Samuel Reeves Keesler
Samuel Reeves Keesler, Jr.
Silver Star medal
|Born||April 11, 1896|
|Died||October 9, 1918 (aged 22)|
near Verdun, France †
|Service/||United States Army Air Service|
|Years of service||1917 – 1918|
|Unit||24th Aero Squadron|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
Keesler entered the U.S. Army on May 13, 1917. He was commissioned in the Signal Officers Reserve Corps on August 15, and he received training as an aerial observer at Post Field, Oklahoma, before sailing for France in March 1918.
While performing a reconnaissance mission in the late afternoon of October 8, 1918, Keesler and his pilot, 1LT Harold W. Riley, were attacked by four enemy fighters. Keesler returned fire and shot down the leader, but Riley lost control of their badly damaged plane. Keesler continued to fend off the attackers with machine gun fire even as it fell. He was wounded six times in the chest and abdomen before the plane crash-landed. Lieutenant Keesler received an additional wound when the enemy fighters strafed them on the ground.
Captured by German ground troops, the two airmen were unable to receive immediate medical attention, and Keesler died the following day. On January 16, 1919, Lt. Riley recommended him for a decoration, citing his continued resistance all the way to the ground, despite his wounds. For his gallantry, Lieutenant Keesler was posthumously awarded the Silver Star on June 3, 1919.
Silver Star citation
- General Orders: GHQ, American Expeditionary Forces, Citation Orders No. 3 (June 3, 1919)
- Action Date: October 8, 1918
- Service: Army Air Service
- Rank: Second Lieutenant
- Company: 24th Aero Squadron
- Division: American Expeditionary Forces
By direction of the President, under the provisions of the act of Congress approved July 9, 1918 (Bul. No. 43, W.D., 1918), Second Lieutenant (Air Service) Samuel Reeves Keesler, United States Army Air Service, is cited (Posthumously) for gallantry in action and a silver star may be placed upon the ribbon of the Victory Medals awarded him. Second Lieutenant Keesler distinguished himself by gallantry in action while serving as an Aerial Observer with the 24th Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Forces, in action near Verdun, France, 8 October 1918, in bringing down one of an enemy formation of four planes.
- Autobiography of Harold W. Riley, Harold W. Riley Collection (AFC/2001/001/02165), Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress