O’KEEFE John Harris 427723

LEST WE FORGET

Warrant Officer John Harris O’KEEFE

Service No: 427723
Born: Boulder WA, 30 August 1915
Enlisted in the RAAF: 13 September 1942
Unit: No. 454 Squadron
Died: Air Operations (No. 454 Squadron Baltimore aircraft FW740), Italy, 12 April 1945, Aged 29 Years
Buried: Argenta Gap War Cemetery, Italy
CWGC Additional Information: Son of John and Rosalie O’Keefe; husband of Coral O’Keefe, of Boulder, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 105, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

In the face of aerial onslaught against its communications and supplies (German General) Kesselring’s forces were ill prepared when the Eighth Army struck on the Senio River front on the afternoon of 9th April. There had been no preliminary tell-tale aerial or artillery bombardment, but at the very moment of attack heavy bombers appeared with clock-work precision to drench enemy positions with a fearsome rain of bombs. The medium, light and fighter-bombers followed to attack pinpoints such as gun positions, strongpoints and battalion headquarters in the enemy defence lines. New Zealand and Polish troops crossed the Senio and by 12th April had reached the Santerno River, while on the 14th the Fifth Army started a complementary offensive towards Bologna. Day and night air attack gave the enemy no rest, fighter-bomber targets shifting steadily from the Santerno to the Sillaro River as the attack opened on the Argenta gap. Once the Argenta gap had been forced with the aid of determined but costly close -support attacks by the fighter-bombers between 17th and 19th April the enemy positions at Bologna were threatened from two directions and American troops of the Fifth Army and Polish troops of the Eighth Army entered the city. With Ferrara also threatened the Germans had no practical alternative but a general withdrawal across the Po River.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Page 356

On 12 April 1945 Baltimore FW40 was shot down by anti-aircraft fire over Portonouvo, Italy. The crew members of FW740 were:

Pilot Officer Colin Ware Evans (421797) (Pilot)
Flying Officer Errol Johnston (412316) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer Edwin George Murphy (425721) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer John Harris O’Keefe (427723) (Navigator)

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/31/356