Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Colin Kelly Letter

In a letter dated December 7, 1941 -- symbolically, since it was written a little later -- President Roosevelt made a poignant request.

To the President of the United States in 1956:

I am writing this letter as an act of faith in the destiny of our country. I desire to make a request which I make in full confidence that we shall achieve a glorious victory in the war we now are waging to preserve our democratic way of life.

My request is that you consider the merits of a young American youth of goodly heritage — Colin P. Kelly, III — for appointment as a Cadet in the United States Military Academy at West Point. I make this appeal in behalf of this youth as a token of the Nation's appreciation of the heroic services of his father, who met death in line of duty at the very outset of the struggle which was thrust upon us by the perfidy of a professed friend.

In the conviction that the service and example of Captain Colin P. Kelly, Jr., will be long remembered, I ask for this consideration in behalf of Colin P. Kelly, III.

Capt. Colin P. Kelly Jr. (pictured, in a painting by Deane Keller), a U.S. Army Air Corps bomber pilot, died on December 10, 1941, in action against the Japanese in the Philippines, saving the crew of his B-17 at the cost of his own life. Kelly was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

His very young son, on whose behalf President Roosevelt wrote to his unknown successor, did indeed attend West Point, with President Eisenhower appointing Colin P. Kelly III to the academy in 1959. He graduated in 1963 and served in the military, but his life's work is as an Episcopal priest.

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