The USS Point Cruz was in the war-struck Korean city of Inchon when they made history for something that, in reality, no one would have expected.
The USS Point Cruz brought on their first ‘Infant Boy, First Class’ when they secured the passage and adoption of a small American/Korean baby boy found on the streets of war-devastated Korea on a hot summer night.
Dan Keenan, “Infant Boy, First Class,” is now 66 years old and still has all the love of the men who helped secure a lone baby’s life in the summer of 1953.
“1993 was the first time the crew members had seen me in 40 years since I left the ship, so that was really overwhelming in a very positive way, and ever since then it’s just gratitude, immense incredible gratitude,” said Dan Keenan.
“I was so incredibly fortunate to be taken out of the orphanage. The Skipper, he put his career on the line to rescue me. I was the only Caucasian baby in the orphanage. All the crew members rallied around and took care of me.”
When Sister Philomena, who was in charge of the Star of the Sea Children’s Home, was given the fair skinned, blue eyed, mixed-race baby, she called her friend American Naval Chaplain Father Ed Riley from the Navy escort carrier USS Point Cruz.
Father Riley went on to tell Capt. John T. Hayward, a.k.a. The Skipper, about this baby and The Skipper ordered Father Riley to retrieve an American visa for the baby and not to return without it.
Within the months following, the hospital ship USS Consolation made it to Korea, and Navy surgeon Lt. Hugh “Bud” Keenan visited the orphanage to provide a helping hand. Sister Philomena handed him the baby, who he decided to adopt.
With much struggle and many unexpected obstacles, in mid-November, Vice President-elect Richard Nixon made his appearance in Korea. After hearing the story of the blue-eyed baby, an American visa was delivered and Father Riley escorted the baby, formerly named George Cruz Ascom, on to the USS Point Cruz to be delivered to his mother in Seattle for Christmas.
“It was totally unexpected, naturally there was a lot of interest in how we were going to take care of a baby,” said Ron Jones, Quarter Master 3 and navigation bridge worker aboard the USS Point Cruz. “After a while, we started calling him our baby, our ‘Baby-san’. There was a little bit of pride in having a child like this.”
Upon the baby’s arrival in the United States, he was named Daniel Edward Keenan and began his new life with his forever family.
“My father, Dr. Keenan, was the one who initially told me (that I was adopted) and the way he handled it was really positive. He emphasized, ‘you’re special because we choose you. You were chosen to come and be a part of our family’,” said Keenan. “I was never treated differently, so I never felt different. I was a Keenan.”
The USS Point Cruz started holding their annual reunion in 1992.
“I’ll never forget this, I was at the reunion in New Jersey (1999) and a crew member walks up to me, literally with tears in his eyes, and he says ‘you don’t know what it means to me to finally meet you after all these years’,” said Keenan. “I found out later that was the only reunion he ever attended; he hadn’t gone to any prior to that, and he unfortunately passed away after.”
With a story heard around the world, the movie ‘A Thousand Men and a Baby’ was released in 1997 along with a story published in ‘Reader’s Digest Soldier Stories: 1000 Men and a Baby’ by Lawrence Elliott and ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Adoption’ by Dan E. Keenan with Janet Matthews.
Next year, Sept. 2020, the USS Point Cruz will be having their last reunion in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
Background information provided by Dan Keenan and ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Adoption’ by Dan E. Keenan with Janet Matthews.