Landmarks of Dekalb County, Alabama

World War II Veterans Book: Joseph Cabot Kellett, Jr.

An Excerpt

Joseph Cabot Kellett, Jr. was born January 16, 1924.
He died December 1, 2003.
Father: Joseph Cabot Kellett, Sr.
Mother: Estelle (Tumlin) Kellett.
Wife: Paddy (Watson) Kellett.
Date of marriage: June 6, 1952.
Children: Diane Mitchell, Patricia Roberts, JoAnne Cecilia Kellett.
Sister: Carolyn Eberhart, Sara Elizabeth Kellett.
Brother: William Tumlin Kellett.

Joseph Cabot Kellett, Jr.

Joseph Cabot Kellett, Jr., while attending the Alabama Polytechnic Institute in June 1942, received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He attended Annapolis from July, 1942 through February of 1943, and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in May of that year. He was nineteen years old.

Kellett received an appointment as a second lieutenant in December 1943, becoming the youngest commissioned line officer in the history of the Marine Corps. He shipped out to the Pacific Theatre to serve as an aerial observer, attached to the 4th 155mm Howitzer Battalion, 1st Provisional Field Artillery Group, Fleet Marine Force. In this capacity, he was flown over battlefields and military targets to detect enemy positions and direct battleship fire to those locations. He first served as an aerial observer during the battle for Guam.

On February 19, 1945, the 4th and 5th Marines assaulted Iwo Jima. The marines, Kellett among them, secured Iwo Jima on March 26, 1945. The marines suffered 25,851 casualties during that battle. Kellett received a citation awarding him the Navy Air Medal in connection with the marine action against the Japanese forces at Iwo Jima. He served as an artillery officer and aerial observer in Okinawa, and elsewhere in the Pacific throughout the remainder of World War II. He was promoted to first lieutenant during this tour of duty. Kellett was discharged from active duty in June of 1946, but remained in the Marine Corps Reserves.

After discharge from active duty, Kellett attended the University of Alabama, graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law, and was admitted to the Alabama Bar in February of 1950.

On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea. On June 26th Kellett was placed on active reserve for training and was placed on active duty in August of 1950. Attached to Battery A, 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division (reinforced), he was sent to Korea, and served as artillery officer with the 1st Marines. By mid-November, 1950, the marines had advanced to within a few miles of the North Korean and Chinese border at the Chosin Reservoir. General Douglas MacArthur had predicted that only a few Chinese volunteers would join with the North Koreans. As a forward artillery observer, Kellett was among the very first to learn that MacArthur and his staff were wrong. The 1st Marines were suddenly attacked by eight well trained and equipped Chinese divisions, numbering more than 100,000 troops.

After the first night of brutal fighting in 40 degrees below zero temperatures, several marine infantry companies had been decimated. Kellett assumed command of a provisional infantry platoon, which was comprised of some of the survivors of that first night. The epic “breakout” from the Chosin Reservoir began. Kellett was wounded by a Chinese grenade near Koto-ri. In recognition of his valor, Kellett was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star with the Combat V. He was promoted to the rank of captain. The members of this engagement with the Chinese in Korea became known as the “Chosin Few”.

Joe was released from active duty in March of 1952, but remained in the U.S. Marine Corps reserves until honorably discharged in September, 1958. At that time he had attained the rank of major.
Dates of Service:
WWII active duty: May 25, 1943 – June 14, 1946.
Korea active duty: August 30, 1950 – March 6, 1952.
U.S.M.C. Reserves: May, 1947 – August 1950. March, 1952 – September, 1958.

Medals awarded: American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with a Bronze Battle Star (for Western Pacific), World War II Victory Medal.
Medals awarded for Korean War: Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, Air Medal, Bronze Star Medal with Combat V, National Defense Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, Rep of Korea Presidential Unit Citation (foreign), Korean Service Medal with four Bronze Battle Stars, Honorable Service Lapel Button.

After returning home from Korea and active service, he resumed his law practice in his hometown of Fort Payne. He is buried in Glenwood Cemetery.