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First Name: Charles

Last Name: Keerans

Birthplace: Charlotte, NC, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: NC
Middle Name: Leslie

Date of Birth: 1899

Date of Death: 11 July 1943 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 11 July 1943

Rank: Brigadier General

Years Served:
Charles Leslie Keerans, Jr.

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1919

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Charles Leslie Keerans, Jr. was born at Charlotte, NC in 1899. He graduated From The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, with the Class of 1919.

In 1943, Brigadier General Charles Leslie Keerans, Jr. was the Assistant Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. In July 1943, the 82nd Division had prepared to make a night combat jump into the area around the Gulf of Gela, on the western coast of Italy. The effort, called Husky II, was plagued with problems, including several American transport planes being shot down by friendly fire.

On the evening of 10 July the 316th Troop Carrier Group was supposed to drop reinforcements, but the mission was postponed by 24 hours. Then on the evening of 11 July, the planes took off. Aboard one of them were two observers, Brigadier General Charles L. Keerans Jr., Deputy Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division, and Captain Tracy Jackson, Glider Officer for the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing.

When the 144 planes flew to Sicily, they had to fly over the invasion fleet off the coast of Sicily. They were under constant attack from the German Luftwaffe. The gunners were trigger happy and fired on the planes. Then the Troop Carriers came over. Some gunner opened up, and more and more gunners joined him. A total of twenty-three transport planes were shot down. Young American lives were lost due to friendly fire from American warships, American merchant ships, and infantry units on the coast of Sicily.

Brigadier General Keerans’ plane was one of those hit by friendly fire, but the pilot was able to crash land the plane in the water, 400 yards offshore. Keerans survived the crash and the next morning chatted with a sergeant from another unit and asked the sergeant to accompany him inland. The sergeant said that he wanted to return to his outfit and left. Keerans went inland by himself and was never seen again.

For several years the Army assumed that General Keerans had been killed during the ditching of the aircraft, but the sergeant’s story provided a different interpretation and the general was simply listed as killed in action, although his body was never found. His death was one of the oddest to occur during the war.

Brigadier General Charles Leslie Keerans, Jr. is listed as Missing in Action and his name is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy. His name is also listed on the headstone of his wife's grave at Arlington National Cemetery and it displays 1943 as the date of death and the words Missing in Action.

Honoree ID: 203999   Created by: MHOH




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