America's Heroes: Medal of Honor Recipients from the Civil War to Afghanistan

By James H. Willbanks | Go to book overview

Keeble, Woodrow W.

Born: May 16, 1917

Died: January 28, 1982

Home State: North Dakota

Service: Army

Conflict: Korean War

Age at Time of Award: 34

Woodrow W. Keeble was born on May 16, 1917, on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux reservation in Waubay, South Dakota. While a young boy, his family moved to Wahpeton, North Dakota, where his mother worked at the Indian school. As a youth, Keeble excelled at sports, especially baseball. In 1942, he joined the North Dakota National Guard. Keeble was being recruited by the Chicago White Sox when he was called to active duty in World War II.

Keeble was a member of North Dakota National Guard’s 164th Infantry Regiment. After training in Louisiana, Keeble and his unit shipped out for the South Pacific. They saw action at Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Leyte, Cebu, and Mindanao. Ultimately, they landed in Japan and participated in the occupation of the Yokohama area. Keeble received two Purple Hearts for wounds received in the heavy Pacific fighting.

After the war, he returned to Wahpeton, married, and worked at the Indian school. When the Korean War broke out, the 164th was activated. The commander held a lottery to see who would be sent to the front lines and assigned training duties. Keeble, at 34, volunteered to go to the front lines.

As an individual augmentee from the National Guard, Keeble was assigned to George Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. Given his leadership abilities and combat experience, he soon rose to the rank of master sergeant. In October 1951, his unit was ordered to take several mountains surrounding a Chinese base. During the subsequent fighting, Keeble was wounded on October 15 and then again on October 18, actions for which he would receive the Silver Star. With his body literally peppered with shrapnel, he was ordered to the rear for treatment. He refused and went forward to assume command of the company, as all the Officers had been killed. On October 20, when his company assaulted the last mountain protecting the base, he was wounded yet again, and the company suffered heavy casualties from the devastating fire coming from the enemy in entrenched positions and three pillboxes. Keeble called in mortar and artillery support, decimating the enemy soldiers in the trenches, but the pillboxes continue to fire. Using his Browning Automatic Rifle and an arm-load of grenades, Keeble single-handedly engaged the pillboxes one at a time, ultimately taking out all three and dispatching 23 Chinese soldiers.

After the battle, Keeble’s chain of command nominated him for the Medal of Honor. Every surviving member of Keeble’s company signed letters of support. However, he received the Distinguished Service Cross instead.

After the war, Keeble returned home and took up his old teaching job. However, he contracted tuberculosis; doctors had to remove one lung, and, over the years, his health continued to deteriorate, and he suffered a series of strokes that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak. Then his wife passed away, and he was left alone to care for his son, Earl. Unable to work and financially destitute, he was forced to pawn his medals.

He remarried in 1967 and gained a stepson, Russell. His wife, Blossom Iris Crawford-Harris, was the first Sioux woman to complete a doctorate in education at the University of South Dakota. Woodrow W. Keeble died January 28, 1982, and is buried in Sisseton, South Dakota.

Over the years, beginning in 1972, there was a steady effort to get the Medal of Honor for Keeble. Friends, fellow soldiers, family, and four US senators from North and South Dakota continued the fight even after Keeble’s death. More recently, Senator John Th une (R-SD) was instrumental in getting the time restrictions on awarding the Medal of Honor waived so Keeble’s Distinguished Service Cross could be upgraded. Despite failing health, Keeble’s wife, Blossom, was determined to hang on to accept the long-awaited medal for her husband, but she died on June 3, 2007, before her dream could be realized.

Finally, on March 3, 2008, in a White House East Room ceremony, President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Honor to Woodrow E. Keeble posthumously for his valor in the Korean War. Keeble’s stepson Russell Hawkins accepted the medal for his stepfather, 26 years after his death.

James H. Willbanks


Further Reading

Gomez-Granger, Julissa. CRS Report for Congress: Medal of Honor Recipients: 1979–2008. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, RL 30011, June 4, 2008.

-166-

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America's Heroes: Medal of Honor Recipients from the Civil War to Afghanistan
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Entries ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Preface xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Adams, Lucian 1
  • Baca, John P. 2
  • Bacon, Nicky Daniel 4
  • Baker, Vernon 6
  • Baldwin, Frank D. 8
  • Ballard, Donald E. 11
  • Barfoot, Van T. 13
  • Barnum, Harvey C., Jr 14
  • Barrett, Carlton W. 16
  • Basilone, John 18
  • Benavidez, Roy P. 20
  • Birkhimer, William E. 22
  • Blake, Robert 24
  • Bleak, David B. 25
  • Boyington, Gregory 27
  • Brady, Patrick Henry 29
  • Britt, Maurice L. 30
  • Brown, Bobbie E. 32
  • Bucha, Paul William 34
  • Burke, Lloyd L. 36
  • Bush, Robert Eugene 38
  • Butler, Smedley Darlington 40
  • Butterfield, Daniel 42
  • Cafferata, Hector a., Jr 43
  • Carney, William H. 45
  • Cavaiani, Jon R. 48
  • Chamberlain, Joshua L. 49
  • Childers, Ernest 51
  • Cody, William F. 53
  • Cohn, Abraham 55
  • Cole, Robert G. 57
  • Craft, Clarence B. 59
  • Crandall, Bruce P. 61
  • Custer, Thomas W. 63
  • Dahlgren, John Olof 65
  • Daly, Daniel Joseph 67
  • Davila, Rudolph B. 69
  • Davis, Charles W. 70
  • Davis, Raymond G. 73
  • Davis, Sammy L. 74
  • Day, George E. 76
  • Dean, William F. 78
  • Deblanc, Jefferson Joseph 79
  • Dix, Drew Dennis 81
  • Donlon, Roger Hugh C. 84
  • Donovan, William Joseph 85
  • Doolittle, James H. 87
  • Doss, Desmond T. 88
  • Dunham, Jason L. 90
  • Dunham, Russell E. 91
  • Dyess, Aquilla James 93
  • Ehlers, Walter D. 96
  • Evans, Ernest Edwin 98
  • Faith, Don C., Jr 100
  • Finn, John William 102
  • Fletcher, Frank Jack 104
  • Fluckey, Eugene Bennett 105
  • Foley, Robert F. 107
  • Foss, Joseph Jacob 109
  • Fox, John Robert 112
  • Freeman, Ed W. 113
  • Funston, Frederick 115
  • Galer, Robert Edward 117
  • García, Macario 119
  • Gonsalves, Harold 121
  • Gonzalez, Alfredo 123
  • Gordon, Gary I. 125
  • Hagemeister, Charles Chris 126
  • Harmon, Roy W. 128
  • Harrell, William George 130
  • Hatch, John P. 131
  • Hayashi, Shizuya 133
  • Hayes, Webb C. 134
  • Heard, John W. 137
  • Hendrix, James R. 139
  • Hernández, Rodolfo P. 140
  • Herrera, Silvestre S. 142
  • Hooper, Joe R. 144
  • Howard, Oliver O. 146
  • Howard, Robert L. 148
  • Inouye, Daniel K. 150
  • Irwin, Bernard J. D. 154
  • Izac, Edouard Victor Michel 155
  • Jackson, Joe M. 158
  • Jacobs, Jack H. 160
  • Joel, Lawrence 162
  • Kaufman, Benjamin 164
  • Keeble, Woodrow W. 166
  • Kelly, Charles E. 167
  • Kerrey, Joseph R. 169
  • Kisters, Gerry H. 171
  • Kouma, Ernest R. 173
  • Lang, George C. 175
  • Lemon, Peter C. 177
  • Levitow, John L. 178
  • Liteky, Angelo J. 181
  • Livingston, James E. 182
  • Lopez, Jose M. 184
  • Lucas, Jacklyn Harold 186
  • Luke, Frank, Jr 189
  • Mabry, George L., Jr 191
  • Macarthur, Arthur, Jr 193
  • Macarthur, Douglas 195
  • Mackie, John F. 198
  • Mallon, George H. 200
  • Marm, Walter Joseph, Jr 201
  • Martinez, Joe P. 203
  • McCool, Richard Miles, Jr 204
  • McGinnis, Ross A. 206
  • McGinty, John J., III 207
  • McKinney, John R. 209
  • Merli, Gino J. 211
  • Miles, L. Wardlaw 213
  • Miles, Nelson A. 214
  • Millett, Lewis L. 218
  • Miyamura, Hiroshi H. 220
  • Mize, Ola L. 223
  • Moffett, William A. 225
  • Monsoor, Michael A. 226
  • Monti, Jared C. 227
  • Munemori, Sadao S. 229
  • Munro, Douglas Albert 231
  • Murphy, Audie L. 233
  • Murphy, Michael P. 235
  • Murphy, Raymond G. 236
  • Norris, Thomas R. 238
  • Novosel, Michael J. 240
  • O’Hare, Edward Henry 243
  • O’Kane, Richard Hetherington 245
  • Okubo, James K. 246
  • Olive, Milton L., III 248
  • O’Neill, Richard W. 249
  • Page, John U. D. 251
  • Paige, Mitchell 254
  • Parker, Samuel I. 256
  • Pennypacker, Galusha 258
  • Penry, Richard A. 260
  • Pitsenbarger, William H. 262
  • Pittman, John A. 264
  • Pittman, Richard A. 265
  • Pope, Everett Parker 267
  • Pope, Thomas A. 269
  • Rascon, Alfred V. 271
  • Ray, Ronald Eric 273
  • Red Cloud, Mitchell, Jr 275
  • Rickenbacker, Edward V. 278
  • Roberts, Gordon R. 279
  • Rocco, Louis R. 281
  • Rodriguez, Joseph C. 283
  • Roosevelt, Theodore 285
  • Rosser, Ronald E. 287
  • Rubin, Tibor 289
  • Rudolph, Donald E. 291
  • Ruiz, Alejandro R. Renteria 293
  • Sakato, George T. 294
  • Salomon, Ben L. 296
  • Sandlin, Willie 298
  • Sasser, Clarence Eugene 300
  • Schofield, John M. 302
  • Shafter, William R. 303
  • Shoup, David Monroe 305
  • Shughart, Randall D. 307
  • Sickles, Daniel E. 310
  • Sijan, Lance P. 312
  • Simanek, Robert E. 313
  • Sitter, Carl L. 315
  • Smith, Andrew Jackson 317
  • Smith, Paul R. 319
  • Spurrier, Junior J. 320
  • Stockdale, James B. 322
  • Stone, James L. 324
  • Stowers, Freddie 326
  • Thornton, Michael Edwin 327
  • Thorsness, Leo K. 329
  • Titus, Calvin Pearl 332
  • Turner, George B. 333
  • Urban, Matt 335
  • Vandegrift, Alexander Archer 337
  • Vargas, Jay R. 339
  • Versace, Humbert R. 341
  • Wahlen, George Edward 343
  • Wai, Francis B. 345
  • Wainwright, Jonathan M. 347
  • Walker, Dr. Mary E. 349
  • Ware, Keith L. 350
  • Warren, Francis E. 352
  • Watson, George 353
  • Watters, Charles Joseph 354
  • Webb, Alexander S. 358
  • Wetzel, Gary George 360
  • Whiteley, Eli 362
  • Whittington, Hulon B. 363
  • Williams, Hershel Woodrow 365
  • Wilson, Louis Hugh, Jr. 367
  • Wood, Leonard 369
  • Woodfill, Samuel 372
  • York, Alvin C. 373
  • Young, Rodger W. 375
  • Zabitosky, Fred William 377
  • Zeamer, Jay, Jr. 379
  • Recipients of the Medal of Honor 381
  • Double Award Recipients 487
  • Medals of Honor Awarded by Conflict and Service 489
  • Bibliography 493
  • Index 511
  • About the Editor 529
  • Contributors 531
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