then you continued to make bombing runs?

KEELING: Well, I think we hit them the fifth day, I think, and then that . . . they . . . either fourth or fifth day, then the invasion force took over.

KELLY: And then . . . then you all didn't participate on bombing runs . . .

KEELING: That's right.

KELLY: . . . in the support of them? Okay. Is there anything else you remember about Tarawa that occurred while you were there?

KEELING: Too many lost their lives, just too many.

KELLY: Uh-huh. Were you getting that information aboard ship? Were you . . . were you all being told that the . . .

KEELING: Not much, just . . .

KELLY: . . . the grounding force . . . landing force was taking a beating?

KEELING: They . . . they . . . like I say, they kept you in the dark. [Chuckle]

KELLY: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Well, from Tarawa then, where d-. . . Tarawa, where'd you go?

KEELING: I believe we went to the Marshall Islands.


KELLY: Kwajalein?

KEELING: I believe it was, yeah.

KELLY: Uh-huh. And did you . . . do you participate in the bombing of Kwajalein before they . . .


KELLY: . . . the invasion force went in there in February of `44. Same thing, . . .


KELLY: . . . off and making runs? Did . . . did you get any . . . were you getting any anti-aircraft fire and . . . from the ground in either one of these places?

KEELING: Oh, yeah. Yeah, there was . . . there was a good deal, yeah.

KELLY: Did you see any of your own planes get shot down?

KEELING: Oh, yeah, we lost planes, yeah.

KELLY: Did you see any of them get shot down in your squadron?


KELLY: Do you . . . do you remember seeing . . . do you remember the first one, where it was and what occurred?

KEELING: Well, I remember seeing holes in wings, tails shot off. But a lot of them flew back.

KELLY: Umhmm. Did you . . . did your plane ever get hit?

KEELING: Yeah, we were hit. We were hit a few times.

KELLY: Whereabouts was this now?

KEELING: In the wings.


KELLY: This was at Tarawa?


KELLY: Hit . . . being hit by automatic weapons?


KELLY: When . . . when they were hit, would . . . would . . . could you hear that and feel it? Do you remember that? Or did you just know about it when you got back and looked at it?

KEELING: Just you could see the holes.

KELLY: Were you . . . were you seeing the tracers coming up?

KEELING: Oh, yeah, you could see tracers, yeah. Umhmm. Yeah.

KELLY: Can you describe what that felt like?

KEELING: Well, it didn't really bother you that much. You . . . you just . . .

KELLY: You just rode with the tide, huh?

KEELING: [Chuckle] Yeah, right.

KELLY: But you . . . you did see them and . . . and they were getting close to you, evidently. They were hitting your plane.

KEELING: [Chuckle] Puffs of black smoke all around. [Chuckle]

KELLY: From . . . from the bigger weapons that were exploding?


KELLY: Well, what . . . what . . . what are the . . . what kind of weapons were they that were coming against you, anti-aircraft weapons, do you remember or do you know?

KEELING: I would think they'd be 5-inch.


KELLY: Five-inch?

KEELING: I would think so. Twenty millimeter, 40mm probably. That's what we had. We used twenties and forties. Most of our anti-aircraft carrier guns aboard the Monterey were twenty and forties.

KELLY: Well, when . . . when you went in on those . . . those runs at Kwajalein and . . . and Tarawa, you're . . . you're going to . . . on . . . on just about all of them you're going to get a lot of anti-aircraft weapons coming at you.


KELLY: Okay. When . . . at Kwajalein, did anything unusual happen there that you can recall?

KEELING: No, not really.

KELLY: Were you . . . where . . . where are you going to be attacked by enemy aircraft where you make that jump? Where is that going to occur? I mean you jumped from the flight deck to the . . .

KEELING: Oh, we were being . . . oh, yeah, we were under attack. I was aboard . . . I was on . . . on the flight deck.

KELLY: Where . . . where were you, where was the ship and what were you . . . what . . . what action was this? You were on the 00:21:00Monterey.

KEELING: Yeah. But we were out in the Pacific, right . . . of course, like I say, we were kept in the dark though. You . . . they never told us right where we ar- . . . were.

KELLY: Umhmm. You . . . you don't . . . you don't know where you were when they . . . when the Japanese aircraft attacked you?

KEELING: Well, we were under attack [chuckling] several times.

KELLY: Okay. We'll talk about that jump in a minute. Your . . . the first time that they attacked the USS carrier, this wasn't at Tarawa.

KEELING: No, uh-huh.

KELLY: Was it . . . was it . . . it was not at Kwajalein?

KEELING: Later I believe.

KELLY: Later than that, but somewhere in the Pacific.


KELLY: All right. Can you . . . were you . . . were you on deck and observing this first attack?

KEELING: The flight deck, yeah.

KELLY: Umhmm. What was your job during the . . . during those kinds of attacks? Were you manning one of the guns or anything?


KEELING: I was a plane captain aboard a . . . an F-6F fighter at that . . . at . . . at that time when we . . .

KELLY: Did . . . when . . . when that ship was under attack the first time, are you going to go aloft in that fighter or are you going to be on the deck of the ship?

KEELING: Well, I was . . . I was on the flight deck when this . . . when this happened. I was . . .

KELLY: The first one?

KEELING: Yeah, was . . . but it was . . .

KELLY: You didn't have to be on the flight deck, did you?

KEELING: Well, I was on the flight deck and on the hangar deck. Of course, yeah.

KELLY: Well, what . . . what was your duty when you weren't . . . when you weren't flying?

KEELING: Well, I was . . .

KELLY: You didn't . . . you didn't have a duty on . . .

KEELING: Yeah, I was . . . I was also a plane captain on the . . . I was assigned to this F-6F fighter.

KELLY: What . . . what . . . what does that mean? What was your duties?

KEELING: Well, just kept it in shape to fly.

KELLY: And was that thing on the top of the d- . . . on the deck?

KEELING: Yeah. Well, we kept some on the flight deck, some on the hangar deck.

KELLY: Umhmm. The hangar deck is a deck below . . .


KELLY: . . . where you keep the airplane when you're not ready to launch it.

KEELING: Right below the . . . yeah, right below the . . .

KELLY: Okay. So this . . . this time when you are attacked by . . 00:23:00. by enemy aircraft, the first incident, I'm just trying to get what you saw and heard and felt. Was it a Zero or . . .

KEELING: Oh, yeah it was a Zero.

KELLY: . . . Dive bomber.

KEELING: It was a Zero.

KELLY: It was a Zero?

KEELING: Oh, yeah.

KELLY: Was there more than one?

KEELING: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

KELLY: There was a squadron of them, or several squadrons?

KEELING: Yeah, they would come in so low that radar wouldn't pick them up. They would . . . the propeller would pick up the slipstream off the ocean. See, that's how they'd catch you.

KELLY: Umhmm. Do you recall the first time you were attacked? Do . . . can you remember that?

KEELING: Yeah, we were sunbathing. [Chuckle]

KELLY: You were sunbathing?


KELLY: And . . .

KEELING: You . . . you . . . you went for cover. [Chuckle]

KELLY: How did you get the word? Somebody yelled . . .

KEELING: "Zeroes!" [Chuckle]

KELLY: Zeroes. And . . .

KEELING: "All hands, man your battle stations!" [Chuckle]

KELLY: That came up at the same time. And at . . . at the time that you heard that and saw that, how far out were they from you?

KEELING: Right on us.

KELLY: Right on you.

KEELING: Right on us. [Chuckle]

KELLY: And by that time you were able to hear them and see them?


KELLY: And you were sunbathing, means you were laying there in your 00:24:00shorts or something.


KELLY: What . . . what was your action? What did you do?

KEELING: Ran for cover. [Chuckle]

KELLY: What kind of cover were you looking for, or where you're going to get?

KEELING: The only place I saw was [to] jump. [Chuckle]

KELLY: Was that the time you jumped?


KELLY: When, for your first attack?

KEELING: Right. Well, I dunno, I guess we were hit . . . we were attacked several different times, but . . .

KELLY: I'm trying to get your first one if you can remember it. I imagine it's hard to separate them out.


KELLY: Well, were you bathing on this first one?

KEELING: Yeah, I was sunbathing . . .

KELLY: On your first one?

KEELING: . . . if I . . .

KELLY: Yeah.

KEELING: . . . if I'm not mistaken.

KELLY: So . . . so you . . . you . . . you get the word and . . . and you look up and you see [chuckle-Keeling] . . . you see them coming at treetop level, so to speak, . . .


KELLY: . . . even though you're on the sea, . . .



KELLY: . . . and there's a lot of them . . .


KELLY: . . . coming right for your ship.

KEELING: Right, and . . .

KELLY: And about the time they see you, are they opening up with their . . .

KEELING: Oh, yeah.

KELLY: . . . with their machine guns?

KEELING: Yeah. Of course the battleships were already . . . were firing at them, and of course, the destroyers, but some of them would get through, you know. Yeah. Oh, they . . .

KELLY: Well, when . . . when they w-. . . when you did . . . on that flight deck and you're looking for cover, are . . . what kind . . . are you going to go get on some kind of a s-. . . under some of the structure on the ship, or what . . . what . . . there is not much cover on there, is there?

KEELING: Right. Only an airplane. [Chuckle]

KELLY: An airplane's not much of a cover.


KELLY: I'd say that's worse than not having anything at all. Do . . . do you recall where you went and what you did when you were there, when that first attack occurred?

KEELING: I don't . . . I'm not for sure, but that one could have been the time I jumped on the flight deck to the hangar deck. I'm just not for sure.

KELLY: And that's about a thirty-foot jump.

KEELING: It's about a thirty-foot jump.

KELLY: In other words you just ran as fast as you could and jumped.

KEELING: Jumped.

KELLY: Did you . . . did you break your leg? Is that what happened to your leg, or . . .

KEELING: No, I chipped a bone, yeah. I messed up . . . hurt the 00:26:00circulation pretty bad, you know. Yeah.

KELLY: And you think that might have been your first one?

KEELING: Could have been at that time.

KELLY: Well, . . . well, let me see if I can kind of help you recall this. I know it's been so long ago. When you hurt your leg, were you evacuated or did they just treat you on the ship and you had to go back to duty?

KEELING: Oh no, I was . . . I was right on the ship, yeah.

KELLY: I mean it didn't interfere with your duty, you went right back to duty.

KEELING: Well, I was in sick bay about nineteen days.

KELLY: Nineteen days. Okay.

KEELING: Umhmm. Had a [inaudible] on my legs, circ- . . . they swelled real bad, you know, the circulation.

KELLY: Umhmm. Umhmm. The other . . . there were several others that jumped with you at the same time. Did any of them get hurt badly or . . .

KEELING: Well, I think most of them came right on top of me. [Chuckle]

KELLY: You're the first one. You're the fastest one. You led the pack, and that was a mistake, huh? Okay. On . . . on that carrier, you said you . . . you run in to President Gerry Ford. Then, what was he, a lieutenant commander?

KEELING: I believe he was a j.g. then, if I'm not mistaken.


KELLY: J.t. meaning . . .

KEELING: The . . . lieutenant j.g., that's . . .

KELLY: J.g., okay. That's the first . . . same thing as a captain in the army.

KEELING: I believe it is, right.

KELLY: Yeah. Wore the railroad tracks, the two silver bars. So how much contact did you have with him?

KEELING: A good deal. A good deal, yeah. We . . . we saw and talked several times.

KELLY: You know, it's a big ship and there's a crew of how many? There's over a thousand.

KEELING: There's about . . . there's about 2800, I believe, on the Monterey and about 3200 on the . . .

KELLY: Yeah.

KEELING: . . . Yorktown.

KELLY: So it'll be unusual. I mean there'd be a lot of officers that you'd never, even see, and there would be a lot of crew members you'd never see.

KEELING: Right, uh-huh.

KELLY: It's a great big city, and, and this . . . they're kind of compartmentized that you don't see and know very many people. I'm just trying to get how you came to be in contact with him. Was that through your athletic . . . I knew . . . I know you were a football player in high school and so on and so forth. Was that because of your boxing lessons that you were taking from him that you had . . . you 00:28:00had the contact with him, or . . .

KEELING: Yeah, I bought . . . I fought a little box, a little . . . I did a little boxing with some boys that fought in the Golden Gloves. And believe me, they put me on the groun- . . . on the ropes. [Chuckle] He was . . . of course, Ford liked to jump a rope. He . . . he . . . he played football for Michigan. And he was always on the flight deck, regardless how hot it was, skipping that rope, and that was . . .

KELLY: Almost daily.

KEELING: Yeah. And I . . . I used to chase . . . I used to do a little track up on the flight deck when I ran between the airplanes.

KELLY: And you'd come in contact with him there. And . . . and . . . and you did stop and converse with him.

KEELING: Oh, yeah.

KELLY: And he did coach you . . .


KELLY: . . . as a boxer.

KEELING: Yeah, he sparred with . . .

KELLY: Do you recall any of those conversations?

KEELING: Oh, yeah. [Inaudible]

KELLY: Can you just recall some of them for us? Did you talk about home or . . .

KEELING: Well, he wanted to know where you were from. Of course I was from Kentucky and he . . . I believe he . . . I guess he was born 00:29:00in Michigan, wasn't he?

KELLY: Yeah.

KEELING: I think he played football for Michigan, . . .

KELLY: I think so.

KEELING: . . . if I am not mistaken.

KELLY: Did you all talk football talk some?

KEELING: Oh, a little.

KELLY: Because you were a football player in high school.

KEELING: A little ole Navy talk. Yeah, he was . . .

KELLY: Do you . . . do you recall anything in particular that he ever said to you?

KEELING: Well, I never thought he'd ever become president of the United States. [Chuckle]

KELLY: Right, uh-huh.

KEELING: No, that was . . .

KELLY: On those boxing lessons, is he going to teach you how to punch punching bags and that sort of thing?

KEELING: Oh, yeah, he was our boxing instructor, yeah.

KELLY: Umhmm. Did you . . . did you take several lessons from him?

KEELING: Yeah, yeah.

KELLY: How many of you were working out in the boxing business?

KEELING: Oh, it was a good . . . good number of boys went out for boxing. Of course we had boys on there that fought Golden Gloves. And training makes a difference. Three rounds with one of those boys and you've had it. [Chuckle]


KELLY: You know that you've been . . .

KEELING: You've had it. [Chuckle]

KELLY: . . . you've been . . . you've been up against a tiger.

KEELING: You'd be b- . . . well, you wouldn't know where you were at. You'd be on the ropes.

KELLY: So you're . . . you're going to see him, not necessarily daily, but . . . but frequently during the week.

KEELING: Quite often, quite often.

KELLY: And you're going to have . . . exchange some words back and forth from time to time.

KEELING: I saw him about every day. When he wasn't busy, he was up on the flight deck, like I said, skipping that rope.

KELLY: Stayed, he was . . . he was . . . health addict you'd call him now, I guess. Then going from . . . on the . . . the USS Monterey. What are some of the other th- . . . actions that you can recall? You stayed on it about a year. The . . . the Turk . . . 00:31:00dur- . . . du-. . . Truk Island.

KEELING: Yeah, Truk. Yeah.

KELLY: Yeah. Do you . . . do you recall going in there? You . . . you bombed that island some.

KEELING: Well, we . . . we didn't invade because they thought it would be suicide to go in with the rocks . . . such a narrow passageway, so we just sunk ships that were coming in and going out. We just . . .

KELLY: Did you ever . . . did you ever participate in . . . in . . . in bombing against one of those ships in that . . . in that area, enemy ships?

KEELING: No, uh-huh.

KELLY: Did you ever . . . were you ever in- . . . involved in the dive bombing of a ship, enemy ship?


KELLY: [Inaudible] right there. So most . . . most of your combat action was ag- . . . was against ground targets on the islands that were going to be invaded, and generally before the invasion occurred. Okay. Do you recall, was . . . was the USS Monterey ever hit by a 00:32:00bomb or a torpedo while you were on it?

KEELING: Of course we were strafed, but after I left it . . . after I left the Monterey for a new ship, I could volunteer to go aboard the Ticonderoga. Right after that, after I left it, they were hit pretty hard; a lot of boys on the flight deck and the hangar deck. In fact they thought it was going to sink.

KELLY: Is that right? Do you . . .

KEELING: It was a fighting . . . fighting ship, that . . . that . . . a good old ship.

KELLY: Do you know when it occurred?

KEELING: I guess in `44. Maybe the last . . . later . . . the last of `44.

KELLY: The Ton- . . . the USS Tong- . . . what was the name of it?

KEELING: I volunteered to go back aboard a new aircraft carrier, Ticonderoga, USS Ticonderoga.

KELLY: Yeah, yeah. How long were you on that one?

KEELING: Well, I didn't go. See, after my ship . . . after my Fara-. 00:33:00. . Farallon Islands deal, they . . .

KELLY: Oh, you . . . you . . . you were going back to the States before you g- . . . to get on that ship.

KEELING: Yeah, I had a furlough coming up.

KELLY: Was this a new . . . new aircraft carrier, . . .

KEELING: New aircraft just in, . . .

KELLY: . . . Ticonderoga?

KEELING: . . . be- . . . be-. . . Ticonderoga being commissioned, umhmm.

KELLY: Umhmm. And you were going to go to . . . to get on that ship. Why were you moving from one ship to another one?

KEELING: I was a . . . I was . . .

KELLY: Chance for promotion?

KEELING: . . . recommended . . . recommended for Chief Petty Officer.

KELLY: Umhmm. Okay.

KEELING: I was going to make navy my career.

KELLY: Is that right?



KEELING: I liked sea duty.

KELLY: You liked that sea duty.

KEELING: I liked sea duty.

KELLY: Why'd you like it?

KEELING: I don't know, there's something about the sea. Yeah, I just like the sea.

KELLY: Umhmm. The sea gets to some people, doesn't it?


KELLY: The smell of the water and the . . . the breeze and . . .

KEELING: The flying fish in the afternoon and [chuckle] . . .

KELLY: All those things. Life on that aircraft carrier, 2800 people, can you just kind of talk about that a little bit?

KEELING: Well, it was hot. It was rough, but . . .


KELLY: Hot most of the time on . . .

KEELING: Right, I . . .

KELLY: . . . out there in the Pacific?

KEELING: The Pacific was hot.

KELLY: Yeah.

KEELING: Mighty hot.

KELLY: You . . . you did have ventilation and fans and that sort of thing.

KEELING: Yeah, but the sleeping quarters got awful hot, mighty hot.

KELLY: Did you sleep on the top deck a lot or . . .

KEELING: Oh, we . . . we'd have . . . I was five bunks high. [Chuckle] I was on the fifth bunk up.

KELLY: How much . . . how much space did you have on that carrier? Did you have a room? Were . . . were you in a room, or was it kind of like a barracks.

KEELING: Like a barracks, . . .

KELLY: And . . .

KEELING: . . . five bunks high.

KELLY: Five bunks high, and how many . . . along. How many would you say was in this area that you were in? How big an area was it?

KEELING: Roughly a hundred. That's . . . roughly, I'd say, at least a hundred in one compartment.

KELLY: A hundred in a compartment.

KEELING: Roughly a hundred [inaudible].

KELLY: And about . . . about how wide and long was it . . . was the compartment?

KEELING: Not too big. You had a very small spaces to [chuckle] move 00:35:00around, just enough to turn around in real good.

KELLY: I mean just enough room to g-. . .

KEELING: Get to your . . . just get to your locker and . . .

KELLY: So to get to your bunk . . . your . . . your bunk and your locker, you . . . you're going to have to kind of turn sideways when you walk between the rows of bunks?


KELLY: And the bunks are going to be five high.

KEELING: Some of them are four, some of them are five [inaudible].

KELLY: But your recreation facilities, did . . . did you have a big rec room where you could play pool or Ping-Pong or . . .

KEELING: Well, we had . . . we mo- . . . some movies down in the chow hall. We had movies sometimes at night.

KELLY: What kind of food are you going to have?

KEELING: The food wasn't bad. It was . . . the food was pretty good.

KELLY: You're going to eat fresh food. That's one thing you were going to . . . the navy was going to have.

KEELING: Well, we ate a lot of dehydrated peas, dehydrated potatoes, dehydrated carrots, a lot of powdered milk, a lot of powdered eggs, . . .

KELLY: Did you? Did you?

KEELING: . . . which I didn't like. [Chuckle]

KELLY: Yeah. You did get some fresh meat occasionally though.

KEELING: Oh, yeah, when . . .

KELLY: Steak and fried chicken and . . .


KEELING: I went out weighing a 176 pounds. I came back I weighed 136, 6'1".

KELLY: What . . . what caused that?

KEELING: The heat.

KELLY: Heat mostly?

KEELING: Yeah, it was full . . .

KELLY: Yeah. And that was generally true of all the crew. Did you all have any trouble with malaria? You didn't on those ships much, did you?

KEELING: Heat rash. Heat rash was . . . was the problem with the boys in the engine room. It was so hot out there all down around the equator.

KELLY: You're around the equator most of the time though, aren't you?

KEELING: Oh, yeah. We pulled down . . . we'd . . . we took on a lot of s-. . .

KELLY: As a matter of fact, Tawara is right on the equator, isn't it?

KEELING: We took a w-. . . I believe it . . . it's fairly close. We took a lot of our supplies on in the Hebrides Islands, down in Espirito Santos.

KELLY: And that's right . . . right ar- . . . right around the equator.

KEELING: That's pretty close to it, and it's awful hot down there. Mighty hot.

KELLY: So heat is one of the things that you . . . was something that you recall distinctly?

KEELING: And, of course, we had a water ration, too, [chuckling] some.


KELLY: How much water were you . . . were you . . . were you allowed a day?

KEELING: If evaporation is . . . the . . . one of the evaporators went out. The ship's water came first. We came second. A lot of times we had water twice a day. Water would be rationed and it wasn't enough. [Chuckle]

KELLY: So the . . . the quarters were cramped, food wasn't the best in the world [but] it was all right, and sometimes there wasn't enough water, and heat was . . . was always with you out there in the Pacific.

KEELING: We got a lot of good, fresh food when we hit ports. But . . .

KELLY: How often did you hit ports, and what were those ports you hit?

KEELING: Well, . . .

KELLY: Did you go . . . did you go to Hawaii pretty often?

KEELING: Oh, we went to Hawaii or . . . yeah. Yeah. I got a 30-day furlough in Hawaii, yeah.

KELLY: When . . . when were you there?

KEELING: Waikiki Beach.

KELLY: Do you remember when?

KEELING: Oh, several different times, but I can't remember. I know we burnt boilers. One of our boilers burned out and we . . . we had a 30-day furlough in Hawaii.


KELLY: Right in Honolulu?

KEELING: Honolulu, Waikiki Beach. [Chuckle]

KELLY: You got to . . . you got to stay on the beach?

KEELING: Oh, yeah.

KELLY: You didn't have to go back and forth on the ship, or you . . .

KEELING: Well, yeah, at night, [inaudible].

KELLY: You lived on the ship but you . . . you stayed on the beach.

KEELING: Yeah, we had to l- . . . we had liberty and we had duty aboard ship, of course, sometimes, but . . .

KELLY: And . . . and you . . . were you still eating aboard ship? You'd go back for your f- . . . your meals at the ship?

KEELING: Yeah. Yeah, [inaudible].

KELLY: Or were there some other facilities there?

KEELING: You . . . you . . . some. Some we did, yeah.

KELLY: And a lot of times you just went to the restaurant . . .


KELLY: . . . to get civilian food. Did you ever run into anybody you knew in Hawaii from . . . from Kentucky or out there in the s-. . . Pacific?

KEELING: Not a one.

KELLY: Nobody?

KEELING: No, not a one of them.

KELLY: So you're . . . you're going . . . you're going to go onboard that . . . that aircraft carrier in . . . in the spring of `43, is that right, the USS Monterey?

KEELING: Yeah, I went aboard [inaudible].

KELLY: And . . . and then you're going to come off of it in the spring of `44.


KELLY: You're going to be on it just about a year.


KEELING: Right. Right.

KELLY: And . . . and during that time, you . . . you're . . . you're operating out around Tarawa, the Kwajaleins, and . . . and . . . and Truk Island. Is there any other island in there that you recall where you were operating?

KEELING: Well, we went on . . . we . . . they told us when we left, we were on five invasions and 22 bombing raids. But . . . that's what we were really on, 22 different bombing raids.

KELLY: Umhmm.

KEELING: Like I say, they kept you in the dark. They didn't tell you a lot.

KELLY: Okay. When you . . . when you get off the Monterey, are you going to board the . . . the SS Henry Bergh?

KEELING: Well, I wa-. . . I . . . I waited two weeks at [Haia?] . . .

KELLY: A little island?

KEELING: . . . there in Hawaii.

KELLY: Hawaii.

KEELING: Yeah, umhmm.

KELLY: Okay. And then you . . . you . . . you boarded that ship.

KEELING: Yeah, [inaudible]

KELLY: What's . . . what's that ship called, Henry?

KEELING: The USS Henry Bergh.


KELLY: Bergh, B-E-R-G-H.

KEELING: Had been . . . it had been a Liberty ship converted into a troop transport.

KELLY: And . . . and you were getting on this thing to go to your new assignment.

KEELING: Well, coming back to the States, yeah, . . .

KELLY: Yeah.

KEELING: . . . California for . . .

KELLY: You . . . you're en route to San Francisco.

KEELING: Yeah, to . . . for a 30-day furlough. And then I was going back aboard the Ticonderoga.

KELLY: Okay. What happened on that ship?

KEELING: Well, things didn't go too good. We . . . I believe we had either two or three fires. We were commanded by an army captain.

KELLY: The ship was run by an army captain?

KEELING: Army captain.

KELLY: Why was this?

KEELING: I don't know. I . . . why [inaudible] it was quite a mess. And . . .

KELLY: What . . . what caused the fires?

KEELING: I guess the crew. [Chuckle]

KELLY: Was it an army crew?

KEELING: I believe they had the armed guards, navy armed guards, and I . 00:41:00. . I suppose the crew was merchant marine.

KELLY: Merchant marine.

KEELING: Yeah. We were fed two meals a day.

KELLY: Yeah.

KEELING: And . . .

KELLY: Well, the captain of the ship was probably merchant marine, too.

KEELING: Well, he could . . .

KELLY: I mean this . . . this army captain was probably just a transportation captain that was in charge of troop movements.

KEELING: Could have been.

KELLY: Yeah. In any event, what kind of fires are you talking about? Are you talking about en- . . . engine fires, or you're talking about fires in the troop quarters or . . .

KEELING: Oh, they . . . I . . . I'm just not for sure, but I know they had the th-. . . two fire calls and alarms, and they had two different fires. I was wondering if we were going to get back to the States alive.

KELLY: How long did it last, the fire?

KEELING: We were . . . we were on there about a week, a little over.

KELLY: Umhmm. But those fires themselves, I mean was it something that was . . .

KEELING: Soon. Soon. They were soon put out, yeah.

KELLY: Did . . . did you see any . . . any smoke coming up out of the ship, or was it that big a fire?

KEELING: No, I didn't, uh-huh.

KELLY: It wasn't that big a fire?

KEELING: Because we were . . . we were so . . .

KELLY: Just some kind of fire.

KEELING: . . . we were so heavy and we were so heavy loaded with marines and soldiers coming back to the States.


KELLY: And these were old vets that had been through a lot, wasn't it?

KEELING: Right. Right.

KELLY: And you have an interest in getting back, and you . . . I guess you'd call it a tough . . . pretty tough group of folks, wasn't it?


KELLY: As you go back, you're gonna . . . you're gonna to hit this reef, and can you just kind of describe what happened there? Was it day or night or . . .

KEELING: It was early in the morning, about five o'clock in the morning, as far as I remember, and . . . we hit. And . . .

KELLY: Were you . . . were you in . . . in your quarters?

KEELING: I was at my bunk, yeah.

KELLY: In your bunk?


KELLY: Okay. Just kind of describe what happened then.

KEELING: Well, we . . . we . . . we knew we were in trouble. Of course, while I was . . . well, a lot of boys jumped off, but some . . .

KELLY: Well, before that, you know, you're laying there. Are you going to get any kind of alert over the intercom, or are you just going to 00:43:00know that you hit something when you feel thrown out of your bed or something? Or . . . or . . . just describe that.

KEELING: Yeah, we just came to a complete halt. Of course, the . . . and the . . .

KELLY: When . . . when it came to a complete halt you were laying in your bunk. Did it throw you far with a lot force?

KEELING: A good . . . a good deal. A good deal, yeah.

KELLY: And what happened to you? I mean did you hit the guy next to you or . . .

KEELING: Well, you're scrambling around try-. . . [chuckle] trying to find something to . . . some . . . some way to get out of there. Well, as I remember, the lights went out.

KELLY: At . . . at the same time?


KELLY: All right. And then when you're in the dark hole like that, that's . . . there's a lot of confusion [inaudible].

KEELING: Right. Right.

KELLY: Let me turn this tape over and then we will pick that story up.

[End of Tape 1, Side 1]

[Beginning of Tape 1, Side 2]

KELLY: You . . . your ship, the . . . the U- . . . the USS Henry . . .


KELLY: . . . Bergh has just hit the reef, and . . . and you've been thrown forward in your bunk and the lights are out. Go ahead 00:44:00from there.

KEELING: Well, the ship started rolling. The water, it was pretty choppy, it was rain and it was cool that morning out there, real cool.

KELLY: When . . . when the ship rolled, what do you mean, kind of roll . . .

KEELING: Well, just rolled from one . . . from the port to the starboard and . . . and . . .

KELLY: What . . . how far was it listing would you say?

KEELING: A good distance. [Chuckle]

KELLY: You're talking about forty-five degrees or . . . for an old navy man you knew it was listing a lot more than normal?

KEELING: Too much, too g- . . . it wasn't good. It wasn't good.

KELLY: In other words, that . . . that was . . . that was . . . a roll that was much more than you'd normally expect in a heavy sea or rough water, or whatever.

KEELING: Of course, we soon broke in two.

KELLY: All right. Before you break in two now, and you're in . . . in your compartment and there are, what, hundreds of troops in that some compartment with you?

KEELING: A lot of old ex-marines.

KELLY: All right. When . . . when they hit, what kind of . . . what's . . . what are you all saying? Is . . . is there some shouting or is somebody hollering what's going on or . . .


KEELING: Well, we didn't know whether we were on with the Japs . . . we were under attack by the Japan or . . . or what was going on. No one had a warning.

KELLY: Did . . . did the light stay out or did it come back on? Emergency lights come on or . . .

KEELING: I guess the emergency lights came on. I can't remember.

KELLY: Anyway, you . . . you were able to see how to scramble out?


KELLY: Was your next move then to . . . to start getting out, up?

KEELING: Yeah, they . . . they soon ordered us off, a lot of them. A lot of us were ordered off at gunpoint because no one wanted to leave. We . . . you . . . we've . . . we lost everything they had.

KELLY: All right.

KEELING: The only thing that came off was what we had on our backs.

KELLY: Are . . . are you going . . . you're going to evacuate that cargo space, I mean that troop compartment immediately? Do you recall? Did you . . . did you run right out and . . . and . . . was there jammed up at the stairwell or . . . or what happened there?

KEELING: Well, they did . . . they did jam the stairwell, but I . . . and there was water about waist deep when I left.

KELLY: Water was already coming in?

KEELING: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

KELLY: How . . . how long did it take that water to start coming in, 00:46:00just almost immediately after you hit?

KEELING: Almost immediately, yeah.

KELLY: And . . . and you . . . you were s- . . . were you seeing where the water was coming in?

KEELING: Uh, no.

KELLY: Or it was just ri- . . . it was just rising like a river . . .

KEELING: Just com- . . . right.

KELLY: Coming down or . . .


KELLY: And as . . . as this occurred then, then y- . . . is there panic among these troops, or do you recall? Or . . .

KEELING: Most . . . most kept their head pretty well.

KELLY: What . . . what do . . . what ran through your mind at the time you started seeing water coming up knee deep and then waist deep?

KEELING: I knew it wasn't good. [Chuckle]

KELLY: Well, had most of them got b- . . . left the . . . the compartment by the time that water got up to your waist, or were you one of the last to leave or . . .

KEELING: A boy and I from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, [Hart Stewart], we . . . we wanted to save our . . . we had a lot of pictures and a lot of possessions we wanted to hold on to.

KELLY: You were . . . you were really worried about those possessions.

KEELING: Right. My high school pictures and all, I lost everything I 00:47:00had out there.

KELLY: Huh. So you were . . . you were kind of taking somewhat of a risk trying to get those things. What, were you diving for them or looking for them or . . .

KEELING: No, we . . . we just . . . we were hoping to get to save everything we had, you know, but . . .

KELLY: What action were you taking to save them? I mean why didn't you save it?

KEELING: Well, there was no way, no way . . . you were just lucky to get out of there. You had to get out of there and get up . . .

KELLY: Well, that's . . . that's what I am trying to get at. I am trying to get at how you got out and how fast you got out and how much panic you had.

KEELING: Well, . . .

KELLY: Did you make an effort at all to pick up your goods, your pictures and your memorabilia?

KEELING: I had . . . I got my sea bag but I had to put it down. [Chuckle] I was ordered to put it down.

KELLY: I mean you grabbed your sea bag . . .

KEELING: Yeah, but we had to . . .

KELLY: . . . and you were ordered to get out.

KEELING: Ordered to get out.

KELLY: Just over the PA set?

KEELING: Yeah, we were ordered to . . . ordered to . . .

KELLY: What was . . . what was said to you over the PA set?

KEELING: To get off, the ship was going to sink, to get off.


KELLY: That's what . . . would they just say, "Get off, it's going to sink?" Or did they say, "Evacuate ship," or . . .

KEELING: Evacuate, yeah.

KELLY: All right. When they . . . when they start getting off, are they going to climb the stairways, or how are they going to get out of there? What deck . . . what deck level are you? You're on the sea deck, you're below the water line, or . . .

KEELING: This is an old Liberty ship.

KELLY: You were on the bottom one? You're just above the water line or . . .

KEELING: I guess it's around the water line.

KELLY: Right at the water line.

KEELING: I guess so, yeah.

KELLY: Okay. So how many flights of stairs did you have to go up to get out, to get on the top deck, two or three flights?

KEELING: Probably a couple.

KELLY: All right. As you . . . as . . . when you're given that order . . . if . . . in your compartment there, there is more . . . there's . . . on those carry . . . troop-carrying ships there is probably hundreds in that compartment, isn't there?


KELLY: Over a . . . I mean, how many would you say, two or three hundred in that compartment?

KEELING: Well, this old Liberty ship was real long and it had . . . didn't have any watertight doors at all. There was no watertight 00:49:00doors.

KELLY: There is no way to seal that water off. What I am trying to get at, when they told you to get off is . . . are . . . and you say this time the water is almost waist deep in your compartment.


KELLY: So you're kind of . . . you're kind of wading and . . . and paddling your way forward. And . . . and I'm trying to get the scene of people going toward that . . . that stairwell. Is it just one stairwell for you all to evacuate, or is it more than one? Or are several or do you recall?

KEELING: I think we had several rigged up . . . of course we were . . .

KELLY: All right. As . . . as you're going toward the stairwell that you're going to exit from, is that what you're going to do?


KELLY: You're going to be backed up behind other troops that are trying to get out?

KEELING: Yeah. Yeah.

KELLY: Is . . . is it going to take you a little while to . . . to get out?

KEELING: Right. Right.

KELLY: Are you talking about minutes or are you talking about quite a few bit of time?

KEELING: Oh, probably twenty to thirty minutes.

KELLY: Before you got out of the hole?


KELLY: And . . . and . . . and by this time it's up to your waist?


KELLY: This is as high as it is at that time?



KELLY: All right. But it . . . just shortly after it hit you start feeling water coming in and seeing water.

KEELING: Wasn't long, yeah. Umhmm.

KELLY: And as you get on top, you finally get on the steps and you start, and you get on . . . get out on the top of the deck, then what happens?

KEELING: Well, of course, some of them . . .

KELLY: Is it still listing left and right?

KEELING: Oh, yeah. Yeah, umhmm.

KELLY: Rocking back and forth?


KELLY: Are you in your underwear now?

KEELING: No, I had my undress blues on.

KELLY: You had your dress blues on.

KEELING: Yeah, undress . . . on my undress . . .

KELLY: Undress blues.

KEELING: I had my undress blues on, yeah.

KELLY: Okay.

KEELING: Because I didn't trust it [chuckle] . . . that ship [laughter] . . .

KELLY: You mean you s- . . . you deliberately slept on them because you thought you might need to have them on?

KEELING: I didn't know what might happen.

KELLY: What is that . . . was that kind of a . . . I mean, just looking at that ship, that it didn't look like it was designed to carry troops and . . .

KEELING: A pile of scrap. [Chuckle]

KELLY: It looked like a pile of scrap . . .

KEELING: A pile of scrap.

KELLY: You . . . you knew that as a navy man, then?


KEELING: A pile of scrap.

KELLY: And you were concerned about it and you were sleeping in your undress blues, as you call it. What are undress blues? Is that kind of a . . . what kind of uniform is that?

KEELING: Well, it don't have the stripes board . . . it has . . . it's a . . . it's a blue uniform but don't have the stripes on it, you know. Just work clothes, like.

KELLY: Umhmm. It has bell legs and a big collar.

KEELING: Umhmm, right.

KELLY: Okay. But some of the others were not in that dress suit.

KEELING: Yeah, some of them weren't -- I'm sorry -- some of them weren't.

KELLY: Most of them or . . .

KEELING: I'd say a lot of them had their clothes on. Of course I guess some of them didn't, I'm just not for sure.

KELLY: Well, when you . . . when you get topside, are . . . are you in the forward part of the ship or the back part?

KEELING: Well, as I remember, the back . . .

KELLY: The . . . the forward part is aft, and the back part, what's it . . . what's the . . . what's the navy terms for the forward and the back?

KEELING: The bow and stern.


KELLY: Stern. The stern being the rear.

KEELING: All right. Bow is the . . .

KELLY: Okay. Were you on the . . . toward the bow or toward the stern?

KEELING: I was around the center as well as I remember.

KELLY: Around the center. Is this where it's going to break in two?

KEELING: Yeah, it broke just about the center.

KELLY: All right. When . . . when you come out of that . . . you come out of that hole, it is still . . . it's still in one piece, is that right?


KELLY: When you get on the top of the deck?

KEELING: Umhmm, yeah.

KELLY: Okay. Is it going to break in two before you get off of it?

KEELING: Well, it was starting to break because you could hear it. You could hear it breaking, and when . . . and we were ordered at gunpoint to . . . to go over. [Chuckle] A lot of them, of course, went over, but we wanted . . . this boy and I from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, Hart Steward, we wanted to stay aboard. We wanted to save our possessions. We were ordered off.

KELLY: You were still thinking about those possessions?

KEELING: [Chuckle] Right!

KELLY: Even though that ship was going down?

KEELING: Right. [Chuckle] Right.

KELLY: It wasn't going to do you a lot of good . . . good [chuckle] under those circumstances, was it? Well, when . . . when . . . were some of them already jumping over . . .

KEELING: Oh, yeah.

KELLY: . . . at the time?



KELLY: So how far did you have to jump to hit the water? Are you talking about twenty feet?

KEELING: Yeah, I'd . . . I'd say at least twenty feet.

KELLY: Everybody have life rafts on . . . [life-]jackets on now?

KEELING: Yeah, but those old Cape Cod-like preservers, they weren't much good. Some . . .

KELLY: Everybody . . . but . . . but people had them on?

KEELING: Oh, yeah. Umhmm.

KELLY: Okay. So when they . . . when they ordered you off at gunpoint, what are you talking about?

KEELING: Well, . . .

KELLY: Are you talking about somebody standing there with a machine gun or . . .

KEELING: [Laughter] Small arms. Small arms ordering you off.

KELLY: Who . . . who were they? Who were these, crew members?


KELLY: So what did they . . . what did they say to you?

KEELING: "Get off."

KELLY: And then some of them . . . some of them just wasn't . . . wasn't moving, wasn't responding? Is that what you're saying?

KEELING: That's right. No one wanted to go off, really. [Chuckle]

KELLY: Why . . . why do you think they didn't want to get off?

KEELING: Well, . . .

KELLY: Scared to or . . .

KEELING: . . . that . . . that close to home and . . .

KELLY: Hesitating and . . . and . . . and the danger?


KELLY: So finally they just took . . . at gunpoint said, "Get off."

KEELING: "Get off."

KELLY: How did they say it? Did they say . . .


KEELING: "Over the side, sailors!" [Chuckle]

KELLY: And then, of course, there were some Marines there, too. So when you jumped then, it was still in one piece?

KEELING: Yeah, we had a lot of army . . . oh, yeah, we had a lot of army men on there, too, that had been on a lot of . . . that had seen a lot of action in the Pacific. It had a lot of ar- . . . army and marines both, umhmm.

KELLY: What were you all saying while you're on the top of that deck? Were you fussing or . . . you're saying, "What's going on?" What . . . what . . . do you remember what went through your mind at the time?

KEELING: After we left it, we said, "Sink you, [just?] be sink." [Chuckle]

KELLY: After you got off?

KEELING: Right. [Chuckle]

KELLY: Well, when you jumped in the water, are they going to have these little life . . . these small boats?

KEELING: We had four, I believe it was four, whaleboats, and the water was so choppy I think they sunk, one or two of them, getting them in the water. And the c- . . . those at . . . the crew just wasn't any experienced at handling boats, and . . . and we were on, had to 00:55:00be, life rafts. And . . .

KELLY: Are you going to get on a life raft?

KEELING: No, I was on . . . I was on a Cape Cod lifejacket. There wasn't enough to go around. [Chuckle]

KELLY: You . . . you . . . you didn't get on any of the boats at all?


KELLY: How many troops are you talking about on the ship, three or four thousand?

KEELING: I believe there was around three thousand . . .

KELLY: Just roughly. I mean there was . . . there's hundreds anyway.

KEELING: I . . . I believe it was around three thousand on it. If I'm not mistaken . . .

KELLY: I guess by this time they've already . . . they'd already sent out a . . . out a . . . a . . . a . . . an SOS probably, hadn't they?

KEELING: Oh, yeah, for the Coast Guard.

KELLY: And then you are not too far from San Francisco.

KEELING: Around a hundred and thirty miles, . . .

KELLY: A hundred and thirty miles. And . . . and . . .

KEELING: . . . roughly.

KELLY: After you get off of it, how long is it before it goes down?

KEELING: Well, it broke in two.

KELLY: About the time you got off, huh?

KEELING: We were . . . we were in the water, yeah, but it . . . it 00:56:00was breaking up. Of course the water was real choppy. And . . .

KELLY: Were you c- . . . one of the last to get off or middle bunch or . . .

KEELING: I . . . one of the last.

KELLY: Okay. And by that time everybody was . . . there . . . you're looking out there and there is a . . . there is an ocean full of people then?

KEELING: Ocean full of people, right.

KELLY: Okay. And then after . . . after you get in to the water, describe what was going on.

KEELING: Well, we . . . after we were . . . I'd say around four hours we were in the water. And . . . and then we made it to the rocks. We made it to the . . . to the islands and . . . and then later on the . . . about . . . about five hours the Coast Guard came out and picked us up.

KELLY: Did you . . . you paddled your way in, kind of swam and floated with your life preserver and . . . and got on to the rocks. Were you . . . you staying with your buddy most of the time, you . . . the two of you together?

KEELING: Yeah, yeah, right.

KELLY: Were . . . were you . . . were you panic-stricken any time during this thing?



KELLY: You felt like you were going to do or be all right. And then the Coast Guard picks you up and . . . and takes you into San Francisco?

KEELING: Yeah, to Treasure Island.

KELLY: Treasure Island.


KELLY: And then from there you, what, you went on leave and you were granted another leave and then . . .

KEELING: I had a 30-day furlough coming up, and then a survivor's leave.

KELLY: Survivor's leave because you'd been . . .

KEELING: Shipwrecked.

KELLY: . . . shipwrecked. That was an extra sixty days?


KELLY: Okay. And then from there you . . . you . . . you said you had your choice of assignments, and . . . and you had elected not to go back on an aircraft carrier again.


KELLY: And you went to Norfolk, or . . .

KEELING: I went to . . . I was . . . they sent me in Norfolk, Virginia. And I didn't like it down in Norfolk, so I transferred to Alameda, California, Naval Air Base.

KELLY: What did you do out there?

KEELING: I was in a [cashew?] unit. We . . . we preserved aircraft 00:58:00engines to send overseas and did airc- . . . worked . . . worked on aircraft. And then I also worked for assembly and repair of aircraft. I worked in a . . . a factory there with civilians.

KELLY: What were you doing there?

KEELING: Well, we . . . we were readying aircraft to send over the . . . to the Pacific to the fleet.

KELLY: Same kind you'd been flying . . .

KEELING: Yeah, umhmm.

KELLY: . . . before?

KEELING: F6's and . . . and TBF torpedo bombers.

KELLY: Umhmm. And wh- . . . what big city are you close to there?

KEELING: San Francisco, and of course, Alameda was right close to our air base and . . . I can't think of the other town now.

KELLY: So that . . . that was . . . for a sailor duty, was that 00:59:00pretty good duty?

KEELING: Fine. Fine.

KELLY: And you had weekends off usually?


KELLY: Spent a lot of time in San Francisco?

KEELING: Yeah, a lot of time in San Francisco. And we'd go down to L A., Los Angeles. I had a brother stationed in the navy down there some.

KELLY: Who is this, Leo?


KELLY: John?


KELLY: Was all three of you in the navy?

KEELING: Leo was in the marines.

KELLY: Leo was in the marines.

KEELING: And my older brother was in the air force.

KELLY: There are four of you, four boys and . . .


KELLY: Four of you were in the service.

KEELING: Oh, yeah, umhmm.

KELLY: Did the others see action, too?

KEELING: Well, not . . . Woodrow . . . of course, he . . . he is retired from the air force now. He . . . I believe he spent 29 years in the air force.

KELLY: Twenty-nine years.

KEELING: Twenty-nine years. He went in as a private and came out as a lieutenant colonel.

KELLY: You . . . you were thinking about staying in the navy yourself.

KEELING: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

KELLY: Did Leo see any action?


KEELING: Leo had trouble with his legs.

KELLY: Umhmm. And John, did . . . did he go overseas? He was the younger brother, yeah.

KEELING: I don't believe he did.

KELLY: He . . . he got in toward the end of the war, didn't he?

KEELING: I don't believe he . . . he saw any action.

KELLY: Okay. So then, you stay there until the war ends?


KELLY: Where were you on V-J day? Are you on duty or . . .

KEELING: I believe I was on shore patrol.

KELLY: Shore patrol.

KEELING: I believe I was on shore patrol. Yeah, I was on shore patrol when . . . when Wainwright was escorted through the streets of San Francisco.

KELLY: You saw that?


[Noise interference]

KELLY: Did . . . did you . . . did you know about the ordeal, the prisoner of war ordeal, by that time?

KEELING: We . . . we . . . we . . . we kept [inaudible] after we got to the States pretty well.

KELLY: Umhmm.

KEELING: Poor starved little man.

KELLY: Skinny and . . .


KEELING: Starved to death.

KELLY: Yeah. Is there anything else that we . . . we haven't talked about that we should have talked about in . . . in your war experiences . . . World War Two experiences?

KEELING: We under mes- . . . we underestimated Japan, and we underestimated their Zeroes. [Chuckle]

KELLY: Did you see a lot of the Zeroes?

KEELING: A lot of them.

KELLY: Did you ever have any of them attack you while you were airborne? Do you recall any of . . . any of . . . any of being attacked by Zeroes while you were flying against any of those targets or . . .

KEELING: Not really, no.

KELLY: Uh-huh.

KEELING: They were . . . they . . . they . . . had good maneu- . . . maneuverability about them, you know. They could really maneuver, those . . .

KELLY: The ones you saw were coming toward . . . attacking your ships and . . .

KEELING: Right. Right.

KELLY: Not . . . but not the . . . not the aircraft you were in while you were airborne?


KELLY: So then you . . . the war ends and you're separated from the 01:02:00service, come back to Springfield, Kentucky.

KEELING: Springfield, right.

KELLY: And who do you marry?

KEELING: I married Joyce [C?]

KELLY: And how . . . how soon was that after you got out?

KEELING: We were married in . . .

KELLY: Forty-six?

KEELING: . . . `47. We were married about March, March 11 of 1947.

KELLY: Okay. You have . . . how many children?

KEELING: I have two boys and two girls.

KELLY: And their names?

KEELING: Holly Anne. She is in South Carolina, Aiken, South Carolina. I have a daughter in Ohio. And I have a t-. . .

KELLY: What's her name?

KEELING: Holly Anne.

KELLY: And the two sons.

KEELING: Two sons. Butch, he works for [Mullen?], Illinois. He 01:03:00lives here on the farm. And I have another son, Mark. He works for [Mullen?], Illinois. And I did work for [Mullen?], Illinois. I am on sick leave right now.

KELLY: And you have been a farmer most of your life.


KELLY: And you . . . you're . . . you're . . . have a 200-acre . . . 85-acre farm here?

KEELING: Two hundred and sixty . . .

KELLY: Two hundred and sixty . . .

KEELING: . . . 236 acres.

KELLY: . . . thirty-six-acre farm here, in Nelson County.

KEELING: Five miles from Bardstown.

KELLY: Five miles from Bardstown. And . . . and your parents, who were your parents?

KEELING: My father's name was Herbert Keeling. And my mother was Eva [Chetham?]

KELLY: Your . . . your father was a veteran of World War One?


KELLY: And was he in the trenches in . . . in France?


KELLY: How long, do you know?

KEELING: I'm not for sure, but he . . . he died in `52.

KELLY: Did he ever get gassed while he was over there? Did he . . . did he ever talk to you about it?

KEELING: He has pneumonia real bad.

KELLY: Did . . .

KEELING: He . . .

KELLY: While he was in the trenches, you mean, while he was over . . .


KEELING: They . . . they thought he was going to die, yeah, umhmm. And he . . . he . . . he never recovered really. Never recovered.

KELLY: He was in poor health from that time on? Did he ever talk to you about his war experiences?

KEELING: He wouldn't talk much.

KELLY: Wouldn't talk about it.

KEELING: Wouldn't talk much.

KELLY: Umhmm. Was he . . . was he over there quite some time, or do you know?

KEELING: I'm not for sure . . . not . . .

KELLY: But he did see . . . he saw action. He was in the trenches.

KEELING: Not too long. Yeah, he . . . he developed pneumonia and, of course, he . . . they . . . they . . . you were almost sure to die when you developed pneumonia then.

KELLY: The Kee-. . .

KEELING: [Inaudible].

KELLY: . . . the Keelings came into Washington County, they've been there several generations, haven't they? Do you know when they came in?

KEELING: I'm not for sure. Of course we've lived there all our lives.

KELLY: But, I mean, you . . .

KEELING: But [Chethams?] . . .

KELLY: . . . you . . . you can go back to your grandparents and your great grandparents and even probably beyond that, that were in . . . in the county. Farmers, most of them, right?


KEELING: Umhmm. My grandfather was a farmer, yeah.

KELLY: Okay.

KEELING: Director in a bank at Springfield.

KELLY: It's been a p- . . . it's been a pleasure talking to you, and I appreciate your sharing this with us. Is there anything else you want to get on the record about your experiences, World War Two experiences, that you can recall off the top of your head, or we pretty well covered . . .

KEELING: Well, I think I'd like to have made the navy my career. And if things had worked out right and . . . I was hoping to be a Chief Warrant [Officer].

KELLY: Do you still think about that?

KEELING: Yeah, I think I'd . . . I'd liked it, yeah, umhmm. Now . . .

KELLY: Why . . . why did you decide to get out?

KEELING: Well, my mother and all, they wanted me . . .

KELLY: To come back and farm?

KEELING: . . . to come . . . come back home rather than get killed.

KELLY: [Inaudible].


KELLY: Family pressure. And on your . . . on your leg, you're . . . you're still . . . you're still suffering from that injury that you received when you jumped off that deck.


KEELING: Yeah, I pretty [discolored?] it.


KEELING: It's been operated on. This leg had been operated on three tim- . . . twice. This operated . . . leg has been operated on one time.

KELLY: Do that at the Veterans Hospital?

KEELING: No, I had it done at Bardstown, umhmm.

KELLY: Are . . . are you draw-. . .

KEELING: I have been operated on four times now.

KELLY: You're drawing any disability for that leg?

KEELING: I just . . . I just applied about it a year ago.

KELLY: Umhmm. Are you getting it?

KEELING: They declared me a hundred percent disabled.

KELLY: A hundred percent! And . . .

KEELING: I never tried it before.

KELLY: Yeah, so you went years and years with that injury.

KEELING: I worked . . .

KELLY: Did you get the Purple Heart for that?

KEELING: No. No, they . . . we . . . we weren't . . . we weren't never issued any. Of course, before my ship was lost, when we lost the Bergh, all our records . . . our sea records were gone.

KELLY: Is that right?

KEELING: That's what they told us. So . . .

KELLY: Okay. Thank you very much.


[End of Interview]