The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
*KEATHLEY, GEORGE D.
Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S.
Army, 85th Infantry Division. Place and date: Mt. Altuzzo, Italy, 14 September
1944. Entered service at: Lamesa, Tex. Birth: Olney, Tex. G.O. No:
20, 29 March 1945.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry
and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, in action on the
western ridge of Mount Altuzzo, Italy. After bitter fighting his company had advanced to
within 50 yards of the objective, where it was held up due to intense enemy sniper,
automatic, small arms, and mortar fire. The enemy launched 3 desperate counterattacks in
an effort to regain their former positions, but all 3 were repulsed with heavy casualties
on both sides. All officers and noncommissioned officers of the 2d and 3d platoons of
Company B had become casualties, and S/Sgt. Keathley, guide of the 1st platoon, moved up
and assumed command of both the 2d and 3d platoons, reduced to 20 men. The remnants of the
2 platoons were dangerously low on ammunition, so S/Sgt. Keathley, under deadly small arms
and mortar fire, crawled from 1 casualty to another, collecting their ammunition and
administering first aid. He then visited each man of his 2 platoons, issuing the precious
ammunition he had collected from the dead and wounded, and giving them words of
encouragement. The enemy now delivered their fourth counterattack, which was approximately
2 companies in strength. In a furious charge they attacked from the front and both flanks,
throwing hand grenades, firing automatic weapons, and assisted by a terrific mortar
barrage. So strong was the enemy counterattack that the company was given up for lost. The
remnants of the 2d and 3d platoons of Company B were now looking to S/Sgt. Keathley for
leadership. He shouted his orders precisely and with determination and the men responded
with all that was in them. Time after time the enemy tried to drive a wedge into S/Sgt.
Keathley's position and each time they were driven back, suffering huge casualties.
Suddenly an enemy hand grenade hit and exploded near S/Sgt. Keathley, inflicting a mortal
wound in his left side. However, hurling defiance at the enemy, he rose to his feet.
Taking his left hand away from his wound and using it to steady his rifle, he fired and
killed an attacking enemy soldier, and continued shouting orders to his men. His heroic
and intrepid action so inspired his men that they fought with incomparable determination
and viciousness. For 15 minutes S/Sgt. Keathley continued leading his men and effectively
firing his rifle. He could have sought a sheltered spot and perhaps saved his life, but
instead he elected to set an example for his men and make every possible effort to hold
his position. Finally, friendly artillery fire helped to force the enemy to withdraw,
leaving behind many of their number either dead or seriously wounded. S/Sgt. Keathley died
a few moments later. Had it not been for his indomitable courage and incomparable heroism,
the remnants of 3 rifle platoons of Company B might well have been annihilated by the
overwhelming enemy attacking force. His actions were in keeping with the highest
traditions of the military service.