Father Francis W. Kelly, Chaplain, U.S.N.served with the Marines at Talagi, then at Guadalcanal. After Guadalcanal he went with the 2nd Marine Regiment to Wellington where he officiated at Masses, Confessions, and problems common with MIlitary men at Wellington, New Zealand. His duties included going on Practice Combat Landings with the Marines as they prepared for the next Island Battle.
Finally the Marines of the 2nd Regiment boarded ship with Combat gear to make a landing at Tarawa.
Father Kelly had been Affectionately called “Foxhole’ Kelly because he had held so many servicwes to the Marines in Foxholes while under fire or being bombed. He landed with the Marines but even because of the Harsh Battle Condition he Administered the Sacrements to the Wounded. He also spent much time locating and burying the Dead Marines. He, also, buried dead enemy soldiers. While the Original plans were to work with Graves Registration but due to the extreme battle going on at that time, the Graves Registration Section could not get ashore so Father Kelly recommended Grave sites and attempt the Identification of the Dead.
However due to condition of some of the bodies, identification was difficcult.
Father Kelly supervised the burying of 138 Marines and assisted in identifying 66 other bodies which later were buried in other cemetaries on the island.
The information concerning the identity of the Dead was turned over to the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Second Marine Regiment.
On the Conclusion of the Tarawa Battle the Marines of the Second Marine Regiment went to Hawaii where he helped set up Recreation activities and located sporting activities in neighboring cities and towns and obtained permission to use these facilities.
Father Kelly was Awarded the “Legion of Merit” Medal signed by Admiral Halsey and presented to Father Kelly by Marine General H. M. Smith. He, also, received the Presidental Unit Citation for Guadalcanal Campaign from August 7, 1942 to Jaanuary 31, 1943.
He was awarded the Presidental Unit Citation for the Invasion of Tarawa, November 20 – 24 1943.
Father Kelly was Awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in Combat.
Father Kelly served with the 5th Amphibious Corps, Pearl Harbor until detached on 29 February 1944 and posted to Chaplains School for help in training New Chaplains in the Naval Service for Duty in Combat both aboard Ship and Ashore.
Father Kelly, also , served as the First Marine Division Chaplain during the Korean war where for a brief Period of time he was the only Chaplain and helped men of all Faiths until other Chaplains arrived.
Father Kelly served His Marines until 1 July 1969 when he Retired at Camp Pendleton, California with the Rank of Captain of the Navy Chaplain Corps.
Father Kelly extended his Naval Service to tend the Marines at Camp Pendleton until he died.
Father Francis William Kelly died 9 January 1982, Oceanside, California, age 71.
I first met Father Kelly in Korea, though I am not Catholic, Father Kelly and I had many conversations over the years, not just about Religion he was too large a man with an Active Brain and could shower help and comfort or just talk about his Beloved Marines.
Just prior to my going to Vietnam, Father Kelly visited me at my Armory in Camp Pendleton. I had visitied with Father Kelly over the years whether I had a problem or not, he was a Great man worthy of more Respect than he got but that never bothered him if it entered his head at all.
He was a Friend and a Compatriate for many years, I am in my 84th year and would Love to be able to talk with him now, maybe one day!
He is said to Originated the expression; “There are no Athiests in Foxholes”