Our D-Day Fallen: George Albert Kelly

As we come into the beginning of the holiday season, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by our service men and women every day.  For soldiers of today and yesterday, holidays were a reminder of their loved ones back home and the traditions they have here on the homefront.  It is also during this season that we remember all the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country.  On December 13, 2014 at 6pm we will be opening the gates for free admission to begin our weekend luminary event.  This year we will be lighting 4,413 luminaries – one to represent each of the soldiers who were killed in action on June 6, 1944.

1930s Postcard of Madisonville High School
Service men like George Albert Kelly.  Kelly was born in Madisonville, Kentucky on October 18, 1920 to Dan and Bessie Kelly.  He had three siblings: Christine, Charles, and Mary.  According to the 1930 census, Dan Kelly worked as a Ford Dealer before opening his own garage (seen on the 1940 census).  Kelly grew up working in his father’s garage and this is where his love of mechanics grew. 
In addition to working in the garage, Kelly also played sports, attended church and played the trumpet for his high school.  He was also one of the few teenagers who during the Great Depression owned his own car, something which made him extremely popular.  After graduating from high school, Kelly started working in his father’s garage.  When the 1940 census was taken, Kelly had worked 68 hours the prior week. 
LCI(L) 237; this is similar to the ship Kelly would have been stationed on
In July 1942, Kelly joined the Navy.  Shortly after his enlistment, Kelly reported to Chicago for training on diesel engines.  After graduation, he continued his education by taking a class in Class A Group 3 diesel engines.  By November 1942, he had finished his training and was transferred to the amphibious forces at Norfolk, Virginia.  Here he was assigned to his one and only ship, USS Landing Craft Infantry Large (LCI(L)) 232.  He steadily rose in rank from fireman first class to Chief Motor Machinist Mate on June 1, 1944. 

Plan for attack on Utah Beach
Prior to D-Day, Kelly was involved in the landings during Operation Torch and Operation Husky.  He also participated in landings at Salerno and Anzio.  In March 1944, LCI(L) 232 was moved to England to prepare for Operation Overlord.  As part of Operation Neptune, Kelly and LCI(L) 232 offloaded a compliment of soldiers on Utah Beach in the early hours of D-Day.  On their way back out to retrieve more soldiers, LCI(L) 232 was struck by an enemy shell and hit an undersea mine about a mile and a half off of the beach.  Kelly, as the Chief Motor Machinist Mate, would have been in the engine room with no chance of survival.  Reports noted that LCI(L) 232 sank quickly. 
His parents received the following letter from the USS LCI(L) 232 Commanding Officer after the death of their son:
“I fully realize the inadequacy of anything I can say to you to
lighten the burden of grief and anxiety which must be yours at this time. I hope you may receive some comfort and courage in the knowledge of yours son’s brave devotion and splendid service.

Your son was a fine sailor who was respected for his professional abilities, his conscientious performance of duty according to the highest standards of our naval traditions and his qualities of fellowship and leadership which made him a fine ship-mate. He was well liked by all the officers and men aboard the ship.  I profoundly hope that you may find solace in the thought that he lies buried with honor in the sea he served so well. The memory of your son will remain a constant inspiration to all who knew him and who must now carry on the struggles to preserve the ideals for which he so devotedly gave his life. He was a credit to his home and country and you may justly be very proud.”

Kelly listed on the Tablet of Missing
(National Archives and Records Administration, Military Personnel Records, St. Louis, MO)
Kelly was listed as missing-in-action until March 30, 1945 when the Navy officially declared him killed-in-action.  Kelly was posthumously awarded the WWII Victory Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Area Service Ribbon with five stars, the American Area Campaign Medal, and the Purple Heart.  His name is listed on the Tablet of Missing in the American Cemetery in Normandy. 
We invite you to join us December 13-15 for our luminary event.  Click here if you would like to help us keep their memories and sacrifices alive.    
Until next time, 
**Special thanks goes to Albert Small, a student who participated in the Normandy Institute with National History Day.  It was through his website dedicated to George Kelly that I discovered Kelly’s story and could bring it to you.  His work, in addition to census records, description of USS LCI 232 movements, and research into the town of Madisonville, Kentucky has culmanated in the post you just read.  
**Information on LCI 232 can be found here: http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/15/150232.htm 
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