This is the story of Lee “Stump” Kelley my good friend and neighbor. A truly amazing man, he died as he lived, fighting all the way. I was honored to care for him during his last few weeks, painful though they were. Although we were a generation apart, we were banded brothers of sorts. He, a frogman from World War II. Me, a river rat from Vietnam.

For ten years we went to dinner every Monday, and invariably our waitress would ask if we were father and son. Mainly because we both shaved our heads, sported moustaches, and had similar facial features.  Lee would wink and say, “Nah, he’s just my little brother.” Even though he had some twenty plus years on me and I was a full head taller.

At seventeen Lee enlisted in the Navy shortly after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. When he completed his frogman training he served in amphibious combat operations from Pelileiu to Corregidor, and on through Okinawa, some of the bloodiest actions of his war. Blowing up obstructions all over the Pacific, he and his team of “naked warriors” were always the first to hit the beach. He was even waiting on shore when General Douglas MacArthur made his famous "I shall return" landing.

Born in a trunk to Vaudevillian parents, as a toddler Lee literally had to sing for his supper whenever Mom and Pop hit the road. After the war he became a vital part of the Atlas space program, hob-nobbing with astronauts and rocket scientists alike, including the ex-Nazi camera hog, Werner von Braun.

This book is a compilation of Lee Kelley’s colorful war stories, many of which were told to me on his death bed. Sixteen million Americans served in World War II and “Stump” is one of the over fifteen million that are no longer with us. I miss Lee more than mere words can express and hopefully this meager attempt will help keep alive the memory of this gallant patriot.


© Copyright 2022 Larry Lindsey. All Rights Reserved.

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