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Jacob Keyes
Biographical information


Date of birth

2494 or 2495[1]

Date of death

September 21, 2552, (aged 57)

Physical description




Hair color


Eye color



Command Neural Interface

Chronological and political information

Human-Covenant War

Notable Facts
  • Creator of the "Keyes' Loop" and "Air Brake Drop"
  • One of the only Navy Officers with an ODST tattoo
  • Part of the Proto-Gravemind on Alpha Halo


"Men like him will save us, you know. We need more like Keyes."
Admiral Preston Cole[2]

Captain Jacob Keyes (Service Number 01928-19912-JK) was one of the most brilliant tacticians in the UNSC Navy. He commanded great respect as a highly skilled strategist and inspirational leader to those under his command. His many decorations, thirty-five years of combat experience against the Covenant and ability to keep a secret made him an almost natural choice to command the UNSC Pillar of Autumn and its secret cargo. He could often be seen chewing the tip of his grandfather's pipe.[3] His service number was 01928-19912-JK.[4]




Early Career

Keyes was born on Earth and spent some time around the Pacific Ocean during his childhood. At some point in his life he read work by Elias Carver, but considered his view of the situation in the colonies to be pessimistic. It is likely that he attended a Officer Candidate School. During his second year of training, an incident occurred where fourteen ensigns were killed due to an instructor's error during a poorly planned test. Keyes suffered plasma burns during the test and had to be rehabilitated in a hospital for two months. Keyes refused to testify against the instructor and was nearly demoted for it. Keyes' stubbornness is what brought him to the attention of Dr. Halsey.[5]

In 2517, seven weeks out of the OCS, Lieutenant (J.G.) Keyes was assigned to the UNSC Magellan when those orders were rescinded and he was chosen to assist Dr. Catherine Halsey with her task of searching for usable subjects for her SPARTAN-II project. Keyes was chosen by Halsey for this assignment partly because he could "keep a secret". In order to fool anybody who was suspicious, they told them that they were looking for a school for their daughter, and the both of them began observing the chosen subjects for the program. The first child they chose was SPARTAN subject number 117: John. Later, he expressed doubts when Halsey actually let Soren-066 choose whether he wanted to become a Spartan, saying it was an "awful lot to lay on a child, even one who's grown up so fast."[6] Keyes never forgot this assignment or the names of each and every one of those children.

As Keyes slowly started learning of the true nature of the SPARTAN-II project, Dr. Halsey immediately sent him back to normal duty with a full Lieutenant commission [7]and he became an excellent strategist, especially when dealing with Covenant. Early in the Human-Covenant War, he became a foremost hero when he led a small group of security troops against a Covenant ambush of the frigate UNSC Meriwether Lewis and held the Covenant off long enough for the ship to escape. He sustained a deep gouging plasma burn to his thigh and had his hand shattered, which was later rebuilt.[8] He later toured on the Stealth Frigate UNSC Midsummer Night. He garnered many citations and years of combat experience against the Covenant during these tours. During one of these tours, Keyes went to Charybdis IX. There, he killed his first human being with a modified plasma rifle, during a riot.

Main article: Battle of Charybdis IX

Shortly after this confrontation, Charybdis IX was glassed by the Covenant. The Midsummer Night chased an Insurrectionist freighter, the Kestrel to the Rubble. Keyes took command of the Midsummer Night after his commanding officer, Dmitri Zheng was killed by a traitor of the command crew. He later fought in the Battle of the Rubble, and towed Habitat Exodus to Falaknuma, saving over a million human survivors from the Rubble. He was promoted to Commander by Preston Cole for this feat.[9].

He later taught at the OCS Academy. Some of the top brass at HIGHCOM disapproved of him and he got the nickname "Schoolmaster" from those detractors, who thought he didn't belong in command of anything but a classroom, if that.


Keyes eventually assumed command of the UNSC Iroquois in April of 2552. [10] In 2552, he foresaw a Covenant attack on Sigma Octanus IV thanks to a paper by SPARTAN-084. His actions resulted in the destruction of a Covenant Destroyer, two Covenant Frigates and the retreat of a Covenant Carrier with a daring maneuver dubbed the "Keyes Loop", all without a Ship A.I. to help him. This unprecedented victory against a Covenant force earned him a promotion to Captain and aided him to become recognized by the entire UNSC. Keyes and the Iroquois remained in the Sigma Octanus System to fight in the Battle of Sigma Octanus IV. Keyes' brilliance and hindsight allowed him to find out what the Covenant were up to, and intercepted a transmission beamed for a Covenant stealth ship to receive, saving Sigma Octanus IV again. He later returned to Reach (inadvertently disclosing the location of Reach to the Covenant via a homing beacon attached to the Iroquois) and was debriefed by an ONI council. Here he met SPARTAN-117 once again.

At Reach, Keyes was given an important mission by Rear Admiral Stanforth: to transport the SPARTAN super soldiers deep into Covenant space in order to capture a Prophet, who would then be used as ransom to end the Human-Covenant war. As part of this command, Keyes was given control over the Pillar of Autumn. Seconds before the Autumn left Reach for slipspace, the Covenant attacked Reach. His mission scrubbed, Keyes offloaded most of the Spartans to the surface of the planet and sent three to Reach Station Gamma. He then tried to aid in the defense of Reach and even destroyed the Supercruiser Flagship of the Fleet, but ultimately, his efforts were in vain. He could only pick up SPARTAN-117 along with SPARTAN-058 and a handful of Marines from the station just in time to flee the pursuing Covenant.

Keyes holding Cortana.


""Whoever controls Halo controls the fate of the universe.""
—Captain Keyes

The Pillar of Autumn's A.I. Cortana ended up navigating the vessel to Installation 04. They were once again assaulted by Covenant forces, and Captain Keyes told Cortana to lock in a selection of landing zones on the ring and to upload them to his neural interface. Keyes then assigned the Master Chief to protect Cortana and she became a valuable asset to him.. Keyes locked in the codes and the Pillar of Autumn crashed on the ring. Keyes and the command crew of the Autumn managed to escape in a Bumblebee life pod, Kilo Tango Victor 17. During the descent, the Ossoona, Isna 'Nosolee was discovered to be lurking aboard by Keyes, and subsequently killed by the Captain. Unfortunately, they were still spotted in the descent by two Elites on Ghosts. Thanks to the traitor Ensign Ellen Dowski, the Covenant were able to find out where Keyes and the Command Crew were. When they got there they incapacitated the Captain and killed the rest of the Command crew, including Dowski even though she helped the Covenant find them. Despite being an inspirational leader to many under his command, the Captain also has a great deal amount of respect for each and everyone of his crew and he dearly cares about them. The death of his crew shocked him and he had wished to die as well as he was captured by the Covenant.

Captain Jacob Keyes in combat on the Truth and Reconciliation, wielding a needler.

Keyes was taken aboard the Covenant CCS-Class Battlecruiser, the Truth and Reconciliation. There, he was interrogated, tortured, and held prisoner until the Master Chief, the ODSTs, and a group of Marines were able to rescue him with the help of Cortana. Combining what Keyes found out from what Cortana was able to hack from the Covenant Battlenet, they were able to figure out some of the truth about Halo. They were forced to commandeer a Spirit dropship, during their escape and Keyes piloted it out himself, even going so far as to ram two Hunters on the flight out for "a little payback".

Keyes then went to Alpha Base, taking command of the base from Major Antonio Silva briefly. He then took Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson, Fire Team Charlie and Second Squad to a facility they thought held a Covenant weapons cache. It turned out that the structure was one of the Halo's Flood Containment Facilities. Keyes and his Marines were ambushed by the Flood. During the ensuing firefight, an Infection Form latched onto his back and infected him.

Keyes and Sergeant Johnson listen to a mysterious, disgusting hissing noise emitting from the Flood Containment Chamber's walls.
Jacob Keyes, now part of a Proto-Gravemind Form.

Keyes observed helplessly as the form took over his body and attacked his mind. Originally, Keyes' body was a Combat Form, but the Flood, apparently realizing his importance, merged him and several other Combat Forms into a Proto-Gravemind. One of the tortures Keyes endured was having his memories ripped away one by one as the Flood tried to learn anything that would help attain new sources of food.[11] The Flood hoped that his intelligence would help them to operate a damaged Covenant cruiser and escape the ring, but Keyes was able to fend it off by constantly accessing data that was permanently stored in his Command Neural Interface, while feeding it those of his memories that were not vital to the survival of humanity, such as his name, age, and service number (though definitely not anything that could lead to the thought of the location of Earth).[12]

However, before Keyes succumbed to the overwhelming pressure, the Master Chief boarded the ship once again looking for Keyes and found only the Proto-Gravemind form. The Captain was able to contact the Chief three times before the Proto-Gravemind fully overwhelmed him.[13] Keyes' life officially ended when the Chief punched through his skull to retrieve his Command Neural Interface after his mind had been absorbed by the Flood infection, with Cortana stating that "she knew that this was what he wanted".[14] His Command Neural Interface enabled Master Chief and Cortana to start up the Pillar of Autumn's engines so they could destroy the Halo ring by overloading and exploding the engines.


Admiral Cole gave Keyes his Lieutenant Commander Status for his protection of one million people after the Battle of the Rubble and he also stated that "Men like him will save us, you know. We need more like Keyes."

The Keyes family lived on in his daughter, Miranda Keyes. She accepted a posthumous Colonial Cross awarded to her father for his bravery during the events on Installation 04 by Lord Hood. After presenting it, Lord Hood said "Your father's actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service, his bravery in the face of impossible odds, reflecting great credit upon himself and the UNSC. The Navy has lost one of its best." In 2553, he was remembered at the Hillside Memorial alongside his daughter, Sergeant Johnson, and many other victims of the Human-Covenant War. His courage and skill was never forgotten, making him one of the most important and remembered naval officers in history.


The various and numerous ribbons of Keyes.

There are nine ribbons on Keyes' uniform.[15] U.S. Armed Forces ribbons are worn by order of precedence, from left to right, top to bottom. For the sake of this article, they will be numbered Ribbons 1 through 9, in this order.

These Ribbons coincide with the following modern U.S. Air Force decorations:

Note: Ribbon 7 is out of order. In the modern U.S. Military, it would be worn before Ribbon 6 (however, this can be the common occurrence in works of fiction of portraying military personnel as slightly off regulations). Then again, it is also unlikely that Keyes, a naval captain, won an award for being an enlisted member of the Air Force. We can only assume that the meaning of these ribbons has changed.


Along with the Medal Decorations, Keyes is depicted with Captain's Bars Insignia (above the name tag), a Marine rank of Captain which is much different than a Naval rank of Captain. A Marine ranking Captain (0-3) is a Company Grade or Junior Officer which is ranked three steps lower than a naval Captain (0-6). A Naval Captain is equal to a Marine Colonel, According to his military record, Keyes graduated from Luna OCS Academy, a Naval Academy. Also, in Halo: The Fall of Reach, Admiral Michael Stanforth promotes Jacob Keyes from Commander, a Naval rank, to Captain. This implies that Bungie made a mistake when making the Keyes model, and should have rendered the Navy Captain's Eagle instead.


Keyes was often quite officious and put the safety of the UNSC before his own personal safety, even going as far as to almost self destruct the ship he was on so that the Covenant wouldn't find Earth. He was prepared and willing to give anything for his planet. He will often charge headlong into battle keeping a straight and calm face. Keyes is also known to be fearless in most situations, as he refused to tell Zuka 'Zamamee about John-117 and even dares the Elite to kill him.


  • Keyes normally does not smoke his pipe; he just chews on it.
  • At the end of Halo: The Cole Protocol, Keyes is promoted from Lieutenant to full Commander for his actions saving one million humans from "The Rubble". He would not be promoted again for almost two decades.
  • It is mentioned in Halo: The Cole Protocol that Keyes received the ODST tattoo on his right arm, due to the fact that he saved a group of ODSTs aboard an Insurrectionist cargo ship. The tattoo is Japanese Kanji for "bastard" or "bad-ass". It would be different from the symbol seen on the back of ODST body armor in Halo 3, which is apparently Chinese, not Japanese, despite holding the same meaning. The tattoo is never revealed in the game for obvious reasons.
The Marathon logo at the end of Keyes' pipe.
  • Captain Keyes is part of the only known Proto-Gravemind that exists in the whole Halo Trilogy. There is another that exists in Halo Wars, but not in the Halo Trilogy itself.
  • Keyes enjoyed smoking Sweet William Cigars along with many other people in the UNSC such as CPO Mendez and SgtMaj Johnson, but was only ever seen using his pipe.
  • Keyes loathed Sergeant Johnson's flip music because it had an "incessant slam-bam beat".
  • Captain Keyes is known among Bungie employees as the "Captain of Exposition".
  • On the level "Pillar of Autumn" Keyes takes his pipe out of his mouth; from that point on his mouth is permanently turned down in the lower right corner from where he pulled the pipe.
  • On Captain Keyes' tunic is the Marathon logo (it is represented as the Pillar of Autumn logo on his name tag). It has also been noted that the text on the tunic states "Hello, My Name Keyes". The missing "is" probably did not fit onto the texture for his in-game physics/collision model.
  • Keyes always seems to place priority on other peoples' lives more than his own.
  • In the level "Truth and Reconciliation" it is possible to kill Keyes when you open the cells. However, he comes back to life for the cutscene and for the rest of the mission. The only sign of him dying is a patch of blood on his cell floor. If you kill him after that you will fail the mission.
  • In the level "Keyes" when you find the Proto-Gravemind, his pipe is dangling from a tentacle behind the blob. If you zoom in with a pistol or a sniper rifle, you can still see the Marathon logo on the end of his pipe.
  • Keyes never mentions his daughter Miranda during the events of Installation 04. He does not even think of her when the Flood slowly destroys his mind, although some descriptions are vague enough that one of them may refer to her. This may be to protect her from the Flood.
  • In the cutscene of the level "Keyes", where the Master Chief retrieves Captain Keyes' neural implants, the Master Chief was meant to burn Keyes' skull out of the Proto-Gravemind and retrieve the implants, but the burnt skull was said to be too gruesome to be put into the game and with time restrictions that forced Bungie to leave the flamethrower out of the Xbox version of the game, which caused the burnt skull to not be featured. Bungie recycled Keyes' skull and it became the "ball" in the Oddball game type.
The Oddball with Command Neural Interface.
  • On the Halo 3 Legendary Edition bonus disc, Marty O'Donnell described Captain Keyes of having at least twelve polygons.
  • During the level "Keyes", if you look closely at Keyes' body outline, you can see he has been mixed with other victims inside the Proto-Gravemind.
  • Keyes's pipe was given to him by his grandfather and is a family heirloom.
  • Keyes thought that chewing on his pipe was a sign of nervousness and tried to refrain from doing it during battle. At the same time, it may simply be habit, not dependent on anxiousness at all since he seems to chew on it even when not under stress.
  • During the last part of Halo: The Fall of Reach, it is stated that he is smoking his pipe. This is confusing as in the beginning, it states that he only chews his pipe on board ships to prevent being court martialed. However, due to the fact that he is a Captain during the last part, that might explain why he was allowed to smoke it. This is evident as in the Battle of Sigma Octanus IV he is allowed.
  • Keyes is the first person to initiate the Cole Protocol in the Halo Trilogy.
  • As a Lieutenant, Keyes spent a great deal of time teaching astronavigation.
  • His skull is assumed to be the numerous skulls acquired throughout the game series, given that they have CNI Transponders.
  • He has the first line in the trilogy.
  • Keyes may be a very strict father, something of a disciplinarian, and may not appear as loving as thought, when he hugged Miranda in Halo: The Cole Protocol she was overwhelmed and confused, and asked why he was hugging her.
  • In Halo: The Flood according to one of his memories while being consumed by the Flood, Captain Keyes first killed a human with a pistol. However, this is contradicted in Halo: The Cole Protocol in which he first killed a human with a modified plasma rifle.
  • According to Halo: The Cole Protocol, Keyes was forty years old when he was assigned to the Midsummer Night. Therefore, if he was born in 2495 then the events of the book took place sometime around 2535-2536.

Production Notes

Captain Keyes was voiced by Pete Stacker in Halo: Combat Evolved.

The Captain Keyes model for Halo: Combat Evolved was created by Marcus R. Lehto.

Captain Keyes was the first seen person in the Halo trilogy.


Jacob Keyes appears or is mentioned in the following Halo levels and books:


  1. Halo: the Cole Protocol - The book is set during 2535, during which Keyes is aged 40.
  2. Halo: The Cole Protocol page 354
  3. Halo: The Fall of Reach, page 17
  4. Halo: The Flood, page 225
  5. Halo: The Fall of Reach, pages 19-20
  6. Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, page 16
  7. Halo: The Fall of Reach, page 28
  8. Halo: The Cole Protocol, page 28
  9. Halo: The Cole Protocol
  10. Halo: The Fall of Reach, pp 138-139
  11. Halo: The Flood, pages 225-227
  12. Halo: The Flood, pages 253-254
  13. Halo: The Flood, pages 290, 303 and 305-306
  14. Halo: The Flood, page 306
  15. "Truth and Reconciliation"
  16. "Cairo Station"'s opening cutscene


Halopedia has a collection of quotes related to Jacob Keyes on its quotes page.

This article uses material from the "Jacob Keyes" article on the Halo wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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