Jonah Edward Kelley
|Jonah Edward Kelley was born on April 13, 1923, at Rada, West Virginia, the second child of Jonah Nelson and Rebecca High Kelley. Jonah was called “Ed” to distinguish him from father. His sister Georgiana remembered young Ed hiking with friends at places like Kings Point and Blue Jay and occasionally playing touch football. He was also in the Boy Scouts and participated in the activities of his church, Grace United Methodist.|
|Ed attended Keyser High School, where he was on the football and basketball teams. Boyhood friend Tom O’Connor, who played quarterback, remembers Ed clearing the way for him during games. Young Kelley also participated in track. He graduated in 1941 after which he attended Potomac State College until entering the service.|
|Ed entered the army in 1943 at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio, and trained for more than a year at Camp Butler, North Carolina, among others. A member of the 78th Lightning Division, he went overseas on October 11, 1944. The closing days of January 1945 found him in a small German town of Kesternich. The lightning division was stymied by German defenses.||
Knowing the way to break this resistance was to go into the ruins of the town and “dig them out” one by one if necessary, Sgt. Ed Kelley worked his assault section forward through intense small arms and artillery fire. During the fighting, he was wounded in the left hand by a shell fragment and was hit in the back by another. Ed continued to fight by using his rifle with one hand, and, when the fight became close, he used grenades by grasping them with his good hand and pulling the pins with his teeth. The battle on January 30 ended with the coming of darkness but resumed at dawn the next day. While on lone reconnaissance, Sergeant Kelley was fired upon by a German who had dug in under a haystack. When the squad sought to clear the town by removing a machine gun nest, Sgt. Ed Kelley was hit several times but succeeded in emptying his rifle into the enemy nest before his death. “This superb courage, aggressiveness, and utter disregard for his own safety displayed by Sgt. Kelley inspired the men he led and enabled them to penetrate the last line of defense held by the enemy in the village of Kesternich,” the citation for his Congressional Medal of Honor reads.
||On September 9, 1945, Sgt. Kelley was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the only Keyser native to be so honored. Originally buried in the Margraten Cemetery in the Netherlands, the body of Sgt. Ed Kelley was returned to the United States in 1948 where his hometown of Keyser accorded him a hero’s funeral and burial in the Queen’s Point Cemetery.|
|In remembrance of Sgt. Ed Kelley, the J. Edward Kelley Society was established at Keyser High School in 1946. The Kelley award, an annually awarded scholarship, is available to Keyser students who played varsity basketball or football for a period of two years. The Legion of Honor, established in 1984, recognizes distinguished alumni of Keyser High and those who are supporters of the school.|
|An Army ship was renamed in honor of Sgt. J. Edward Kelley in 1947, and a Navy ship was renamed in his honor in 1950. In 2006 a bridge located in Mineral County on route 46, near Keyser, was named the Staff Sergeant Jonah Edward Kelley Memorial Bridge. In addition, memorials to Kelley have been constructed at the sites of both the new and old Keyser High School.|
Photos and much of the information used in this biography came from Kelley, a magazine published by the Mineral Daily News-Tribune, provided to the Veterans Memorial staff courtesy of the newspaper.
West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history. For more information contact Constance Baston at (304) 558-0230.
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