2nd Lt. Keith Hafen


BIOGRAPHY OF KEITH LELAND HAFEN   (August 20, 1921 to March 31, 1943)

by Richard & Marti Hafen

Keith was born in Santa Clara, Utah; the second of five children born to Elsie and "Coach" Lee Hafen. In 1928 when Keith was 7, his parents purchased the house on the southeast corner of 100 south and Main Street in St. George. During all of his formal education (elementary through Dixie College) Keith never had to walk more than a block to school. In 1939 when Keith was 18, construction began on what would be the family's new home next door. Keith and his father, along with the aid of a team of horses, excavated the basement for it.

Keith inherited from his father a love for athletics. He was first string on both Dixie High and Dixie College basketball teams from the fall of 1937 though March of 1941. Keith also inherited from his father, and mother as well, a love for horses and raising cattle. He entertained the idea of owning his own cattle ranch after completing his formal education, but that was soon to change. While attending Dixie College, he joined up with a group called the "Dixie Hell Cats". It was formed as part of the government trained reserve pilots of the United States. Under the watchful eye of instructors, each student learned to skillfully pilot an airplane. Keith had found his niche. Taking off from the "black hill" airport, he loved to fly over his father's grain and lucerne fields just south of the airport, dipping his wing to whomever was below.

With the onset of world War II, and having completed his education at Dixie College, Keith enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps (now the USAF) in January 1942. After a year of training as a co-pilot and now holding the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, Keith, his fellow crew members, and their B-17 bomber, nicknamed "Two Beauts", were assigned to North Africa. Enroute from the States, "Two Beauts" suffered mechanical difficulties and had to be put down in South America for several weeks to undergo extensive repairs. It was during this hiatis that the crew received a change in orders. They were now to be stationed in England, and it would prove fatal to most of the crew.

On Keith's second mission out of England, March 31, 1943, the primary target being the shipyards at Rotterdam, the Netherlands, "Two Beauts' collided in mid-air with another B-17 as the squadron climbed through heavy cloud cover over the vicinity of Wellingboro, U.K. In 1996 a memorial was erected at the crash site near Mears Ashly, U.K. Of the twenty airmen involved in the collision, fifteen were killed, including Keith. Initially, Keith was buried in Cambridge American Cemetery, England. In July 1948, his parents had their son's remains returned home. He was laid to rest on July 30, 1948 in the family plot at the St. George Cemetery. In his memory, as well as that of Garth Cottam, the St. George VFW Post on 100 South was renamed the Cottam Hafen Post. They were the first two local men to die in combat during WWII. Within London's St. Paul's Cathedral is the American Memorial Chapel. The chapel was dedicated in 1958 as a tribute by the British people to honor those American servicemen based in the British Isles during WWII. The Chapel houses the "Roll of Honour" which lists in alphabetical order the names of over 28,000 Americans who gave their lives in aiding the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland during that time. Each day a page is turned. Keith's name is among them.