Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ4) presented U.S. Navy veteran Bill Kelly with a U.S. Flag which had flown over the Capitol during a celebration of the WWII hero’s 93rd birthday earlier this week at the Claremont Center in Pt. Pleasant.
Kelly served on the U.S.S. Laffey during World War Two. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for wounds he received in battle on board the ship on April 16, 1945, when the Laffey endured a large-scale kamikaze air attack by Japanese planes.
According to Mac Burdette Executive Director of Patriots Point in South Carolina, where the Laffey is now moored, in the midst of the April 16 air attack Kelly jumped to the deck of the ship to retrieve the American Flag which had fallen; he encountered a dying comrade who requested to hold the flag, and Kelly wrapped him in the flag.
“Bill Kelly’s brave, selfless and outstanding service to this nation aboard the U.S.S. Laffey stands as a shining example of the best our country has to offer,” Smith stated.
“As a community, we deeply appreciate all that Bill has done, both here in New Jersey and across the globe, to make the world a better place for all, especially and including his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and those yet to come. Bill truly embodies the character of ‘The Greatest Generation,’ and we are grateful and honored to pay tribute to his remarkable contributions.”
Born in Belmar in 1925, Kelly was a high school football star in Manasquan before enlisting in the Navy during the height of WWII at the age of 17 during the height of the war. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in November of 1945. The father of five and grandfather of 13, Kelly owned and operated a commercial janitorial service until his retirement. He is one of only four surviving crew members to have served on the Laffey during the Battle of Okinawa.
Kevin Orender, a friend of Kelly’s who serves on the Wall Township Committe, told MMM that Kelly was thrilled with the celebration and the presentation of the flag from his congressman. “What a day,” Orender said Kelly exclaimed after all his guests had left. “It could not have happened if not for my shipmates.”