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James D. Keith

Home of record: Monroe Louisiana


Silver Star

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Awarded for actions during the S.S. Mayaguez Incident

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to First Lieutenant James D. Keith (MCSN: 0-115528), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action on 15 May 1975 as the Executive Officer, Company G, Second Battalion, Ninth Marines, while engaged in the recover of S.S. MAYAGUEZ which had been seized in the Gulf of Thailand by units of the Cambodian Navy. Approaching Kho Tang Island, First Lieutenant Keith directed his helicopter into the western landing zone and landed in the face of intense enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire. Realizing that the small Marine force was facing a numerically superior and determined enemy force, he instantly assumed command of the elements in the landing zone, organized the defense, and immediately began directing close air support on the enemy force. At great personal risk, he moved into the open, fire-swept terrain to direct the air support. His movement was immediately taken under fire from a number of enemy positions in the treeline. For the next six hours, he constantly inspired his men and personally directed the placement of subsequent waves landing on the island. When a particularly heavy attack was directed at his southern perimeter, he took up an M-16 rifle from a wounded Marine and assumed a position in the most vulnerable portion of the line, delivering a constant volume of accurate fire into the enemy force until the attack was repelled. After extraction was ordered, he personally assisted in the withdrawal of the Marine assault force. By his daring actions, inspiring leadership, and undaunted courage in the face of continuous personal danger, First Lieutenant Keith upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: May 15, 1975

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: First Lieutenant

Company: Company G

Battalion: 2d Battalion

Regiment: 9th Marines