Keerans, Charles, born 14-01-1899, in Charlotte, North Carolina, joined the North Carolina College of Engineering and Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington, Virginia. In 1919 he was in the class 1919 of West Point Academy. He was commissioned in the Infantry in 1920. Promoted to 2ndLieutenant, 1st Lieutenant on 24-07-1924 and Captain 01-08-1935 and Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth until 1938. Instructor with the 24th Infantry Regiment in Fort Benning, Georgia, until 1941 as he was transferred as the Supply Officer for the Headquarters Company of Airborne Command in Fort Bragg. In 1942 he became the Chief of Staff of the 101st Airborne Division in Sicily. From 15-04-1943 he was assigned as assistant Division Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division under General, Matthew Bunker Ridgway and promoted to Brigadier General on 02-07-1943. The casualties of the 82nd during the European campaign, 1.619 killed in action, 6.560 wounded in action and 332 died of wounds. In 1943 the 82nd had prepared to make a night combat jump into the area around the Gulf of Gela, on the western coast of Italy. The effort was plagued with problems, including several American transport planes being shot down by friendly fire. D-Day for operation Husky was 10-07-1943 and it all took place in southern Sicily. During the night of 9-10 July 226 C-47s, military version of the DC-3, took off with paratroopers of the 505th Regimental Combat Team, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, B Company 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion and the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, this Combat Team was reinforced by the 3rd Battalion 504th Parachute Infantry , more than 3.400 paratroopers in total. The 3rd Battalion under command of Lieutenant Robert S. Currier.
Currier was KIA 21-09-1944 . The paratroopers were dropped behind the beaches. Due to several reasons, the paratroopers landed over entire southern Sicily. 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 planes 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. 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 off shore.
Death and burial ground of Keerans, Charles Leslie Jr.
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. In the early hours of 10 July, the U.S. infantry stormed the beaches. In the south eastern part of the island British troops landed. For several years the army assumed he 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. There is a remembrance stone on Arlington National Cemetery in Section 30, where his wife Margaret, born Johnson, who died age 55 in 1962 is buried. In Section 30 also buried, Admiral Robert Ghormley, Lieutenant General, Commanded the 5th Marine Division in the occupation of Japan, Thomas Bourke and Lieutenant General, Commander 2nd Armoured Division, Ted Brooks and 1* General Lieutenant, Commanding Officer Artillery, 11th Airborne Division , Francis William Farrell.
Cemetery location of Keerans, Charles Leslie Jr.