Yorktown Resident Contributes to New Book About WWII Hero Dixie Kiefer

David Rocco, right, and Friends of the Mount Beacon Eight members, at the crash site of the Dixie Kiefer’s plane Credits: David Rocco

FISHKILL, N.Y. – When Yorktown resident David Rocco first heard of Capt. Dixie Kiefer, he knew his story needed to be told.

“He’s like a real life John Wayne,” Rocco said of the U.S. Navy officer who was so frequently injured in World War II that he was referred to by his peers as “The Indestructible Man.” That is also the title of Don Keith’s new book, which he self-published with the help of Rocco.

Indeed, in 1944, Kiefer survived two major naval battles­—Midway and Coral Sea—while second in command of the carrier USS Yorktown, and, in 1945, he survived two Japanese kamikaze attacks while commander of the carrier USS Ticonderoga. The latter attacks killed 144 men and injured 200. An explosion during the second kamikaze attack left Kiefer with 65 wounds from bomb shrapnel and a broken arm. Despite the injuries, he remained in command for 11 hours.

Sign Up for E-News

“He was hit with 65 pieces of shrapnel, he had a busted arm, yet he refused to leave the bridge until everybody else was taken care of and the fires were put out,” Rocco said.

According to legend, the crew of Ticonderoga said of Kiefer, “He’s got so much metal in him the ship’s compass follows him when he walks across the deck.”

For his bravery and ingenuity during the kamikaze attacks, Kiefer received the Distinguished Service Medal from Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal, who coined the term, “The Indestructible Man.”

“Once I started to research Dixie Kiefer’s background, it was just mind-boggling that this guy was never mentioned,” Rocco said, puzzled as to why Kiefer is not as revered as other World War II heroes.

On Nov. 11, 1945, nearly a year after the attack on Ticonderoga, Kiefer was killed when his Navy transport plane crashed on Mount Beacon in the town of Fishkill. The crash killed five other Navy officers.

Coincidentally, there was also another plane crash in virtually the same location 12 years earlier on Sept. 14, 1935. Two Navy officers were killed in that crash.

The Friends of the Mount Beacon Eight often take hikes up to the 1945 crash site, where they have placed an American flag, a New York State flag and a U.S. Navy flag. A framed New York Times article from 1945 is also nailed to a tree, to educate hikers about the importance of the location.

“There’s still several pieces of the plane there to this day,” Rocco said.

For years, Rocco has wanted to tell Kiefer’s story to a wider audience, and use that biography to tie together the two plane crashes. He was often troubled by how few people in the area had ever heard of “The Indestructible Man.” “I love forgotten history, and it really, really bothered me that eight people died near there that very few people know about and were serving our country,” Rocco said. “I just felt like there were family members out there that would enjoy seeing one of their loved ones long forgotten remembered in some capacity.”

The idea of a book detailing Kiefer’s life remained in the back of Rocco’s mind for quite some time, but, being a carpenter by trade, he didn’t think he was the right man to write it.

“If I could get somebody else who could do a better job than me, I’m going to hire that person,” he said.

One day, Rocco needed a ride home from the Peekskill train station and decided to call his friend. His friend agreed, but told Rocco he needed to stop at BJ’s Wholesale Club on Crompond Road on the way there.

While in BJ’s, Rocco made his way over to the book section and purchased two books: “Undersea Warrior” and “The Ship That Wouldn’t Die,” both written by Don Keith. At home, Rocco began reading the author’s notes inside the book and noticed that Keith had written 30 books, 12 of which were about the Navy.

Rocco had found his guy.

“I sent him an email, described just about everything but without the specifics. I wanted to protect my idea,” Rocco said. “In less than three hours he wrote back to me: ‘I like what I hear, but I need more.’”

Rocco obliged and sent Keith everything he knew about Kiefer and the two plane crashes.

“He wrote back within the hour and said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Rocco said.

Rocco said he and Keith have an unusual partnership.

“We’ve never met each other, we still haven’t spoken on the phone and we never signed a contract,” he said.

The self-published book, “The Indestructible Man: The True Story of World War II Hero ‘Captain Dixie’” went on sale July 2 and can be purchased at book stores or online.

Rocco recently lead a lecture on Kiefer and the Mount Beacon Eight at the Putnam History Museum.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Here's What You Missed Last Week

Last week, the Daily News ran a headline, “When is our father coming home?” This dealt with a person here illegally, married to an American woman with a family, who was arrested at an Army base while delivering pizza. You are supposed to think that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), under Trump, is tearing families apart. As usual, it was a crock of cow pies. It was ...

Remembering Bobby Kennedy

I’m not the type of person who is prone to hero worship. Witnessing people screaming hysterically during rock concerts never sat well with me. Yes, I did see many a great group (the Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, the Who, the Doors), yet my demeanor was always one reflecting inner peace rather than extreme exuberance.

I was offered tickets to Woodstock (yes, originally you needed ...

Competing—Against Yourself

This is the time of year when students are recognized at public ceremonies for notable achievements in their studies, their sports and in their extracurricular pursuits.

Where we live, there are awards in various sports that are named for our son, who also is memorialized by town ballfield Harrison Apar Field of Dreams and a charitable foundation of the same name.

Due to a rare dwarfism, ...

I Come from the Land Down Under

I know this is a family column, so I’m going to put this in as delicate terms as possible.

This morning I woke up and I knew, as sure as the sun shines over Bora Bora, that something was very, very wrong in that place in my body where the Bora Bora sun doesn’t shine.

It’s that place I used to refer to my daughter as her hoo-hoo. But it certainly wasn’t a happy ...

Andy’s at It Again

June 13, 2018

A couple of years ago, I wrote to question why Andy wasn’t citing his sources when he flings dirt at any Democrat he wants to malign.

Well, he’s at it again. In the latest iteration, he tells us that Obama was responsible for putting a spy in the Trump campaign. He then repeats himself three more times to emphasize his point, but gives no proof or evidence to back up the ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, June 20

Yorktown Heights Fire Station 1, Yorktown Heights

Yorktown Heights Fireman's Carnival

Arts & Entertainment Giving Back Other Police & Fire


Thu, June 21

Navajo Field, Yorktown Heights

2018 Kickball Registration is Open! Meet, Greet ...


Thu, June 21, 7:00 PM

NY-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, Cortlandt Manor

Book Club for Women with Cancer

Health & Wellness

Yorktown Youth Soccer Club Results

June 15, 2018

Sunday, June 10  - The Yorktown Crew clinched the Westchester Youth Soccer League JV-1 Division with a 4-3 win over Rivertown FC on Sunday. The team has been on a remarkable run for the past 2 seasons with a team record of 16-1-1. Sunday’s matchup vs Rivertown had a championship like atmosphere as Rivertown trailed Yorktown by 1 point in the standings. The Crew worked hard all week in ...