Holley Keel was born on March 9, 1923, in Aiken County, South Carolina. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces on January 26, 1943, completed basic training in March 1943, and completed Air Operations Specialist Training at Camp Luna, New Mexico, in June 1943. Sgt Keel's first assignment was as an Air Operations Specialist with the Air Transport Command in India from July 1943 to November 1945, and he left active duty and joined the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps on November 27, 1945, serving until his honorable discharge on November 26, 1948. Sgt Keel enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on September 6, 1950, and completed Aircraft Mechanic School at Sheppard AFB, Texas, in June 1951. His next assignment was as an Aircraft Mechanic with the 1605th Maintenance Squadron at Lajes Field, Azores, from June 1951 to March 1953, followed by service as a C-124 Globemaster II Aircraft Mechanic with the 56th Air Transport Squadron of the 1700th Air Transport Group at Kelly AFB, Texas, and then at Travis AFB, California, from March 1953 to September 1954. Sgt Keel served as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician with the 78th Air Transport Squadron at Kelly AFB from September to December 1954, and then with the 1700th Test Squadron at Kelly from December 1954 to July 1957. His next assignment was as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician with the 1607th Flightline Maintenance Squadron at Dover AFB, Delaware, from July 1957 to January 1961, and then as a C-130 Hercules Crew Chief with the 6091st Reconnaissance Squadron at Yokota AB, Japan, from January 1961 to September 1962. Sgt Keel served as a C-130 Crew Chief with the 3rd Organizational Maintenance Squadron at Yokota from September 1962 to January 1964, followed by service as a C-130 Flight Engineer with the 29th Air Transport Squadron at McGuire AFB, New Jersey, from January 1964 to December 1965. His next assignment was as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician with the 349th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron at Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona, from December 1965 to December 1966, and then as an HC-130 Flight Engineer with the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from December 1966 to January 1967, and with the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Udorn and then Tuy Hoa AB, South Vietnam, from January to December 1967. Sgt Keel then served as a C-130 Flight Engineer with the 21st Tactical Airlift Squadron at Naha AB, Okinawa, from December 1967 to July 1969, followed by service as a C-130 Flight Engineer with the 40th Tactical Airlift Squadron at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio, from July 1969 to October 1970. His next assignment was as an HC-130 Flight Engineer with the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Cam Ranh Bay AB, South Vietnam, from October 1970 to October 1971, and during this time he served as Flight Engineer on the HC-130P Lime One during the Son Tay Raid, a clandestine mission to rescue American Prisoners of War in North Vietnam on November 21, 1970. MSgt Keel also served as an AC-130 Spectre gunship Flight Engineer in Southeast Asia before retiring from the Air Force on June 1, 1974. Holley Keel died in September 1988.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
Master Sergeant Holley V. Keel distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force in Southeast Asia on 21 November 1970. On that date, Sergeant Keel flew as a Flight Engineer aboard an HC-130P aircraft in support of the Son Tay Prisoner of War Camp Raid under the cover of darkness deep within hostile territory. His superb aerial ability aided immeasurably in the extremely low level aerial refueling of the rescue helicopters despite the constant threat of hostile ground fire and air-to-air attacks. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Keel has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.