Updated: Dec 16, 2019
It was 1953, in war devastated Inchon, a navy corpsman found a baby outside an infirmary building at the Army Service Command Post (ASCOM). Sick and emaciated, the infant was taken to Inchon Star of the Sea orphanage and the care of Sister Philomena, an Irish nun. Now she had an old friendship with Lt. (Father) Riley, the ship’s Chaplain and sent word asking the Captain for Father Riley’s assistance. Particularly so because this baby had blue eyes and looked Caucasian and biracial. Hence, she knew at the time for so many reasons, that the child had no future in Korea. As the Korean war was ended, the USS Point Cruz was doing movements in the Yellow Sea near Inchon, and skippered by American naval legend, John T. “Chick” Hayward. Now Captain Hayward, was an “old salt” having long before forged his father’s signature to enter the Navy around 15-16 years of age. "A little chick," as they called him, he, like Father Riley, were men of action, and the Chaplain was sent ashore to investigate. Father Riley returned and gave briefing to the Captain, who in turn ordered him back to secure documentation to bring the baby aboard. For Captain Hayward this was really a “profile in courage” moment or if you will, a career jeopardizing choice. But, this was a decision governed by his Christian worldview, and home experience being one of eight children, and teachings from Layola Catholic School of New York. The Captain was going to save a life and return him to the States where he might become adopted. Periodic visitations to the ship were arranged, and “Baby-san” was nick-named George Cruz Ascom. The sailors loved on him and ship morale soared. Viewing hours were sometimes announced for the flight deck and sailors would flock to look. Efforts to secure a passport languished on into the summer, and such was first needed before a visa for entry into the States could be considered or issued. With time moving in to November, a hospital ship makes the port scene, the USS Consolation. Certainly God’s timing and ways, are above ours. Off this ship, departed Lt Hugh Keenan, a surgeon, who also knew of Sister Philomena and went to see what supplies might be contributed? At this time, George was residing at the orphanage. Lt Keenan was introduced to the baby and became very moved and soon after, offered to adopt the baby and became part of the plan to get him out of Korea. You might say, this was the turning point for this little child, as the man who set out to adopt him was a "man among men." Meanwhile, efforts to gain a Korean passport were still stalled, and time was of essence, for the Point Cruz was under orders to depart December 1st. As the story goes, Captain Hayward ordered Father Riley back ashore with a bottle of prized Scotch and a mission to succeed. The drama story goes that with all resources at hand (likely prayer too) and a high stakes poker game, the passport was obtained! But a new obstacle arose as they were then getting no cooperation from the American Consulate to obtain the necessary visa for entry into the United States. Once more the sovereignty of the Lord shows through. Captain Hayward and Chaplain Riley are invited to an on- shore banquet in Seoul on November 14th, where in Vice President Nixon was being honored. Nixon hears the story of Baby George and the “red tape” obstacles for a visa. He is observed to speak into an aide’s ear. When Captain Haywood returned to the ship later in the evening, the long- sought visa for George was waiting for him! Lt Keenan, now in late November, had sent a letter to his wife telling of his actions and trusting for her consent to an adoption. He waited in suspense for a reply and reaction, and proceeded to make-arrangements for his baby son to travel in the care of Father Riley and return on a transport ship. He had informed his wife she would have a baby son by Christmas. In quick time she responded back, “Yes!” On December 12th 1953. Genevieve Keenan stood at dock-side in Seattle to receive her son.This was indeed a Christmas gift miracle baby. For you see, in the past few years she had lost three baby boys at birth. He was renamed into the Keenan family, Daniel Edward. The next spring Dr. Keenan finished his Naval tour and returned. From Seattle they relocated to the Mayo Clinic to complete residency, and later came to Spokane. Daniel grew up, attended WSU and married and had a family. Now you know briefly the story of: The Story of Navy’s Baby, The True George Cruz Ascom, as published in the book by Dan E. Keenan In 1993, a first reunion was held of the USS Point Cruz shipmates. Bill Powers the former hanger deck chief was determined to find and have Danny there. He stood up to introduce Danny and said, ”And now, gentlemen, after forty years, here is our baby.” He stood there crying as did all the others. Crew members gathered close to embrace, and shower him with tales of the great adventure. At a repeat reunion in 1996, Dan was finally able to meet “The Skipper”, then Vice Admiral Hayward and nearing 90. In 2009, Hugh Keenan passed in Walla Walla, Wa. Although there is no mention of what he did by adopting Dan in his obituary, if you take time to google and read the write-up, you will see how God picked an amazing father for Dan. God uses many people, organizations and works to His own accord!
(https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/name/hugh-keenan-obituary?pid=134548256) To learn more, visit: The Navy’s Baby, 2004 by Janet Mathews and Dan Keenan. Keenan’s life told in 1997 TV movie: A Thousand Men and a Baby. Now available on Amazon with revised title, “Narrow Escape”