A Remarkable WWII Veteran With NYC Ties

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the indestructible manA new book about a little-known hero of World War II — and one with strong ties to the New York City area — has just been published by local writer David Rocco. Rocco has recently co-authored the book The Indestructible Man (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017), the story of Navy officer Dixie Kiefer, who was an instrumental player in major battles in World War II. Kiefer was the executive officer on the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown at both the Battle of the Coral Sea and Battle of Midway. He was the last man off Yorktown before she sank at Midway.

Though seriously injured, he swam through shark-infested waters pushing a life raft filled with hurt sailors toward a rescue ship. Later, as captain of the carrier USS Ticonderoga, his ship came under attack by kamikaze aircraft. Though critically wounded by flying shrapnel, he remained on the bridge, overseeing counter-attacks and damage control for twelve hours.

Later, while presenting Kiefer an award for valor, the Secretary of the Navy dubbed him “the indestructible man.” That ultimately proved not to be the case. Just after the end of the war, “Captain Dixie” — as his men called him — was killed along with five other Navy men in an airplane crash on Mount Beacon, New York.

Kiefer was known as a “sailor’s skipper,” never asking his crew to do anything he was not willing to do. He was the first man to fly an airplane off a ship at night. He successfully steered his big carrier through a killer typhoon that took the lives of more than 800 men throughout the Allied fleet. His morale-building “cocktail clubs” were legendary. And he even played a role in a motion picture titled The Fighting Lady, which won the Academy Award for documentary feature.

David Rocco is from Yorktown Heights, New York, and retired from the New York City Housing Department. Since then, he has led civic and environmental efforts including the Walkway Over the Hudson Project in Poughkeepsie, The Mount Beacon Fire Tower Restoration Project, the Beacon Sloop Club’s Woody Guthrie vessel, and the Mount Beacon Eight organization. The latter group seeks to recognize those who died along with Dixie Kiefer in the 1945 plane crash as well as two other Navy aviators killed on the mountain ten years earlier.

Rocco’s co-author on The Indestructible Man is best-selling and award-winning writer Don Keith. Keith has written extensively on World War II history as well as other subjects including college football, NASCAR racing, submarines, broadcasting, and civil rights. His nationally-bestselling military thriller, Firing Point, will be a major motion picture later this year under the title Hunter Killer, starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman. Keith’s web site is www.donkeith.com.

Note: Books noticed on The New York History Blog have been provided by their publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

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