Dan Keenan

“How do I thank you for my life? Without you men and your good captain, I wouldn’t be here. Not in this hotel, not in this country. And maybe not even on this earth.”


Father Riley looks on as Genevieve Keenan holds her new son in 1953. Keenan collection

Top left: Sailors aboard the Point Cruz made Keenan an honorary crew member: Infant Boy, First Class. Keenan collection

Top middle: Sister Philomena earned a reputation as a genuine saint and a feisty caretaker. Keenan met her again when he was 7: “She hugged me and I’m sure told Dad what a big boy I was now. Sister was a truly altruistic person whose daily life was simply devoted to God and helping those in need.” Keenan collection

Top right: Sailors aboard the Point Cruz built a makeshift nursery. They made diapers from sheets and a carriage from a bomb cart. Keenan collection

Bottom left: Keenan with John T. Hayward, the Skipper, in 1953. Hayward authorized Keenan’s stay on ship, declaring, “In an emergency, regulations are to be intelligently disregarded.” A former batboy for the New York Yankees, Hayward retired from the U.S. Navy as a decorated aviator and a vice admiral after 45 years. Keenan collection

Bottom right: Keenan with his sisters, Marny and Coleen, and his parents, Hugh and Genevieve. Lt. Hugh Keenan, a Navy surgeon, was the doctor aboard the U.S.S. Consolation. He first met his son on downtime in Korea, at the Star of the Sea Children’s Home in Inchon. Holding Danny for the first time, the elder Keenan said he “fell in love with the baby and decided to adopt.” Keenan collection

“Man, there’s a baby out there!” a Navy corpsman exclaimed one night in 1953, near the port city of Inchon. He’d spotted an emaciated infant wrapped in swaddling rags on the doorstep of a military infirmary.

The nun in charge of a nearby orphanage took one glance at his blue eyes and knew Dan Keenan would never survive: “He’s an American and he’s very sick,” she told the chaplain of an aircraft carrier docked at Inchon Harbor.

The skipper of the USS Point Cruz soon broke regulations to bring Keenan on board. The presence of “Baby-san” lifted the spirits of a thousand beleaguered sailors who helped nurse the baby back to health.

The nun, Sister Philomena, persuaded the ship’s chaplain to help find the baby a home in America. Just before Christmas, Genevieve Keenan of Spokane welcomed a new son—the child dubbed the Navy’s baby.

Nearly 65 years later, Keenan says he owes his life to the nun who knew a mixed-race child would be shunned in Korea; the skipper who gambled with his career; the priest who secured his passport and escorted him to the states; and his adoptive parents who gave him a life in Washington.