World War II Honor Roll

James Alfred Keenan

Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Force


403rd Bombardment Squadron 
43rd Bombardment Group

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: March 7, 1944
Buried at: Arlington Cemetery
                  Cove Road
                  Pennsauken NJ 08110
Awards: Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart

STAFF SERGEANT JAMES A. KEENAN was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 31, 1914 the first child born to James Aloysisus Keenan and his wife, the former Elsie Berrington. He was christened at christened Christ Church in Philadelphia. Soon after a brother, Edward, and a sister Catherine were born. Sadly, James Keenan's father and sister died during the flu epidemic of October, 1918.

Elsie Keenan was eventually remarried, to William Cloud. During the 1920s the Keenan family moved to Camden. Elsie Keenan worked for many years as a janitoress at the RCA Victor factory. James A. Keenan was active as a Boy Scout in the early 1930s.

James Keenan remained a resident of Camden until his induction into the military. He married Mary E. Lang on October 21, 1939. Before the war, the Keenans lived at 132 Eutaw Avenue in East Camden's Stockton neighborhood. A daughter was born prior to leaving for the Army in 1942. James Keenan had worked for the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, and had also worked at an A&P grocery store at South 27th and Mickle Streets, a stone's throw from his home. 

Staff Sergeant Keenan served as a tail-gunner in a B-24 Liberator bomber and had participated in many missions, including the raid on Balikpapan Borneo on Oct 10, 1944. Already a recipient of the Air medal, he was posthumously awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster for his actions during this operation.

Flying out of the airfield at Tacloban, Staff Sergeant Keenan was killed when his plane crashed into a mountainside on the island of Luzon, in the Philippine Islands, on March 7, 1945. Besides his immediate family, he was survived by his mother, Mrs. William Cloud, and a brother Edward Keenan. His body was returned home aboard the USAT George W.G. Boyce in 1948, and he was buried at Arlington Cemetery in Pennsauken NJ, the funeral arrangements being handled by the Eichel Funeral Home at 60 South 27th Street, Camden NJ.

Notes on the life of James A. Keenan by Donna Wilson

James was the first child of James and Elsie Keenan.

When James was in school he heard about the new vocational school opening in Camden. He was the first to put his application in with the school counselor. He even obtained more applications for anybody interested in attending at his school. When it came time to start he found out the counselor had turned in everybody else but his. He was so angry that day he walked out of school and never returned.

He then went to work for the corner A & P.

He loved baseball. He often played in the service.

During World War II he served in the Army Air Corp. He was tail gunner on a bomber. Towards the end of the war and on one of his last missions his plane crashed into a mountainside on Luzon in the Philippines. His mother made the government return his body after the war.

He received The Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster) posthumously. (excerpt from letter 23 Jun 1945)

Camden Courier-Post - June 10, 1933

Proficiency Awards Presented To Camden County Boy Scouts
Court of Honor Held in Haddon Heights High School;
Badges Given by Stedman; Haines Presides at Event 

Boy Scouts of Camden county participated last night in impressive ceremonies at the semi-annual Court of Honor of the Camden County Council when awards for proficiency in scouting were made. 

The court was held in Haddon Heights High School Auditorium. Joshua C. Haines, county scout commissioner, presided and the Eagle Scout badges, highest award, were presented by A. W. Stedman, president of the council. 

The awards fellow: 

Eagle Badge-Edward Buczkowski and Alexander Foster of Troop 21, Camden. 

Life Scout Badge-Conrad W Deuter, Edwin A. Forbes and Charles J. J. Meyer of Troop 5, Camden; George Copoulas, Troop 21, Camden; Harold W. Shallcross, W. E. Hayes and Kirk Cramer, of Troop 55, Berlin; Rawlins Eastwick, Troop 64, Haddonfield; E. W. Roberts, Troop 105, Collingswood; Francis Weatherby, Troop 110, Merchantville. 

Silver Quartermaster's Badge- Thomas L. Rich, mate Of the Sea Scout Ship Farragut.

Star Scout Badge- H. Robert Lind, Joseph W. Martin and Harry Martin, Sea Scout Ship Farragut; Walter B. Everett. L. H. Gehr, Jr., Michael Melka and Edward S. Hunt, Troop 5, Camden; David King, Troop 2, Camden; K. Borman, Troop 14, Camden; William Neale, Troop 10, Camden; Albert Pape, Edward Watson and Taylor Kellogg, Troop 21, Camden; J. Frank Sweeney and Rainsford Darling, Troop 59, Collingswood; William E. Hales and Richard Groo, Troop 78, West Collingswood; S. Joseph Burns, Edward Taylor and Nelson Ulrich, Troop 80, Gloucester; Lloyd Van Horn, Troop 90, Atco; Eric Crowe, Richard McKinney and Kenneth Price, Troop 109, Gloucester; Charles Breme and Kenneth Litzinger, Troop 105, Collingswood; Charles Arentzen, Troop 111, Stratford; Charles David Smith, Troop 110, Merchantville; Edward C. Barnett, Jr., Conrad V. Kanuf, Robert D. Sayrs and William C. Stevenson, Troop 112, West Collingswood; Willard Schaeffer, Robert Fiddler, Robert B. Riddle, R. Proctor. Jr., J. Laing Jr., and G. Cook, Troop 113, Oaklyn; Erik Hemmingsen, Troop 118, Gibbsboro. 

Merit Badges-David King, Leo Ocroombout, Lawrence Corn, Troop 2, Camden; Lester Daniels, H. Robert Lind, Patrick Brady, Howard Walker, Andrew Weatherby, Edward Trummel, Joseph E. West, Alvah Veit, Joseph Martin. Harry Martin, Warren Weber, James A. Keenan, Leslie Smith, Russell Walls, Marvin Lequer, Paul Thompson, Elmer Hamilton, Thomas B. Rich, Jr.. Robert Rich, Troop 4, S. S. S. Farragut; Walter B. Everett Michael Melko, William Walston, Roy A. Voll, Robert Trace, Robert Stephens, Carl Seifling, Oliver Rinear, Charles Meyers, Edward S. Hunt, Philip Tice. L. H. Gehr Jr., E. Forbes, Fred Brooke, Conrad W. Deuter, Troop 5, Camden.

A. Braun. Troop 9, Camden; Wilbur Powell, William Brenton, Troop 11, Camden; K. Borman, Troop 14, Camden; Norman Steinberg, Joseph Foster, Edmund Buczkowski, Alex Foster, Franklin Kinsky, Albert Pape, B. F. Mercer, George Copoulas, Scott Hilton, Edward Watson, Harry Dolmetsch, Taylor Kellogg, James Capoulas, Albert Baker, Loy Zorger, Troop 21, Camden; Howard Todt and W. Albinson, Troop 52. 

Lloyd Van Horn, Harold W. Shallcross, W. Edgar Hayes, Benjamin Toy, Kirk Cramer, Claude Rowand, Lewis Orchard, William Straub, Troop 55; Joseph Hittorff, Raymond Giron, Edward Schultz, Frank Sweeney, Troop 59; Theodore Fox, Alfred Benson, Arthur Ruby, Charles Cox, Thomas Gibson, Robert Carpenter, Alfred Milash, Rawlins Eastwick, Troop 64; Wayne Garrigues, William E. Hales, Virgil Groo, Elmer Groo, Richard Groo, Robert Reck, Fred Miller, Paul Bennett, Ronald Ferguson, William Hales. Stewart Smith, Jr., John Scarborough, Robert Bergstresser, Troop 78; 

J. Burns, Edward Taylor, Nelson Ulrich, Troop 80; Walter Angelo, Jr., Harvey Hartzelt, Joseph E. Kirk, Jack Lotz, Troop, 85; James Chemi, Charles Weaver, George Sanger, Norman Sanger, William Farr, Troop 87; John R. Hohn and Robert Pierce, Troop 102; Harry Rainey, Carl Miller, Jr., Charles Breme, E. W. Roberts, Raymond Krawczk, James Moncrief, Kenneth Litzinger, Troop 105; Eric Crowe, Kenneth Rice, Richard McKinney, Troop 109; Charles Smith, Francis Weatherby, C. Hammond, Fred Shouds, Troop 110.

Excerpt from the commendation awarding an Oak Leaf Cluster, June 23, 1945

Staff Sergeant James A Keenan (12047186) Air Corps US Army.

For meritorious achievement while participating in an aerial flight to Balikpapan Borneo on 10 Oct 1944. Sgt Keenan was a gunner in the B-24 aircraft which took part in a history making mass formation daylight strike against the strongly defended and strategically important Japanese oil refinery base at Balikpapan. Carrying unusually heavy bomb and fuel loads these bombers had to make one of the longest flights ever performed by B-24's in the Southwest Pacific Area. In the Balikpapan area, swarms of aggressive enemy fighters intercepted them and pressed unrelenting attacks before during and after the bombing runs. Flying through withering anti-aircraft fire, which damaged many of the bombers and harassed by aerial phosphorous bombs, the crews of these B-24's nevertheless dropped their bombs with devastating results starting violent explosions and huge fires visible for 100 miles, destroying oil refineries storage tanks and a power plant, and damaging numerous other installations. The courage and devotion to duty displayed by Sgt Keenan during this mission reflect great credit on the US Army Air Forces.