Vale, RADM Ed Keats, (USNA 1935)
Edgar Salo Keats was born in Chicago in 1915.
Let that sink in.
When he was minted, Eugene Ely had just four years before took off in a Curtiss pusher from a temporary platform erected over the bow of the light cruiser USS Birmingham— a first in U.S. Naval Aviation history. He was six years old when USS Langley (CV-1) joined the fleet.
By the time Keats graduated from Annapolis at the ripe old age of 20, the Navy had just commissioned their first ship designed from the keel up as an aircraft carrier, USS Ranger (CV-4). The future icons of Midway, USS Yorktown, and USS Enterprise, were still under construction at Newport News and had yet to be launched.
Keats earned his wings at Pensacola in 1938 and flew Dauntless dive bombers extensively. He was named skipper of Bombing 16 (VB-16) early in WWII but was soon appointed Air Officer for Commander Amphibious Force, Pacific, a role that put him in the driver’s seat for the air attack portion of amphibious landings at Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
“I was part of the group that wrote the aviation portion of the amphibious course plans for the capture,” said Keats modestly on the occasion of his 100th birthday bash at Bancroft Hall. “You just don’t go out there with a lot of people. It takes a lot of planning, and everyone doing their part. I don’t claim that I was a hero. I flatter myself that I helped contribute some little bit to our victory.”
After the war, he went on to fly F9F Panthers and command the Air Group on USS Shangri-La before being appointed director of the Armament Division at NATC Patuxent. He continued to rise to the rank of rear admiral before he retired in 1958 after 23 years of active duty across two shooting wars.
After an active career in business once leaving the military, including over a decade spent at Westinghouse, Keats continued to weigh in on naval topics and was a frequent contributor to Naval History Book Reviews.
Keats, the oldest Annapolis alumni, died over the weekend while in hospice care. He was 104.
His oral history of the war is in the Library of Congress.