George D Keathley

Rank:                            Staff Sergeant
Service:                         U.S. Army
Place of Birth:               Olney, Young County, Texas
Date of Death:              14 Sep 1944
Cemetery:                     A.B.M.C. Florence Cemetery (D-11-26), Florence, Italy
Entered Service:           Lamesa, Dawson County, Texas
Unit:                              1st Platoon, Co B, 85th Infantry Division
Served as:                     Platoon Guide
Place of Action:            Mount Altuzzo, Italy
Date of Action:             14 Sep 1944
General Order:             No. 20, 29 Mar 1945
Date of Presentation:   11 Apr 1945
Place of Presentation:   Camp Walters, Texas, presented by Maj Gen Bruce Magruder
                                       to his widow Geneva

Citation:   For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his 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 three desperate counterattacks in an effort to regain their former positions, but all three were repulsed with heavy casualties on both sides.  All officers and non-commissioned officers of the 2nd and 3rd platoons of Company B had become casualties, and S/Sgt Keathley, guide of the 1st platoon, moved up and assumed command of both the 2nd and 3rd platoons, reduced to 20 men.  The remnants of the two platoons were dangerously low on ammunition, so S/Sgt Keathley, under deadly small-arms and mortar fire, crawled from one casualty to another, collecting their ammunition and administering first aid.  He then visited each man of his two 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 two 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 2nd and 3rd 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 three 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.

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