Rank and organization:   Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, 85th Infantry Division.
Place and date:   Mt. Altuzzo, Italy, 14 September 1944.
Entered Service at:
Birth:   Olney, Tex.
G.O. No.: 20, 29 March 1945.
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.
This data was extracted from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, U.S. Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients: 1863-1973 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1973)