Local WWII Veteran to be Awarded Congressional Gold Medal

Nearly 6.8 thousand WWII veterans are still living in Mississippi. One of them, Jerry O’Keefe, is one of only about 70 ace fighter pilots alive today.
Today, he invited News 25’s Kristen Durand into his home to talk about his days serving our country.
“Well, it was high excitement. It really was a lot of adrenaline running those days you know,” said Jerry O’Keefe. After enlisting at 18 years old, Jerry O’Keefe remembers his first experience at Pearl Harbor, being catapulted off an aircraft carrier, right after a fellow pilot stalled out and died crashing into the ocean. “When it came my turn to go, my wingman who cared for that airplane got up on the wing and said ‘Lieutenant’, he said, ‘I’m praying for you, you’re doing the right thing.’ He said that’s what I’m doing,” O’Keefe remembers. A short time later, he went into action stopping suicide dive bombers in Okinawa: “all of a sudden, we saw them and there were hundreds of them and that’s when my executive officer shot down 6, and my commanding officer and I each got 5.”
The next day, he shot down two more planes in his Corsair, bringing his total up to 7 Japanese planes shot down in just one week, a feat that earned him the Ace Pilot Designation. On Friday, Mr. O’Keefe will be awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for American Fighter Aces by Congressman Palazzo’s office during the Bradford-O’Keefe funeral homes 150th anniversary commemoration in Ocean Springs. The congressional award will be another addition to his collection, including the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

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