WILLIAM H. KEIGHLEY

 

 

 

 

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to William Harold Keighley, Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Combat Plane in Composite Squadron THREE (VC-3), embarked from the U.S.S. KALININ BAY (CVE-68), and deployed over Samar in action against enemy Japanese forces during the Battle for Leyte Gulf in the Philippine Islands on 25 October 1944. When his task force was in imminent danger of being destroyed by heavy gunfire from an overwhelming force of hostile warships, Lieutenant Commander Keighley piloted one of the first planes launched, immediately maneuvering to attack the leading heavy cruiser. In bold defiance of the enemy's devastating antiaircraft fire, he scored three direct hits. Promptly joining a group of fighting planes when his bomb load was expended, Lieutenant Commander Keighley fought gallantly in the face of terrific opposition, making four determined strafing runs which resulted in considerable damage to the cruiser and effectively diverted hostile fire from our bombers and Torpedo Planes. Lieutenant Commander Keighley's outstanding courage, daring airmanship and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 341 (August 1945)
 

 

Keighley’s first Air Medal was was awarded while he was assigned to VT-21, aboard the USS BELLEAU WOOD:

"On February 1, 1943, an enemy task force consisting of sixteen destroyers of the newest and largest type was discovered one hundred twenty-five miles from Guadalcanal on a bearing of three hundred and three degrees. A striking force of seventeen dive bombers and nine torpedo planes was ordered to intercept and attack the enemy. In the ensuing engagement two enemy destroyers were damaged or sunk. Lieutenant William H. Keighley, pilot of a torpedo bomber, scored a direct hit on one of the destroyers striking the enemy a serious blow.”

Keighley's second Air Medal was awarded:

“For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in aerial flight against the enemy. While serving with Torpedo Squadron Twenty-One Lieutenant Commander Keighley lead one flight of torpedo bombers in a daylight attack on approximately ten enemy ships consisting of one cruiser, six destroyers and at least three smaller vessels in Kahili Harbor, Bougainville, on 17 July 1943. The attack was made in the face of heavy fighter opposition and enemy antiaircraft fire. In spite of this opposition and with complete disregard of his personal safety, this officer led his flight in a daring and aggressive attack against the enemy shipping in coordination with dive bomber and fighter units. As a result of the combined attack, seven enemy ships were sunk including three warships and four smaller vessels; one enemy vessel was damaged and forty-nine enemy aircraft were destroyed. In addition Lieutenant Commander Keighley participated in a total of twenty-six other combat missions against enemy bases and shipping in the Solomon Islands area many of which were pressed home despite heavy enemy anti-aircraft fire. He also lead four night missions in the Kahili area. His sound judgment and unusual flying ability contributed greatly to the success of Torpedo Squadron Twenty-One in sinking a total of six enemy ships, damaging seven other enemy ships, shooting down five enemy fighters and in bombing numerous enemy bases and supply dumps. Lieutenant Commander Keighley's courage, leadership, and conduct has always been in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Keighley's two Distinguished Flying Crosses and his remaining ten Air Medals were awarded based on flight-strike criteria.

 

Career Highlights:

 

 

 

Keighley's full sized, five-place medal bar, displaying the Navy Cross, Navy Distinguished Flying Cross with one star, Air Medal with eleven stars, American Defense Medal with "Fleet" bar, and the World War Two Victory Medal.

Detail of the reverse of Keighley's medal bar

 

Keighley's six-place mini medal set

 

 

Undated newspaper clipping, ca. 1945, outlining Keighley's Navy Cross award

 

 

Undated Photo of Keighley

 

 

Two undated photos of Keighley, both of which are stamped "OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH/ U.S. NAVY/ NAVY BIOLOGICAL LABORATORY/ NAVAL SUPPLY CENTER/ OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA".  Keighley was assigned to the Naval Biological Laboratory as Officer in Charge on April 1, 1960

 

 

 

Undated photo of Keighley as Captain.

Close-up scan or Keighley's ribbon bar in the photo above.

Keighley's ribbon bar set.  This set appears to be the identical set as photographed above.

 

 

Undated newspaper clipping, circa 1954, as Keighley takes command of NAAS Chase Field, Beeville, Texas

 

Provenance:

ex-Al Gleim Auction 34-1
ex FJP Auction February 21, 2008, lot 126