Philip Allen Keith, Purple Heart Recipient, POSER , Blog of Shame


01/30/2014 by militaryphonies

The Order of the Purple Heart 
 By Phil Keith
I received my first Purple Heart a few days after I was blown out of the sky just south of Hanoi on an otherwise bright and sunny July day in 1972. My F-4 Phantom had just been the unwelcome target of a surface to air missile (one of eight that came my way that morning). Somehow, I managed to get my shredded aircraft back to the aircraft carrier I had left scant minutes before to fly a flak suppression mission.
Several pieces of shrapnel tore through the bottom of my jet. One clipped my right knee cap destroying most of it. Another piece flew up inside my flight helmet, buzzed around my scalp a few times before planting itself in my skull beside my right ear. How I got that blasted plane back on the flight deck I’ll never know. I passed put from loss of blood after it skidded to a stop. I woke up three days later on the USS Sanctuary, a hospital ship cruising in the South China Sea, a Purple Heart pinned to my pillow. Six months of rehab and the best care anyone could ask for and I was once again fit for duty.
I received my second Purple Heart two years later, in 1974, while on an intelligence mission with a Marine Recon patrol just south of Hue. I was attached, at the time, to MACV staff in Saigon and we were working on a nasty piece of business you don’t really want to know about called the Phoenix Program. (If you really want to know, Google it.) During the middle of a furious firefight that I had no business being in, an AK-47 round tore through my chest just above the margin of my flak vest (they weren’t as good in those days). It clipped the top lobe of my right lung, missed my spine by a mere millimeter and blew a 50-cent piece sized hole in my back as it went on to strike the guy behind me in the elbow.

Phil Keith Biography

Phil has a degree in History from Harvard and has done Masters work at the Naval War College and Long Island University. After graduation from Harvard Phil went directly into the Navy and became a Naval Aviator. During three tours in Vietnam Phil served with distinction and was awarded, among other decorations, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Air Medal, the Purple Heart, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. After his wartime service he rose to the rank of Captain in the Naval Reserves. As a business executive he worked for two Fortune 500 firms holding several senior positions in sales and marketing. He was also a COO and CEO for four start-up technology firms specializing in the sales and marketing of high-end software products.
In 1999 Phil was selected for the Executive in Residence Program at Long Island University’s Business Division and for the next six years taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in business at LIU, Southampton. In 2007 Phil accepted an assignment to teach business topics at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence where he still teaches today. As part of his teaching duties he completed and published a primer on successful selling entitled “SALES: The Best Damn Job in Corporate America.”
Phil is a columnist for the Southampton Press, a feature writer for 
magazines, and has published two fictional novels, “Animus” and a sequel, “Belladonna.”
Phil has authored two major non-fiction works under contract to St. Martin’s Press. The first is a Vietnam book entitled “Blackhorse Riders,” and is the story of Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, the 11th Armored Cavalry and a battle and rescue operation that took place in March, 1970. It is one of the most exciting stories of heroism to come from that war. “Blackhorse Riders” was released by St. Martin’s in February, 2012. “Blackhorse Riders” was the winner of the USA Book News Military History book-of-the-year for 2012; a finalist for the 2013 Colby Award and won the 2013 Silver Medal for History from the Military Writer’s Society of America. The second book is entitled: “Fire Base Illingworth” and re-tells the harrowing story of a ferocious battle in the middle of the jungle in Vietnam in April, 1970, where a forward-operating Army fire base is nearly over-run and destroyed by a North Vietnamese Army regiment bent on killing or capturing every soldier. “Fire Base Illingworth” will be released by St. Martin’s Press on October 29, 2013.
In October, 2011, Phil completed a montage of the Harvard Alumni who have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor. The book, published by Create Space from Amazon, is entitled “Crimson Valor.” Seventeen Harvard alumni have earned the Medal of Honor (more than any other college or university other than West Point and the Naval Academy).
Phil has recently completed an original e-work entitled “Missed Signals,” which chronicles the events that led up to the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, in October, 2000. “Missed Signals” was published in July, 2013, under the Kindle Singles program and is also available in print form from Create Space. ; ;;

This Ain’t Hell Blog;

8 thoughts on “Philip Allen Keith, Purple Heart Recipient, POSER , Blog of Shame

  1. Paul says:

    In fairness to Mr. Keith, has anyone contacted him for a comment?

  2. Paul says:

    Posted on May 31, 2014 10:41:00 AM PDT
    Captain Phil says:
    I do not know the identity of “Seaware41,” but I would like to. I have always felt that people should only be allowed to use their true identities in forums such as this. I have reported this comment as “abuse” but until it is taken down or altered, I want to tell anyone who is interested that I stand by my DD-214, my honorable discharge, my Vietnam service and the decorations I have cited, all of which are contained therein. I would also like to add that I am “Service connected-disabled” due to Agent Orange and currently receiving treatment for same from the VA. Kinda hard to fake that.

    In reply to an earlier post on Jun 1, 2014 12:18:40 PM PDT
    Last edited by the author 4 hours ago
    Seaware41 says:
    How is this abuse? I simply googled your name. You should know the sites I mentioned have been sued many times and have *never* lost. Not one phony outed has ever been a mistake. I suggest you contact them if you think you might be the first one to force them to apologize. Oh yeah ” Captain” is also not your true identity.

    In reply to an earlier post on Jun 1, 2014 12:59:31 PM PDT
    Captain Phil says:
    I will forward copies of my DD-214 and my VA disability award letters to any legitimate entity that has a question on my service record–except you: you are not legitimate until you have the courage to identify yourself.

  3. Paul says:

    I have been searching the Internet for the story on his first Purple Heart, but so far UTL. Can anyone direct me to the original site?

  4. Scotty H. says:

    Paul, I have it in pdf format. If you will send us your e-mail, I'll send the article to you. I'll keep your e-mail hidden from comments.

    • I commanded C/2/8, 1st Cav Div (AM) as Keith wrote about in both of his books, Black Horse Riders, and FB Illingworth. I declined to contribute to either of the books. I would greatly appreciate a copy of any documentation concerning PKs’s service. I can be found on the internet at email directly to

  5. RiosCountToo says:

    It’s interesting that this “F-4” pilot never mentioned his RIO in his write-up. I guess he dodged the other 7 missiles by himself. Maybe he flew this supposed flak mission without a RIO. Given that it is coming out that guy was most-likely a P-3 back-seater, you’d think he would recognize a team effort. Just two months before this purported event happened, the first American ACEs of the Vietnam War were declared. Note the RIO was also considered an ACE as part of the F-4 team. See Note also this “pilot” did not mention any wingman. Maybe he didn’t need a wingman either. It’s interesting the two ACEs mentioned above flew off the USS Constellation (Fighter Squadron 96). This will be a subject of interest in future blog entries.

  6. rforsland says:

    His 2nd PH was in a Phoenix Program operation with MACV personnel in 74..MACV was disestablished in 73 and the phoenix program ended in 72. The devil is in the details

  7. paulm5545 says:


    In continuing its mission to take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year, the Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to Vietnam War Veteran Phil Keith by flying an American Flag in his honor throughout the month of May.

    “The district is proud to honor Mr. Keith for his bravery and service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen.

    Mr. Keith was honored at ceremony at Hampton Bays Elementary School on May 20. During the event the Hampton Bays Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade chorus performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Welcome Home,” composed by John Jacobson and Mac Huff. Middle School student Simone Scotto read the poem, “A Nation’s Strength” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The ceremony culminated with the raising of the flag on the district’s new flagpole, which was donated by the American Legion Hand Aldrich Post 924.

    Mr. Keith was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1946 and grew up in East Longmeadow. Following graduating high school in 1964, Mr. Keith attended Harvard University, where he joined the Navy ROTC and earned a full scholarship for the next three years of college.

    Upon graduating Harvard in 1968, Mr. Keith was commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy. He trained on several vessels, including both diesel and nuclear-powered destroyers and submarines. Despite being underwater so much, it was the air that caught his imagination. He applied and was accepted into the Navy Flight School in Pensacola, Florida.

    Flight training was a grueling 14 months and consisted of learning to fly a prop driven T-34 training aircraft and Lockheed F-9. Following this, Mr. Keith enrolled in advanced flight training, where he flew the iconic McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. In the F-4, he qualified to take off and land on aircraft carriers, including as the USS Lexington. In August 1969, he graduated flight school and earned his gold aviator’s wings. Keith was soon assigned to a combat fighter squadron, which was in need of a legal officer, and subsequently sent back to school in Newport, Rhode Island to study for the position.

    In November 1969, he was reassigned to the “Fighting Falcons,” the squadron VF- 96 aboard the USS Constellation off the coast of Tonkin in Vietnam. During his station, Mr. Keith and his fellow pilots flew “close air support missions,” flying protective cover planes going into and coming out of North Vietnam on bombing raids.

    In the early 1970s, and on his second tour of Vietnam, Mr. Keith was flying his 272nd mission when a North Vietnamese missile hit his F-4. Keith and his weapon systems officer were both badly wounded and the F-4 was badly damaged. One engine was destroyed and there was a loss of flight control. Mr. Keith, however, managed to fly the crippled jet back to the carrier. He was awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries and the Distinguished Flying Cross for saving the life of his weapons systems officer and managing to maneuver the plane back to the carrier.

    For the next six months, Mr. Keith recuperated in Hawaii and worked as a legal officer. He also wrote several articles for local papers about universities removing ROTCs from their campuses due to the unpopularity of the Vietnam War. The articles caught the attention of the Navy “top brass” and Keith was assigned to work in the admiral’s office before requesting to serve a third tour in Vietnam.

    If he spent 6 months in Hawaii recuperating from a July 1972 crash, that would put him with the admirals office until approximately January 1973. He was discharged from Active Duty approximately 3 months later, April 3, 1973.

    Although his injuries precluded him from flying an aircraft with an ejection seat he didn’t stop flying. Instead he transitioned to the Lockheed EP-3, an aircraft used for surveillance and reconnaissance.

    He continued to serve in naval intelligence for another 14 years and retired after 24 years of active duty. After retirement, he worked for a software development company in Manhattan, ultimately as its vice president of marketing. After visiting the Hamptons one weekend, Mr. Keith later decided to purchase a home in Water Mill.

    After moving, he started a consulting company and served as the executive in residence at Long Island University. He also started writing books about WWI and WWII and two others about the war in Vietnam. He is currently writing a book about Eugene Bullard, the first African-American fighter pilot. He has three grown daughters, two live in Utah and one lives in Idaho. His 13-year-old son Pierce is an eighth-grader at Westhampton Beach Middle School.

Comments are closed.


Donate Button with Credit Cards