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NEWS | June 11, 2022

Today marks the 150th Anniversary of the death of Lieutenant Hugh Wilson McKee.

By John Trowbridge, Contributor

NOTE: This is a guest article from SFC(R) John Trowbridge. He's a Kentucky Guardsman and former Command Historian that has compiled information on this topic from a variety of sources which aren't cited here. For more information on where this information has originated, please contact Mr. Trowbridge at the following: john.m.trowbridge.nfg@mail.mil.

The name of Hugh W. McKee appears on a panel in Memorial Hall at the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.  It states he was killed in action under the heading “Korea Expedition 1871.”  In the chapel of the Academy there is another plaque:
 
In Memory of Hugh W. McKee Lieutenant U. S. N. Born April 23, 1844, Died June 11, 1871 from wounds received the same day on the parapet of The Citadel, Kanghoa Island, Corea; while leading heroically the assault of the Naval Battalion of the U. S. Asiatic Fleet erected by his brother officers of the squadron.
 
Today marks the 150th Anniversary of the death of Lieutenant Hugh Wilson McKee.
 
Navy Lieutenant Hugh Wilson McKee was a native of Lexington, Kentucky, where he was born on April 23, 1844.  Hugh was the youngest son of William Robertson and Jane Wilson McKee and named after his maternal grandfather, Hugh Wilson.  His father, Colonel William R. McKee was a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point and in 1847, was killed while leading the Second Kentucky Foot at the Battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican War.  Hugh’s older brother, George Wilson McKee followed in their father’s footsteps, graduating West Point in 1863.  During the Civil War George served in the Union Army, as a Major of Ordinance and commander of the Frankford Arsenal at Philadelphia.
 
Hugh Wilson McKee was admitted to the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, on September 25, 1861, at the age of 17 years and 5 months.  He had been appointed from Kentucky by the Honorable George W. Dunlap, a member of the U. S. House of Representatives from Kentucky’ 6th District. 
 
Prior to his entrance into the Academy, McKee had received his first military training as a Private of the Lexington Chasseurs, an Infantry company organized on May 9, 1860, as part of the Kentucky State Guard. 
 
While attending the Naval Academy McKee was appointed as a Third-Class Midshipman, January 1863, Second Class Midshipman, January 1864, First Class Midshipman, January 1866, graduating with high honors with the Class of 1866.  His early duty stations included service in the Practice Squadron, aboard the USS Rhode Island, flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron.  In 1867 – 1869, he was assigned to the steam frigate Franklin and steam sloop of war Ticonderoga, both operating in European waters.  He was with Admiral David Glasgow Farragut and the European Squadron in his famous cruise, 1867-1868.  McKee was promoted to Ensign, March 12, 1868.  He was promoted to Master on March 26, 1869.  His orders to the practice ship, Macedonia, on June 5, 1869 were revoked and he was sent to the Michigan, instead.
 
Early in his Naval career McKee was described as exhibiting traits of personal bearing and of character which made him a favorite among men and indicated success and distinction in his career.  He was above medium height, straight and compact in figure, of noble and pleasing countenance.  His duties were discharged with superior intelligence and sound judgement, with promptitude and exactness, with self-possession and decision.  He had in a high degree the quality of command which inspires men with confidence in their leader. 
 
On March 21, 1870, McKee attained the rank of Lieutenant and was serving aboard USS Colorado, with the Asiatic Squadron, under the command of Rear Admiral John Rodgers.  While serving aboard Colorado, McKee would participate in the Shinmiyangyo (translation: Western Disturbance in the Shinmi Year) or simply the Korean Expedition of 1871, the first military action in Korea. 
 
Spending the winter of 1870 – 1871 at Nagasaki, with excursions to other ports of Japan, the Asiatic Squadron, under the command of Rear Admiral John Rodgers sailed for the Salee River, the “gates of the empire” of Korea, then a hermit kingdom, practically unknown to the world.  Their mission was to support an American diplomatic delegation sent to establish political and trade relations with the Koreans, and establish a treaty giving aid to shipwrecked sailors.  Additionally, they were to ascertain the fate of the USS General Sherman, an armed, American merchant ship, while on a trading voyage, which had gone missing in July 1866.  The ship had sailed to Korea and inquiries as to her fate had gone unanswered for five years.  It was learned that the ship, uninvited had ran afoul of local officials, ultimately the steamer was besieged by Korean soldiers, set afire and every crewmember killed.  Korean officials called the Sherman a pirate ship.     
 
Battle of Ganghwa
 
The expedition consisted of about 650 men, over 500 sailors and 100 Marines, as well as five warships: Colorado, Alaska, Palos, Monocacy, and Benicia.  Read Admiral John Rodgers, and Frederick F. Low, the U. S. Ambassador to China were aboard Colorado.  Korean forces, known as “Tiger Hunters,” were under the leadership of Eo Jae-yeon.
 
Initially the Americans, described as “people wearing white clothes,” made peaceful contact with the Koreans.  When asked about the General Sherman, the Koreans were reluctant to discuss what had occurred.  The Americans also let the Koreans know that their fleet would be exploring the area, and that they meant no harm.  American ships entered the Ganghwa Straits on the west coast of Korea on June 1st, their goal was to steam up the Han River to the capital at Hanyang (present day Seoul).  The Korean King had barred foreign ships from entering the Han River, so as the American ships passed by, they were fired upon by the on-shore Korean batteries.  Their outdated cannons and bad gunnery did little damage to the ships.  Admiral Rodgers immediately demanded an apology for what he called an unprovoked attack, giving the Koreans 10 days to reply.  The Koreans failed to comply and what had begun as a peaceful diplomatic mission turned into a punitive expedition on June 10th when Admiral Rodgers made good his threat.
 
On June 10th, the Americans attacked the lightly defended Choji Garrison on Ganghwa, along the Salee River.  The Korean forces were armed with severely outdated weapons, such as matchlock muskets and small brass cannons.  They were quickly overrun.  That night the Americans made camp nearby.
 
The morning of the 11th the American finished destroying the fort and its guns.  The Koreans banded together as guerilla units but were kept in check by American 12-pound howitzers, and unable to get within effective firing range.
 
American forces moved onto their next objective, the Deokjin Garrison (Fort Monocacy).  The Koreans abandoned Deokjin and began massing further to the north.  Meanwhile, Sailors and Marines quickly dismantled the fortress and then continued on to Gwangseong Garrison, the Citadel (renamed Fort McKee by the Americans).  By this time, Korean forces had regrouped there.
 
Artillery and gun fire from ground forces and the Monocacy anchored offshore pounded the Citadel in preparation for the assault by U. S. forces.  A force consisting of nine companies of sailors (546) and one of Marines (105) grouped on the hills west of the fortress, kept cover and returning fire.  Once the bombardment stopped, the Americans charged the Citadel, led by Lieutenant Hugh McKee.  The slow reload time of the matchlocks aided the Americans, who were armed with Remington rolling block carbines, in making it over the walls, the Koreans even ended up throwing rocks at the attackers.
 
In the assault McKee, commanding Company D, showed an intrepid spirit being the first to make it into the Citadel, where he was shot and stabbed in the side by a spear.  Commander Winfield Scott Schley (later an Admiral and hero of the Spanish-American War) followed close behind McKee, shooting the Korean soldier that stabbed McKee with a spear.
 
While waiting for word to charge, McKee kept, with sword drawn, in advance of his company line.  A fellow officer urged and begged him to go in with his company and not ahead of it.  McKee replied, “I will be the first man in that fort!”  The order to charge was given, the men rushed down the slope and up the opposite hill.   McKee leaped into the fort and received the first fire of the enemy.  The officer who had urged him to stay with his men, found McKee, already shot, struggling forward and fighting desperately, sword in hand.
 
The fighting at the Citadel lasted fifteen minutes.  The total number killed were 243 Koreans and three Americans; McKee, Seaman Seth Allen, and Marine Corps Private Denis Hanrahan.  Ten Americans were wounded, and twenty Koreans captured, several of whom were wounded.  Five Korean forts were taken, with dozens of various small cannons.  The Korean deputy commander was among the wounded taken prisoner.  The Americans hoped to use the captives as a bargaining chip to meet with local officials, however the Koreans refused, stating the captives were cowards and Ambassador Low was told that he was welcome to keep the wounded prisoners.   
 
Lieutenant McKee died aboard the USS Monocacy at 5:45 p. m. that afternoon and was sent to his ship, the Colorado, the following day.  His remains were later sent to Shanghai and from there to the United States.   
 
This American victory marked the first time that the stars and stripes were raised over Asian territory by force.  Admiral Rodger’s first dispatch explaining his actions of June 10th and 11th was sent from Corea (sic) on June 23, and received in Washington five days later:
 
Corea, June 23—To the Secretary of the Navy.—The Coreans not apologizing for the treacherous attack, on the 10th.  I landed on Kin Hoa and took and destroyed the lower fort and munitions.  On the 11th took another fort, and then stormed and captured the stronghold.  Five forts were taken; the troops are reported at eleven thousand.  There was desperate hand to hand fighting in the citadel.  The ordnance destroyed numbers four hundred and eighty-one pieces, principally small brass pieces; the small arms very many; fifty flags taken.  I counted two hundred and forty-three dead Coreans found in the citadel; our killed were three, the gallant Lieutenant McKee, the first in the citadel, by a bullet and spear; Marine Dennis Haurahan, and Landsman Seth Allen.  Our nine wounded are all out of danger and doing well.
                        [Signed]                      John Rodgers.
 
In his later, more in-depth report, he made the following comments concerning McKee’s actions:
 
The first of these little parties to enter the redoubt was led by Lieutenant McKee.  The Coreans (sic) resisted to the last, and, as the heroic McKee placed himself in front, he was pierced by a ball, which was followed up immediately by a spear wound in the side, which killed him.  So, he died a brave man and a gentleman, known and esteemed by many in Shanghai.
 
Rodgers closed his report with the following comment:
 
Among the honored dead whose loss we deplore is Lieutenant Hugh W. McKee, who, gallantly leading his men to the assault, fell mortally wounded in the center of the citadel, which he was the first to scale.
 
His memory is the more endeared to us because we knew him, and his gallantry will be cherished by all as a bright example to the service.
                                                           
John Rodgers
                                                Commander-in-Chief of the Asiatic Fleet.
 
Following the military operations of June 10-11, the Asiatic Squadron made a second attempt to sail up the Han River where they met with stiff resistance and returned to remain on-station off Jakyak Island until July 3rd, when it left for Chefoo, China. 
 
Although U. S. diplomacy and their tactical victory had failed to achieve its objectives, as the Koreans refused to open the borders of their country, these events led the Regent Daewon-gun to strengthen his policy of isolation and issue a national proclamation against appeasing all foreigners.  Then in 1876, Korea established a trade treaty with Japan after Japanese ships threatened to fire on Seoul.  Treaties with European countries and the United States soon followed.
 
The Battle of Ganghwa demonstrated growing U. S. military confidence, notably of amphibious warfare.  It also represented a collision between the New World of international trade, industry and global power and the Old World, with its centuries-old, inward-focused traditions.  Additionally, it sent the message that depredations against the United States and her citizens would incur severe military consequences.
 
The remains of Lieutenant Hugh McKee were returned to Lexington for burial.  Newspapers across the country reported on the similarities in the deaths of father and son, while leading a charge of their men, in a foreign country, both had first been shot and then killed by lance/spear.  Additionally, it was stating that Hugh’s death had shed new splendors on a name and family already illustrious for brave and heroic deeds.  “The blood of the son, like that of the sire, was poured for his country upon a foreign soil.” 
 
On August 24, 1871, Hugh Wilson McKee was laid to rest in the Lexington Cemetery.
 
Lieut. M’Kee’s Funeral.
An Imposing Ceremony at Lexington Yesterday.
 
Lexington, Ky., August 24.
 
Lieut. Hugh W. McKee, who was killed in an attack upon the Corean (sic) stronghold on the 11th of June, was buried here to-day with full military honors.  The ceremonies were conducted at the Presbyterian Church by the Rev. Mr. Birch, and concluded at the grave in the Lexington cemetery by the Rev. Mr. Shipman, of the Episcopal Church.  The procession, which was a mile in length, was headed by the regimental band of the Fourth United States Infantry, followed by the military escort.  Then came the hearse with pallbearers on each side; the colors of the regiment [Second Kentucky Foot Regiment] which was commanded by Col. W. R. McKee, the father of the deceased, in Mexico, were borne in the rear of the hearse by O. P. Beard, Capt. C. C. Morgan and Mr. George Gorham, all of whom served with Col. McKee in the Mexican War.  Then followed the members of the Lexington Chasseurs, an organization which existed here before the late war, and of which Lieut. McKee was a member.  Then came the carriages with the family and friends of the deceased, making altogether one of the most imposing funeral processions ever seen here.  Lieut. McKee was greatly beloved by this community, in which he was born and raised.  The demonstrations at his funeral were engaged in by all persons without regard to political differences.
 
Along with his body, trophies sent by his comrades to McKee’s mother included a breech-loading cannon, inscribed, “cast in Korea in 1684,” a musket called a ‘gingall,’ a musket ball proof helmet, a flag torn from the parapet of the Citadel. A gauze hat worn by the highest Korean officials and books found in the quarters of the Korean commander.  Today this collection is held by Transylvania University in Lexington.
 
As a result of their actions in the battles of the Korean forts, fifteen servicemen received Medal of Honor (see Appendix A).  This was the first time the Medal had been awarded for military action outside the United States.  Sadly, due to the regulation governing the awarding of the Medal of Honor at the time, Lieutenant Hugh W. McKee was ineligible for the Medal of Honor as an officer.  It would not be until 1917 that the regulation would change allowing officers to be considered for the Medal.  
 
Although he was engaged to be married to a lovely and accomplished young lady from Louisville, McKee never married and had no descendants.  McKee’s story and legacy have continued in the annuals of Naval history.  With the plaques at the Academy and three U.S. Navy ships which have been named USS McKee, in his honor (see Appendix B).  In his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky, in later years, VFW Post No. 667, would be named in his honor.
 
It was later written by a friend that McKee was even more happy in the relation of friend and comrade.  No man in the Navy attracted a larger share of the affection of those with whom he served.  His character as an officer commanded the respect of all, and his genial and generous spirit left none untouched who came within the charm of his presence.  His death brought to his comrades’ life-long grief and regret, and by it the Navy and the country lost the bright promise of a useful life.
 
Sources:
 
Beyer, Walter F. and Oscar F. Keydel.  Deeds of Valor.  Detroit, MI: The Perrien-Keydel Co.,
1901.
Commonwealth of Kentucky, Acts of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 1884.  Vol. 1, p. 222.
Commonwealth of Kentucky, Journal of the Regular Session of the Senate of the Commonwealth
of Kentucky, 1883, p. 1389.
Naval History and Heritage Command
Navsource.org: USS McKee.
Report of Commander E. P. McCrea, USN, June 14, 1871.
Secretary, U.S. Navy.  Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the Navy of the
United States . . .for the year 1853.  Washington, D.C.: C. Alexander, Printer, 1853.
Trowbridge, John M. Bivouac of the Dead A History of Kentucky’s War Memorial.  Frankfort, KY:
2017.
U.S. Naval Academy Graduates’ Association.
U.S. Naval Academy Register, Class of 1866.
U.S. Naval Historical Center, Online Library listing: Lieutenant Hugh W. McKee, USN (1844
1871)
Newspapers:
            The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY.
            Lexington [KY] Morning Herald.
New York Times.

Appendix A:
 
Medal of Honor Recipients – Korean Expedition of 1871
 
As a result of the Korean Expedition, a total of fifteen Medal of Honor were awarded (9 Navy and 6 Marines).  This was the first instance of United States awards for military action during foreign conflicts were awarded.  Due to the regulation governing the awarding of the Medal of Honor at the time, Lieutenant Hugh W. McKee was ineligible for the Medal of Honor as an officer.   
 
Ordinary Seaman John Andrews – U. S. Navy.
 
Citation: On board the USS Benicia in action against Korean forts on 9 and 10 June 1871. Stationed at the lead in passing the forts, Andrews stood on the gunwale on the Benicia’s launch, lashed to the ridgerope. He remained unflinchingly in this dangerous position and gave his soundings with coolness and accuracy under a heavy fire.
 
Corporal Charles Brown – U. S. Marine Corps.
 
Citation: On board the USS Colorado in action against a Korean fort on 11 June 1871. Assisted in capturing the Korean standard in the center of the Citadel of the Korean Fort, June 11, 1871.
Note:  Prior to the award of his Medal of Honor, Brown deserted in Shanghai in October 1871.
 
Private John Coleman – U. S. Marine Corps.
 
Citation: On board the USS Colorado in action at Korea on 11 June 1871. Fighting hand-to-hand with the enemy, Coleman succeeded in saving the life of Alexander McKenzie.
Note: Coleman served in the Union Army during the Civil War, he retired from the Navy in 1893.
Note: John Coleman, Frederick Franklin, Alexander McKenzie, Samuel F. Rogers, and William Troy attempted to save the life of Lieutenant Hugh McKee.
 
Private James Dougherty – U. S. Marine Corps.
 
Citation: On board the USS Benicia, attack on and the capture of the Korean Forts June 11, 1871, for seeking out and killing the commanding officer of the Korean Forces.
Note: Retired 22 August 1893.
 
Quartermaster Frederick Franklin – U. S. Navy.
 
Citation: On board the USS Colorado during the attack and capture of the Korean forts on 11 June 1871. Assuming command of Company D, after Lt. McKee was wounded, Franklin handled the company with great credit until relieved.
Note: John Coleman, Frederick Franklin, Alexander McKenzie, Samuel F. Rogers, and William Troy attempted to save the life of Lieutenant Hugh McKee.
 
Chief Quartermaster Patrick Henry Grace – U. S. Navy.
 
Citation: On board the USS Benicia during the attack on the Korean forts, 10 and 11 June 1871. Carrying out his duties with coolness, Grace set forth gallant and meritorious conduct throughout this action.
Note: Original name was Henry Patrick Grace.
 
Carpenter Cyrus Hayden – U. S. Navy.
 
Citation: On board the USS Colorado during the attack and capture of the Korean forts, 11 June 1871. Serving as color bearer of the battalion, Hayden planted his flag on the ramparts of the citadel and protected it under a heavy fire from the enemy.
 
Landsman William F. Lukes – U. S. Navy.
 
Citation: Served with Company D during the capture of the Korean forts, 9 and 10 June 1871.  Fighting the enemy inside the fort, Lukes received a severe cut over the head.
Note: During the assault on the forts, Lukes came to the assistance of injured Lieutenant Hugh McKee. He fought his way through heavy resistance to the fallen McKee’s location and refused to abandon him.  Through swordplay, bayonet charges and hand-to-hand combat Lukes received a severe sword cut to the head, a wound which would cause him to suffer convulsions for the rest of his life from the brain damage. When American reinforcements arrived, they found the unconscious Lukes had suffered 18 bayonet wounds in the fighting.   
 
Boatswain’s Mate Alexander McKenzie – U. S. Navy.
 
Citation: On board the USS Colorado during the capture of the Korean forts, June 11, 1871. Fighting at the side of Lt. McKee during this action, McKenzie was struck by a sword and received a severe cut in the head from the blow.
Note: John Coleman, Frederick Franklin, Alexander McKenzie, Samuel F. Rogers, and William Troy attempted to save the life of Lieutenant Hugh McKee.
 
Private Michael McNamara – U. S. Marine Corps.
 
Citation: While serving on board the USS Benicia, for gallantry in advancing to the parapet, wrenching the match-lock from the hands of an enemy and killing him, at the capture of the Korean Forts, June 11, 1871.
 
Landsman James F. Merton – U. S. Navy.
 
Citation: Landsman and member of Company D during the capture of the Korean forts, 9 and 10 June 1871, Merton was severely wounded in the arm while trying to force his way into the fort.
 
Private Michael Owens – U. S. Marine Corps.
 
Citation: On board the USS Colorado during the capture of Korean forts, 11 June 1871. Fighting courageously in hand-to-hand combat, Owens was wounded by the enemy during this action.
Note: Medically discharged in 1888.
 
Private Hugh Purvis – U. S. Marine Corps.
 
Citation: On board the USS Alaska during the attack on and capture of the Korean forts, 11 June 1871. Braving the enemy fire, Purvis was the first to scale the walls of the fort and capture the flag of the Korean forces.
Note: USS Purvis (DD-709) named in his honor.  Purvis Road on Marine Corps Base Quantico is named in his honor.
 
Quartermaster Samuel F. Rogers – U. S. Navy.
 
Citation: On board the USS Colorado during the attack and capture of the Korean forts, 11 June 1871. Fighting courageously at the side of Lt. McKee during this action, Rogers was wounded by the enemy.
Note: John Coleman, Frederick Franklin, Alexander McKenzie, Samuel F. Rogers, and William Troy attempted to save the life of Lieutenant Hugh McKee.
 
Ordinary Seaman William Troy – U. S. Navy.
 
Citation: On board the USS Colorado during the capture of the Korean forts, 11 June 1871. Fighting at the side of Lt. McKee, by whom he was especially commended, Troy was wounded by the enemy.
Note: John Coleman, Frederick Franklin, Alexander McKenzie, Samuel F. Rogers, and William Troy attempted to save the life of Lieutenant Hugh McKee.

 
Appendix B:
 
U.S. Navy Ships Named in Honor of Lieutenant Hugh Wilson McKee
 
The name of Lieutenant Hugh McKee continued in the annals of United States Naval history with the naming of three ships in his honor.
 
The first USS McKee (Torpedo Boat No. 18/TB-18) a Dahlgren-class torpedo boat was laid down on 11 September 1897 by Columbian Iron Works, Baltimore, Maryland, launched 5 March 1898; sponsored by Mrs. William H. Humrichouse; and commissioned 16 May 1898, Lieutenant C. M. Knepper in command.
 
McKee underwent sea trials in Chesapeake Bay and then sailed to New York to assume coastal defense duties during Spanish-American War.  Reassigned to Torpedo Station Newport, Rhode Island, the coal‑burning torpedo boat operated along the New England coast until returning to New York 13 December 1903, where she decommissioned 22 December 1903.
 
Eight months later, 6 August 1904, she recommissioned and steamed back to Newport. From 1907 to 1910 she operated from New York, then was assigned special duty in the reserve at Newport.  On 29 January 1912 she arrived New York and decommissioned.  Struck from the Navy list 6 April 1912, McKee was towed to Norfolk and used as a target.  On 24 September 1920 she was ordered sunk near Craney Island, an order carried out later that fall.
 
USS McKee (DD-87) a Wickes-class destroyer, the second ship named for Hugh W. McKee, was laid down 29 October 1917 by Union Iron WorksSan FranciscoCalifornia, launched 23 March 1918, sponsored by Mrs. J. Tynan, and commissioned 7 September 1918, Lieutenant Commander W. H. Lee in command.  Following a west coast shakedown, McKee sailed from Mare Island 13 September 1918, transited the Panama Canal the 27th, and reported for duty with Destroyer Flotilla 5 at New York 2 October.  In this late phase of World War I, short coastal sailings preceded her departure from Hampton Roads 28 October as a convoy escort.  Upon her arrival in the Azores 5 November she was assigned to a returning convoy and entered New York Harbor 2 December.  Early in 1919 she steamed to Guantanamo BayCuba, for fleet exercises from 26 January to 4 April.  A number of voyages from Key WestFlorida, to HalifaxNova Scotia, kept her crew well trained prior to her reporting Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 13 December to be placed in reduced commission.
 
From July 1921, McKee based first at Newport, Rhode Island, then at Charleston, South Carolina, and in the aftermath of the Washington Disarmament Conference proceeded to Philadelphia in April 1922.  Decommissioning 16 June 1922, she was struck from the Navy list 7 January 1936 and sold to Boston Iron & Metal Company, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland, for scrapping.
 
USS McKee (DD-575) was a Fletcher-class destroyer, the third ship of the United States Navy to be named for Lieutenant Hugh W. McKee.
 
McKee was laid down 2 March 1942 by Consolidated Steel Corp., Orange, Texas; launched 2 August 1942, sponsored by Mrs. Richard A. Asbury, cousin of Lieutenant McKee; and commissioned 31 March 1943, Commander J. J. Greytak in command.
 
After shakedown off Guantanamo Bay, McKee departed Norfolk, Virginia on 6 July 1943 for the Pacific in company with Yorktown.  Transiting the Panama Canal, the ships sailed into Hawaiian waters 24 July for a 3-month training period.  Ordered to join Task Force 53 (TF 53) in the South Pacific, McKee arrived New Hebrides on 4 November, but was diverted to help cover a convoy retiring from newly invaded Bougainville Islands in the Solomon Islands.  During heavy air attacks the night of the 8th McKee's 20-mm guns splashed two enemy planes, the second after it had released a torpedo which passed beneath the ship.  Refueling at Florida Island 10 November she guarded carriers for a successful air strike against the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul, New Britain.  The following afternoon the enemy lost over 50 planes in a retaliatory strike against the retiring ships.  McKee accounted for one Mitsubishi G4M "Betty".
 
On 12 November, she at last reported to TF 53, now en route for the invasion of the Gilbert Island.  She screened the larger combatant ships off Tarawa from 19 November-7 December, then withdrew to the Ellice Islands.
 
On 1 January 1944, she steamed into Pearl Harbor to prepare for the invasion of Kwajalein scheduled for 31 January.  On station that date she bombarded adjoining Enubuj and provided close fire support.  Screening and bombardment assignments continued until 3 February, when she began two escort missions to Guadalcanal terminating at Efate, New Hebrides.  McKee sortied with TF 37 on 15 March and participated with its battleships 5 days later in the diversionary shelling of Kavieng, New Ireland.  The destroyer next covered the initial landings on Humboldt Bay, New Guinea on 23 April, and then escorted resupply convoys to the various beachheads of the Hollandia operation.
 
In May and June, she prepared in the Solomons and the Marshall Islands for the invasion of the Marianas.  She sortied from Eniwetok on 17 July with Task Group 53.18 (TG 53.18). Scheduled fire commenced on the 21st in Agana Bay, Guam, as 3rd Marine Division went ashore. Lying close enough offshore to see pillboxes and trenches, McKee delivered close support fire through 4 August, when she retired with a group of carriers to New Hebrides.
 
The need for an intermediary base and airfield for the recapture of the Philippines led to the bombardment and seizure of Morotai in the Moluccas beginning on 15 September.  Meeting only light opposition, McKee and her force soon sailed back to Humboldt Bay, a staging area for Leyte.  By mid-October, over 700 vessels were underway to see the 6th Army safely ashore. On 20 October, as McKee approached her designated area in Leyte Gulf, two natives paddled out from Samar.  Their information enabled the ship to destroy two camouflaged landing barges, a tug, and an ammunition dump.  That same night she departed with a convoy of LSDs for Humboldt Bay.  A series of new convoy missions brought McKee to San Francisco, California on 15 November.
 
On 10 January 1945, she sailed for Ulithi where she joined the Fast Carrier Task Force (then TF 58) on 7 February for strikes against the Japanese home islands.  The task force's planes struck Tokyo on 16, 17, and 25 February, hitting Iwo Jima in between, in raids so destructive and successful that the enemy failed to retaliate against the carriers or their screen.
 
They returned a month later for strikes, beginning on 18 March, against Kyushu to reduce airborne resistance to the Okinawa landings set for 1 April.  This raid encountered much resistance as Kamikazes managed to penetrate the combat air patrol and antiaircraft fire to reach the formation.  This time, McKee found pilots to rescue, numbers of live targets for her antiaircraft guns, and submarine contacts for two depth charge runs.
 
Air attacks increased in intensity beginning 6 April as this force of the 5th Fleet sought to protect the Okinawa invasion force against a fanatically resistive enemy.  On the 14th, while McKee patrolled on picket duty, four planes made runs on her.  She splashed one and severely damaged another.  The third crashed 50 feet off her starboard bow, while the fourth missed her and crashed into Hunt.  Three days later she shot down an A6M Zero attempting to crash her.  On 21 April, she bombarded Manimi Daito Shima.  At the end of the month TG 58.1 retired to Ulithi for a 9-day replenishment and rest period.
 
Once underway again McKee's carriers struck Kyūshū on 13 May, then followed an alternating pattern against the enemy in his home islands and on Okinawa.  Meanwhile, 28 May, McKee joined Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s 3rd Fleet.  Eight days later, a typhoon with winds reaching 110 knots threatened to be more damaging than the Japanese.  Skillful seamanship brought McKee through with only minor damage.
 
Repaired and overhauled at Leyte, she joined TG 38.1 on 9 July off the Japanese coast.  On the 30th, along with six other destroyers, she made the closest penetration of Japanese home waters up to that time as they swept into Suruga Wan to shell an aluminum plant and railroad yards at Shimizu, Honshu.  Despite the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and rumors of peace, airstrikes continued against the Tokyo area until 0900 15 August, when Japan capitulated. The day before the official ceremony on board Missouri, McKee turned homeward.  She escorted Wasp to Eniwetok. then steamed to Pearl Harbor where she joined TG 11.6 bound for the east coast.  McKee arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, on 16 October, decommissioned there on 25 February 1946, and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
 
McKee was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 October 1970.  She was sold on 2 January 1974 and broken up for scrap.
 
McKee received 11 battle stars for World War II service.

 
Appendix C:
 
Kentucky State War Memorial
 
In 1884, the Kentucky Legislature passed legislation to place addition names on the State Monument, adding the names of three naval heroes.  Lieutenants McKee, Talbott, and Foree.  The following is taken from the Journal of the Regular Session of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 1883, p. 1389.
 
. . .Mr. Julian offered a resolution, which was adopted, providing for the inscription of the name of Lieutenants McKee, Talbott and Foree upon the State monument in Franklin [Frankfort] Cemetery.  He spoke in support of the resolution as follows:
 
Mr. Speaker—I hold in my hand the official reports of the Secretary of the United States Navy, showing how nobly these three young Kentuckians died.  Eminent worth, noble deeds, and heroic manhood, wherever found, claim the gratitude of the people and merit the recognition of government.
 
Amid the rush of business and intensely practical spirit of to-day, I fear Kentucky has failed too often to pause and pay tribute to her worthy sons.  I fear she has neglected too long to mark even the grave of many of her distinguished dead with endearing emblems of her veneration and love.
 
There may be nothing in a name, but the love of reputation, the smile of approval, the plaudit “well done,” whether it comes from the mother to her prattling boy, or the teacher to his pale-faced student, or from the State in crowns for the head of genius, titles for public service, medals for worthy deeds to the living or monuments for heroes dead, still it is the grandest stimulant to splendid achievements in  all the walks of life which was ever offered to any people.
 
 I believe if public prizes had not stirred Athenian talent and Spartan valor, they had never made their States illustrious.  If Roman triumphs had not awaited their victorious Generals, a Caesar or Scipio had never carried the terror of their arms abroad.
 
If the “man of destiny” had not heard France exclaim “vive la Napoleon!” he had never been the world’s greatest General.
 
If the English Government had not offered the title of “Lord” for distinguished worth, her statesman had never spread the prowess of that little island from the rising to the setting sun.
 
So every Government, every State should recognize the highest order of talent, genius, heroism, and nobility of character in a tangible form.
 
I would have Kentucky stimulate the pride and virtuous emulation of her people by a judicious system of rewards, prizes, badges of honor, and medal of distinction tendered at the hands of the State on all proper occasions, as a token of her gratitude for signal virtues.
 
It is in this spirit, Mr. Speaker, that I have offered the resolution.  Let the names of these three young patriots be inscribed on the State’s monument, alongside her brilliant roll of honor, that the world may see there still slumbers in the bosom of our manhood that a sublime old sentiment, “Dulect et decorum est pro patria mori.”
 
No. 56.
 
JOINT RESOLUTION providing for inscription of the names of Lieutenants McKee, Talbott, and Foree upon the State Monument in the Frankfort Cemetery.
           
WHEREAS, Grateful recognition from the State of gallant conduct and distinguished public service of her sons is a just tribute of reward, as well as the greatest stimulus to heroic deeds; and inasmuch as it appears from the official reports of the Secretary of the U. S. Navy that Lieutenants Hugh Wilson McKee, John Gunnell Talbott, and Master Alford Foree, each a magnificent specimen of young Kentucky manhood, lost their lives in braving danger, with signal courage, while discharging their duty in the service of their country,
           
Resolved by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:
           
That the Auditor is hereby directed to draw his warrant upon the Treasurer in favor of the Governor for the sum of one hundred dollars, for the purpose of having the names, date, and cause of death, of each of said young officers inscribed upon the State Monument in the Frankfort Cemetery.
                                                                       
Approved May 12, 1884.
 
UNITED STATES NAVY
 
Lieut. John Gunnell Talbot,
Drowned at Kalihikai,
December 18, 1870.
Lieut. Hugh Wilson McKee,
Killed in Corea,
June 11, 1871.
Master Alfred Foree,
Drowned off Graytown,
April 12, 1872.
 
ALL IN THE PERFORMANCE OF DUTY.
 
With the addition of the names of McKee, Talbott and Foree, no other names have been inscribed on the State Monument.
 

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