"Get that baby home for Christmas"
'Thousand Men and a Baby' Reunion
by Duwayne Escobedo
USS Point Cruz CVE 119 Reunion
At the National Museum of Naval Aviation
A Thousand Men and a Baby To Enjoy Their Annual Reunion
It was 1953 during the Korean War out in the middle of the Yellow Sea. The USS Point Cruz aircraft carrier was making its way into Inchon, Korea in an effort to fly American troops into a buffer zone.
What the crew of nearly 1,000 would find there was something altogether unexpected -- an abandoned two-month-old Korean-American baby left to die in a garbage can.
The encounter took a miraculous turn with the efforts of a naval captain, doctor, priest and the entire crew of the naval aircraft carrier to first nurse back to health and then find a home for the little baby boy.
Today, 54 years later, the baby, Danny Keenan, is proud to be a citizen of the U.S. and is grateful each day for the courage of the soldiers aboard the carrier.
At 9:30 a.m. Friday, September 21, the crew of the USS Point Cruz will have a reunion at the National Museum of Naval Aviation and along with them, as a special guest, will be Danny Keenan himself to shake the hands of the men whom half a century ago, became his guardian angels.
Each member of the crew loved and cared for this child and took all the steps necessary to make sure he would return safely with them to the U.S. Once Danny had been rescued by the crew, he was adopted by the ships doctor, Hugh Keenan.
For years after Danny left the carrier, he lost track of the crew and it wasn’t until 1993 when he had the opportunity to see them again. This would mark the beginning of the USS Point Cruz reunions.
The USS Point Cruz captain, Captain John Chick Haywards wife, Liela Hyre, as it turns out, was a native of Pensacola and a former Queen of Mardi Gras. This connection to the Pensacola area makes this years reunion that much more special and a little like coming home. The Captain retired as Vice Admiral and his daughter and granddaughter are this years reunion organizers.
After all this time, the veterans still call Keenan the baby and after attending over a dozen reunions, he is still the center of attention. It truly was a miraculous recovery in the midst of a brutal war.
It would be no surprise when in 1997, a film of the rescue called A Thousand Men and a Baby would be made detailing all the efforts made by all the men aboard to save and bring Danny back to America.