Medal of Honor Awarded to MSgt. Woodrow Wilson Keeble

Army, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Medal of Honor Awarded to MSgt. Woodrow Wilson Keeble


In a White House ceremony in March, President Bush posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to MSgt. Woodrow (Woody) Wilson Keeble, the first full-blooded Sioux Indian so honored. (See page 96 for photographs.) The award was bestowed almost 60 years after MSgt. Keeble's actions in 1951, when he single-handedly took out three machine-gun nests and killed 16 enemy soldiers before overtaking a strategic hill near Sangsan-ni, Korea. Russell Hawkins, MSgt. Keeble's stepson, accepted the award on behalf of his stepfather, who died in 1982.

MSgt. Keeble joined the 164th Infantry Regiment, North Dakota National Guard, in 1942 and earned the first of four Purple Hearts and his first Bronze Star for actions on Guadalcanal during World War II. He also fought in the battles of Bougainville, Leyte, Cebu and Mindanao. He volunteered for service in Korea, noting, "Somebody has to teach these young kids how to fight."

Keeble was a 34-year-old master sergeant serving with the 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, when it was called to take a series of mountains that protected an enemy supply town in central Korea. The operation was known as the "Big Push" and was the last major United Nations offensive of the Korean War. Communist forces had pinned down the U.S. soldiers. Wounded himself, MSgt. Keeble charged the hill alone. He took out two of the bunkers with grenades, was stunned by a concussion grenade and after regaining consciousness shot the occupants of the third pillbox.

MSgt. Keeble's men recommended him for the Medal of Honor twice; the paperwork was lost both times. In 1952, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross; the citation notes his "extraordinary heroism and completely selfless devotion to duty." His family persevered to obtain recognition for MSgt. Keeble; 17 members of his family and dozens of Sioux, many of them veterans in uniform, attended the belated Medal of Honor presentation ceremony.

Army Stretched but Still Strong. secretary of the Army Pete Geren assured members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in late February that the U.S. Army, despite years of war, "is the best led, best equipped and best trained Army we've ever put in the field." Including those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are 250,000 soldiers deployed to 80 countries, secretary Geren told the committee. He and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. casey Jr. described how the nearly $141 billion allocated to the Army in the fiscal year (FY) 2009 National Defense Authorization Budget would be spent.

Secretary Geren noted the heavy contributions of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve to the war effort and pointed out that the FY 2009 budget continues an established pattern of investment for the reserve components. "We are one Army," he said. "The active component cannot go to war without the reserve component." Gen. casey echoed secretary Geren's confidence in the Army, telling the committee that the Army "remains a hugely resilient, professional and combat-seasoned force." He also expressed his concern about the challenges of restoring balance to the Army and the strain imposed on it by long and repeated deployments.

"People are not designed to be exposed to the horrors of combat repeatedly," Gen. casey told reporters earlier, "and it wears on them. There's no question about that."

Gen. casey told reporters that his primary concern is the loss of captains because the Army invests about 10 years to get them to that level of leadership. "If they leave," he said, "you lose a decade."

For a 90-day period last fall, the Army offered eligible captains attractive reenlistment incentives, among them a cash bonus of up to $35,000, graduate school financial assistance, a branch or functional area transfer, or choice of duty station. Still, reenlistment numbers fell short of Army's goal to retain 14,000 captains by about 1,300 officers.

In addition, although the Army has met its recruiting goals, Gen. …

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