Unlike most volunteers, James Alfred Keating was a married man when he joined the United States Air Service in 1917. After successfully completing flight training and receiving a commission, he was sent to England for additional instruction as a bomber pilot attached to the Royal Flying Corps. In June 1918, Keating was assigned to 49 Squadron as a D.H.9 pilot. Two months later, he and his observer were credited with five victories in two days of aerial combat. They scored their first victory over a Pfalz D.III on the morning of 8 August 1918. The following day, returning from a successful bombing mission against the bridge at Falvey, they shot down four Fokker D.VIIs in a running battle that lasted twenty minutes. For this action, Keating and his observer were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
For gallantry and skill. On 9 August 1918, he bombed Falvy Bridge from 1,000 feet obtaining a direct hit. The formation was attacked on its way home by 25-30 EA and a running fight ensued to our lines. Lt. Keating showed exceptional coolness and judgement, and by skilful flying, enabled his observer to shoot down two EA in flames over Marchélepot and Ablaincourt. Two more EA were shot down by the formation and seen to crash in the vicinity of Soyecourt. His machine was so badly shot about that he was forced to land in the shell crater area. On 8 August , after bombing Bethencourt Bridge from 800 feet, obtaining a direct hit, he found seven Pfalz scouts attacking his formation from the rear. He maneuvered for position, enabling his observer to shoot down one in flames over Bethencourt. On 17 July , he bombed Passy Bridge from 500 feet, destroying it just as a column of transport was passing. He then opened machine gun fire on the troops in the vicinity, causing many casualties and great disorder. He has taken part in many successful bomb raids and his excellent example of coolness and courage in action is of the greatest service to his squadron.
Supplement to the London Gazette
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to James Alfred Keating, First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action in the skies over France during the months of July and August, 1918. On August 9, 1918, Lieutenant Keating bombed Falvy Bridge over 1,000 feet, obtaining a direct hit. On returning, his formation was attacked by enemy planes and a running fight ensued. By skillfully flying with exceptional coolness he enabled his observer to shoot two planes down in flames. On August 8, 1918, after bombing Bethincourt Bridge over 800 feet, obtaining a direct hit, he found 7 enemy planes attacking his formation from the rear. By maneuvering for position he enabled his observer to shoot one down in flames over Bethincourt. On July 17, 1918, he bombed Passy Bridge over 500 feet, destroying it just as a column of transport was passing. He then opened machine-gun fire on the troops in the vicinity, causing many casualties and great disorder. His exceptional courage and splendid bravery were a constant inspiration to the members of his command.