(APC-117: dp. 6,090 (f.) ; l. 338'9"; b. 50'4"; dr. 17'7"; s. 11.5 k.; cpl. 48; trp. 101; cl. Jonah E. Kelley; T. C1-M-AV1)
Staff Sergeant George D. Keathley, a Texan serving with Company B, 85th Infantry Division, was killed in action at Mount Altuzzo, Italy, on 14 September 1944. During the action on the western ridge of Mount Altuzzo, his company's advance was held up 50 yards from its objective by intense sniper, small-arms, automatic, and mortar fire. Three enemy counterattacks toregain former positions were repulsed with heavy casualties to both sides. All officers and noncommissioned officers of the 2d and 3d platoons of Campany B had become casualties. Ammunition had run dangerously low. Sgt. Keathley, from the 1st platoon, assumed command of the 20 men remaining in the two platoons; and, despite the continued intense enemy fire, crawled from casualty to casualty to administer first aid and collect ammunition. As he distributed the ammunition to his men, a fourth enemy counterattack was launched from the front and from both flanks. Company B was given up for lost. The men, however, rallied behind Sgt. Keathley and time after time threw back the enemy. An enemy hand grenade exploded near Sgt. Keathley, mortally wounding him.
Sgt. Keathley stood up, fired, and killed an attacking enemy soldier, and continued shouting orders to his men. For another 15 minutes, he continued to provide the leadership needed by his men. Friendly artillery fire then helped force the enemy to withdraw. A few moments later, Sgt. Keathley died. For his courage, heroism, and leadership, Sgt. Keathley was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Sgt. George D. Keathley, built under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 2247), was laid down as Alexander R. Niniger, Jr., on 16 June 1944 by Walter Butler Shipbuilders Inc., Duluth, Minn,; launched on 7 December 1944; sponsored by Mrs. G.A. Meyer; renamed Acorn Knot in February 1945; and delivered to the War Shipping Administration on 30 March 1945.
Operated initially by Grace Lines in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, Acorn Knot was returned to the Maritime Commission and transferred to the Army Transportation Corps on 28 July 1946 and assigned to the Eyukyus Command as an interisland cargo carrier. On 6 May 1948, she departed the Far East for California; and, in July, she entered the Moore Dry Dock Co.'s yard at Oakland for conversion to a cargo-troop-passenger ship. During the eight-month conversion, spaces for troop and cabin passenger accommodations and for hospital facilities were constructed. The work was completed in early March 1949; and, on the 15th, she was renamed Sgt. George D. Keathley.
On 19 April, Sgt. George D. Keathley sailed for Japan, where, in May, she resumed her Army Transportation Service on a schedule which included Japan, the Philippines, the Marianas, Okinawa, and Korea. When war broke out in the latter country in June 1950, Sgt. George D. Keathley was at Yokohama awaiting transfer to the Navy for service in the newly established Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS). Within 24 hours of receipt of the news of the Communist crossing of the 38th parallel, she had taken on a full cargo of ammunition and a deck load of guns. On 27 June, she sailed for Sasebo, whence, with HMAS Shoalhaven, she continued on to Pusan. On 1 July, she became the USNS Sgt. George D. Keathley (T-APC-117) ; and, on the fourth, her civil service crew got her underway back to Japan to take on Army Signal Corps units and their equipment and' transport them to Korea.
With the completion of that run, the APC was assigned to shuttle service between Korea and Japan-evacuating hospital patients to Hakata and carrying troops and cargo to Pusan. In September, hospital ships took over that duty, and Sgt. George D. Keathley resumed cargo and troop operations out of Yokohama. During October, she carried cargo to the east coast of Korea, as far north as Hungnam. During November and early December, she carried troops and cargo to Inchon. Then, as the Chinese Army added men and equipment to the Communist effort and pushed back down the peninsula, she assisted in the evacuation of that port-carrying Korean nationals to Pusan and cargo and ammunition back to Japan.
From 6 January to 2 March 1951, the APC was at Yokohama for overhaul. She then resumed shuttle runs between Japan and Korea. With November, she commenced runs to Okinawa and Formosa; and, in September 1952, after more bunk spaces had been added to her troop quarters, she resumed a Japan-Korea schedule which was alternated with runs to Okinawa and Formosa until February 1953. From then until the signing of the truce in July, she operated primarily between Sasebo and Pusan, with only two runs to Naha and Keelung.
After the Korean Conflict, Sgt. George D. Keathley remained in the Far East and continued to be employed primarily between Sasebo and Pusan for another two years. In 1955, she was transferred to MSTS Atlantic; and, on 11 December 1956, she was placed out of service and transferred, temporarily, to the Hudson River Group of the Maritime Administration's National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF). Ten months later, on 24 October 1957, her name was struck from the Navy list and her transfer to the NDRF was made permanent.
In late 1966, however, Sgt. George D. Keathley was ordered activated. In November, she was towed to Norfolk for conversion to a survey ship. On 1 December, she was reacquired by the Navy; assigned to MSTS; and given the designation T-AGS-35. The following spring, 1967, Sgt. George D. Keathley, again a United States Naval ship, manned by a civil service crew, commenced survey operations in the Atlantic for the Oceanographer of the Navy which she continued until December 1971. She then returned to the United States for inactivation. On 29 March 1972, she was transferred, on lease, to the Republic of China which she now serves as Chu Hwa (AGS-564).
Sgt. George D. Keathley was awarded nine campaign stars for her service during the Korean Conflict.