Skip to comments.Tales of selfless GI almost unbelievable
Posted on 01/28/2006 10:59:26 PM PST by mdittmar
I received a piece of mail last week that got my attention because it involves North Dakotas most decorated soldier.
Cass County Veterans Service Officer Jim Brent, who will celebrate his 10th year in that position on Wednesday, sent along information about Master Sgt. Woodrow Wilson Keeble, a Lakota Sioux who grew up in Wahpeton, N.D., and distinguished himself while serving his country in World War II and Korea.
This was the first time Id heard of Keeble. In two wars, he was awarded five Purple Hearts for wounds, two Bronze Stars, one with V for valor, a Silver Star (third highest award for heroism), a Combat Infantrymans Badge, and a Distinguished Service Cross (second highest award for heroism).
As a young man, Keeble was a great athlete who was being recruited by the Chicago White Sox as a pitcher when he was called up to serve in World War II.
He served with I Company of the North Dakota Army National Guards famed 164th Infantry Regiment. His unit was with the Americal Division that landed on Guadalcanal in 1942 to help battered U.S. Marines, who had suffered heavy losses, clear the South Pacific island of Japanese.
Keeble was in combat throughout the South Pacific until the war ended. He was an expert with the Browning automatic rifle. One of his fellow soldiers once remarked, The safest place to be was next to Woody.
Keeble re-enlisted when the Korean War broke out. Asked why, Keeble said, Somebody has to teach these kids how to fight.
He had a reputation for taking very good care of his men. Sgt. Kosumo Sagami described Keeble as one of the few actual selfless men in the war. Stories about Keebles actions and bravery would be almost unbelievable, but for eyewitness accounts.
Attached to the 19th Infantry Regiment of the 24th Division, Keeble was near Kumsong, North Korea, on Oct. 13, 1951.
The weather was brutally cold and the enemy was entrenched high above on the side of a mountain. U.S. troops, ordered to take the positions, were sitting ducks.
Keeble was with the 1st platoon of G Company on Oct. 15 when it joined the fight. He was wounded that day, patched up and returned to action.
He was hit again on Oct. 17, treated, and again returned to action. His bravery on Oct. 18 earned him the Silver Star.
But it was his action on Oct. 20 that went above and beyond the call of duty.
Heading up the mountain alone, Keeble took out three machine-gun emplacements with grenades and two trenches filled with enemy riflemen, according to the official record.
Inspired by his courageous example, the friendly troops swept the enemy from the hill and secured the important objective.
When the 2nd platoon reached Keeble, they found he had taken out nine enemy machine gunners and seven enemy riflemen.
As often seen in movies, but seldom seen on the actual place of combat, Sgt. Keeble refused evacuation (even though he) had fragmentation wounds in his chest, both arms, left thigh, right calf, knee and right thigh, wrote Sagami.
Keeble was returned to duty within the week because casualties had been high and there were no replacement troops available.
Sagami said Keebles wounds were bleeding through his bandages, he was limping badly, and he was so weak he could hardly raise his weapon.
Master Sgt. Keebles fellow soldiers twice recommended him for the Medal of Honor for what he did that day, but both times the paperwork was lost.
Keeble did receive the Distinguished Service Cross, but there is a move afoot to award him the Medal of Honor posthumously.
Keeble died in 1982, in part due to complications from his war injuries.
Several key witnesses to Keebles heroism have agreed to travel to Fargo in February to be interviewed on film. Hopefully, this will bolster efforts to award the Medal of Honor.
Citation: The Distinguished Service Cross is awarded to Master Sergeant, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving as an acting platoon leader with an infantry company in the vicinity of Daegean-ni, Korea, on October 20, 1951.
On that date Sergeant Keebles company was moving forward in an attack against a fanatically determined enemy force occupying positions on a steep, rocky terrain feature of great tactical importance. Leading the support platoon, Sergeant Keeble suddenly saw that the attacking elements had become pinned down on the precipitous slope by a murderous volume of fire of machine-gun positions from three well fortified and carefully placed enemy positions.
With complete disregard for his personal safety, he dashed forward and joined the pinned-down platoon. Then, hugging the ground, he crawled forward alone until he was in close proximity to one of the hostile machine-gun emplacements. Ignoring the vicious stream of fire which the enemy crew trained on him, he activated a grenade and, throwing it with great accuracy, successfully destroyed the position.
Continuing his one-man assault, he moved to the second enemy position and destroyed it with another grenade. Despite the fact that the hostile troops were now directing their entire firepower against him and unleashing a shower of grenades in a fanatic attempt to stop his advance, he moved forward against the third hostile emplacement. Stunned by an enemy concussion grenade, he hesitated only long enough to regain his senses, then renewed his assault and skillful neutralized the remaining enemy position with exceptionally accurate rifle fire.
As his comrades moved forward to join him, he continued to direct deadly accurate fire against nearby enemy trenches, inflicting extremely heavy casualties on the foe. Inspired by his courageous example, the friendly troops swept the enemy from the hill and secured the important objective.
The extraordinary heroism and completely selfless devotion to duty displayed by Sergeant Keeble on this occasion enabled his company to accomplish its mission.
HQ Eighth US Army Korea, General Orders No. 624 (October 16, 1952)
A true American hero!
That is the example set for all American servicemen to strive for.
We all salute you Master Sgt Keeble.
There was a MoH recipient I had been told about back in college. It happened back in Vietnam. The guy grabbed onto a lit flare and held it to himself and ran to a window to toss it out of an aircraft to keep it from exploding inside the plane.
Bah...hit send too early
There've beena lot of good men who've fought under the US flag. There's simply no way to honor such great examples of humanity.
Pride of North and South Dakota bump.
That was A1C John Levitow. He was an AC-47 gunship loadmaster.
To a man of honor who deserves a Medal of Honor, albeit posthumously.
JF kerry got at least that many medals in less than 2 months. (According to him)
I'm not as up to speed on awards; but can the DSC be recended and upgraded to a MOH?
I don't know how that works.
That was Sgt. Jay Levitow, a "Puff" crewchief, the USAF's only enlisted MoH. I used to work with him in Hartford. Passed away a few years back.
Citation for John Levitow
LEVITOW, JOHN L.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Air Force, 3d Special Operations Squadron. place and date: Long Binh Army post, Republic of Vietnam, 24 February 1969. Entered service at: New Haven, Conn. Born: 1 November 1945, Hartford, Conn. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Levitow (then A1c.), U.S. Air Force, distinguished himself by exceptional heroism while assigned as a loadmaster aboard an AC-47 aircraft flying a night mission in support of Long Binh Army post. Sgt. Levitow's aircraft was struck by a hostile mortar round. The resulting explosion ripped a hole 2 feet in diameter through the wing and fragments made over 3,500 holes in the fuselage. All occupants of the cargo compartment were wounded and helplessly slammed against the floor and fuselage. The explosion tore an activated flare from the grasp of a crewmember who had been launching flares to provide illumination for Army ground troops engaged in combat. Sgt. Levitow, though stunned by the concussion of the blast and suffering from over 40 fragment wounds in the back and legs, staggered to his feet and turned to assist the man nearest to him who had been knocked down and was bleeding heavily. As he was moving his wounded comrade forward and away from the opened cargo compartment door, he saw the smoking flare ahead of him in the aisle. Realizing the danger involved and completely disregarding his own wounds, Sgt. Levitow started toward the burning flare. The aircraft was partially out of control and the flare was rolling wildly from side to side. Sgt. Levitow struggled forward despite the loss of blood from his many wounds and the partial loss of feeling in his right leg. Unable to grasp the rolling flare with his hands, he threw himself bodily upon the burning flare. Hugging the deadly device to his body, he dragged himself back to the rear of the aircraft and hurled the flare through the open cargo door. At that instant the flare separated and ignited in the air, but clear of the aircraft. Sgt. Levitow, by his selfless and heroic actions, saved the aircraft and its entire crew from certain death and destruction. Sgt. Levitow's gallantry, his profound concern for his fellowmen, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
There is a second enlisted Medal of Honor winner from Viet Nam. Originally, he was awarded the AF Cross but recently it was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. His name was William H. Pitsenbarger. Here is his citation.
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress the Medal of Honor to
AIRMAN FIRST CLASS WILLIAM H. PITSENBARGER
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on 11 April 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an ongoing firefight between elements of the United States Army's 1st Infantry Division and a sizeable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground. On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day was recovered, Airman Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get more wounded soldiers to safety. After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind on the ground to perform medical duties. Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible. In the vicious fighting that followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and Airman Pitsenbarger was fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.
It happened with 2Lt Vernon Baker, for his actions in WWII Italy while serving with the "All Negro" 92nd Inf. Div. It was determined that his efforts would have earned him the MOH save the pervasive racism of the era. He recieved the MOH in 1998 or so.