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Cmdr. William Newby Kelt  
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In his memory:

Cmdr. William Newby Kelt
VFP-62 circa 1962-65

Updated: July 7, 1921

[Webmaster's Note: This page is under construction and will be updated as tributes from family, friends, and former Navy members are received. Contact Webmaster on the link below.]

    Memories and Tributes

  • (7/7/21)


    Commander William Newby Kelt (USN, ret.) passed away peacefully at home on May 6, 2021, after a lengthy illness. Newby was a beloved husband, father and friend. He was predeceased by his wife of 49 years, Dorothy Powell Kelt but had his beloved daughters, Patti Kelt and Marci Oehler (Scott) and granddaughters, Kelly Simcox (Kade) and Carrie Wilson (Steven) with him until his passing.

    He was born in Decatur, Georgia on October 6, 1928, to Audrey Paulette Newby and Jack Kelt. He attended Virginia Military Institute before he transferred to the University of Georgia. He joined the Navy as a fighter pilot in 1950. He married Dorothy Ann Powell in 1952.

    He was dedicated to Naval service and had a love of aviation, especially the RF-8A Photo Reconnaissance Crusader. He performed many important missions throughout his career. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross after flying a photo reconnaissance mission during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He served on the USS Kearsarge (VF-113) Enterprise (VFP-62), Forrestal (RVAH-12), and Shangri-La. Deciding against a promotion, and being stationed at the Pentagon, he accepted his final orders to navigate the Shangri-la out of Mayport NAS in 1969. He left the Navy after 20 years in 1971.

    He had a second career working in the City of Jacksonville Mayor's office with Hans Tanzler, Jake Godbold and Tommy Hazouri. He was Personnel Director and later, a Special Projects Administrator. When he retired from the City he and Dottie traveled throughout the United States visiting friends and family and having many adventures.

    He had many interests throughout his life. He was an avid fisherman, bird hunter and photographer. He made a kick-ass Bloody Mary, could whip up a great omelet and made many kinds of bean soup. He was a die-hard Georgia Bulldog in a house full of Lady Gators! He loved college football and said that watching golf encouraged good naps. He was a skilled storyteller, and it is speculated that he embellished more than a few. He used to recite poetry and break out into song to commemorate a moment. There was practically not a subject that he did not know something about or a problem he could not solve.

    He was the most amazing husband, father, grandfather, uncle, and friend. He was almost larger than life and we felt a shift in the force when he passed but he is woven into the fabric of our lives and will never be lost. He will be missed dearly until we are all together again. It was a wonderful life well lived and well loved. Peace be the journey with fair weather and following seas. The family would like to recognize the support provided by the staff at Heartland Hospice. We also had a team of wonderful caregivers whose help was invaluable and deeply appreciated. A dual interment of Newby and Dottie Kelt will be held at the Jacksonville National Cemetery on June 4 at 1:30PM.

  • Memories and Testimonies

  • (7/7/21) I never flew with Newby Kelt, but he made a lasting impression on me as he introduced me to the world of the photo Crusader. I was a young, naieve LtJG fresh out of flight training and Crusader training in VF-174. I didn't want to be a photo pilot, I wanted guns, bullets and missiles; I was convinced that I would be the Navy's hottest fighter pilot; the Navy Bureau of Personnel thought otherwise, I had orders to VFP-62.

    On the morning of 23 June 1964 I flew my last training flight in VF-174, packed my flight gear in a parachute bag, and very reluctantly made my way across the hangar deck to Fightin' Photo. I dropped off my orders in the Admin office and made my way to the ready room; not a friendly face in sight. The duty officer looked at my name tag and said-"Green, where the hell have you been? Get your gear down to the riggers, pick up a flight manual in operations, you're on the flight schedule first thing in the morning". I thought to myself-"Yeah, no time to waste, make this kid into a photo weanie". I picked up the flight manual and retired to the BOQ for a beer and to see what I could absorb about this somewhat strange looking Crusader.

    I arrived in the ready room early the next morning, poured a cup of coffee, and approached the duty officer to see who I was to fly with. He said, "You're flying with Newby". I assumed that he was confused; I was the "newbie". (New/young pilots in squadrons are often referred to as "newbies" or less respectfully as FNG's.) He glared at me and said-"You're flying with Lt.Cdr Newby Kelt". As I found a seat I muttered something about a first in the history of Naval Aviation---a Newby flying with a newbie.

    The brief with Newby was very professional but in a low key/relaxed atmosphere. Newby was 12 years older than the young kid; not quite enough to qualify as a father figure, but senior enough to command attention and respect. We headed for the flight line and manned our aircraft. I had started the engine and was buried deep in the cockpit of this flying instamatic when I felt a tap on the shoulder, it was the Lcdr. He pulled the side of my helmet from my ear and over the scream of the J-57 he said-"Podner, looks like my mount is down; can you handle this by yourself?" I nodded in the affirmative and he said-"Have a good time, son". He climbed off my aircraft and headed for the hangar. I sat in stunned silence-was there really something wrong with his aircraft? Why doesn't he climb into one of the other aircraft? Or, could this be his method of instilling confidence in the new kid? I was sitting in this RF-8A, a little shop worn around the edges, but never-the-less a supersonic fighter, and this Lt.Cdr. who occupied a spot just a little to the right hand of God had just told me to go have a good time. Perhaps this photo business may be OK.

    Shortly thereafter, Newby was off to other duties and I was off on my first deployment as a photo pilot; it was 48 years before I would see him again at a VFP-62 reunion. Initially, I was not sure he remembered me; but then I related the above story of my first RF-8 flight; he nodded and a subtle smile lit up his face. He never confessed, but I know damned well there was nothing wrong with that aircraft.

    William Newby Kelt--Naval Aviator, southern gentleman, patriot and great american--You may rest in peace Sir, we have the watch.

    Cmdr. Norm Green

  • Accidents and The Cuban Missile Crisis

    [From the Webmaster]: Lt. Cmdr. Newby Kelt was a legend in VFP-62. While researching my first book, "Blue Moon Over Cuba: Aerial Reconnaissance during the Cuban Missile Crisis," I found some interesting accidents he had during and after the crisis. On October 16, 1962, the first day of the crisis, Lt. Cmdr. Kelt was at the end of the the runway at NAS Cecil Field ready to take off in his RF-8A Crusader on a routine morning training mission. After a normal departure, Kelt was lowering his wing and increasing speed to about 300 knots when all of a sudden, he heard a loud "Bang" "Bang!" Immediately his instruments warned of an engine failure (later determined that his electrical generator tore itself apart and resulted in metal parts flung into the engine). He ejected and hurt his back on landing.

    Later in October 1962 Lt. Cmdr. Kelt was still dealing with a backache after his low-level ejection but returned to normal duty. He was the flight leader on a Blue Moon (codename for low-level photo recon) mission that was to penetrate the western edge of Cuba near the Isle of Pines. Kelt and his wingman were flying below 200ft at 500-520 knots, still over water, when he saw two very large birds off his starboard bow. At first he did not think they were a threat, so he did not warn his wingman. Abruptly, one of the birds, perhaps sensing the jet's shockwave, turned directly towards the Crusaders. As told by Kelt, "We were closing in on the birds at tremendous speed, and before I could evade them, one crashed into the right-quarter panel of my windshield with pieces of flesh and feathers (fortunately no glass) filling the cockpit." He told his wingman to terminate the mission and headed back to base. His required lower speed made him vulnerable to any loitering MiGs. He said, "It is a good thing they didn't go down the intake---for sure, I'd have lost the aircraft, at sea and in hostile territory."

    After the Cuban crisis, on April 16, 1963 during launch operations aboard the USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) his RF-8A was downed for an oil leak. Taxiing off the cat, his jet was hit broadside with the blasts of several A-4s ready for launch. His RF-8 started to slide on the slippery deck and nothing could stop it, including stearing, brakes, and a wheel chock hastely thrown under his jet. His doomed jet went over the side and he made another low-level ejection. Fortunately his chute opened, but he entered the water still in his seat. Fortunately, he was rescued by the ship's guard heliocopter. He spent several days in sick bay. His maintenance crews chided him, "Next time bring back the airplane."

    Lt. Cmdr. Kelt received the Distinguished Flying Cross with 11 other VFP-62 pilots for their critically important missions over Cuba during October-November 1962. VFP-62 received the Navy Unit Commendation presented by President Kennedy on November 29, 1962.

Lt. Cmdr. Kelt in water waiting for helicopter rescue.

In sick bay recovering from his accident, crew members show their affection and support.

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    Updated 3/9/18



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