Keesler, Samuel Reeves, Jr., 2nd Lt

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Last Rank
Second Lieutenant
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
M 1028-Aircraft Observer, Flight Engineer (VHB)
Last AFSC Group
Primary Unit
1918-1918, United States Army Air Service
Service Years
1917 - 1918
Second Lieutenant

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by SSgt Robert Bruce McClelland to remember Keesler, Samuel Reeves, Jr., 2nd Lt.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Greenwood, Mississippi
Last Address
Souilly Aerodrome, France

Casualty Date
Oct 09, 1918
Hostile, Died of Wounds
Gun, Small Arms Fire
World War I
Location of Interment
American Cemetery - St. Mihiel, France
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Plot C Row 13 Grave 20

 Official Badges 

 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Association Memberships
World War I Fallen
  2013, World War I Fallen

 Photo Album   (More...

 Ribbon Bar

Observer Badge

 Unit Assignments
Aviation Section, Signal Corps24th Aero Squadron, Army ObservationUnited States Army Air Service
  1917-1918, Aviation Section, Signal Corps
  1918-1918, 24th Aero Squadron, Army Observation
  1918-1918, United States Army Air Service
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1917-1918 World War I
  1918-1918 World War I /Meuse-Argonne Campaign
 Colleges Attended 
Davidson College
  1913-1917, Davidson College
 My Aircraft/Missiles
DH-4 Bomber  Spad S.VIII  
  1917-1918, DH-4 Bomber
  1917-1918, Spad S.VIII
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Second Lt. Samuel R. Keesler, a World War I aerial observer, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Keesler was born in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1896. He was an outstanding student leader and athlete in high school and at Davidson College in North Carolina. He entered the U.S. Army Air Service on May 13, 1917. He was commissioned a second lieutenant on Aug. 15 at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia and received training as an Aerial Observer and in Gunnery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before sailing for France in March 1918. After additional training in aerial gunnery and artillery fire control, Keesler was assigned to the 24th Aero Squadron in the Verdun sector of the Western Front on August 26, 1918. On October 8, Keesler and his pilot, 1st Lt. Harold W. Riley, set off for their reconnaissance mission. The two came under heavy enemy gunfire from four aircraft. Keesler immediately returned fire and shot down the leader, but Riley lost control of the badly damaged airplane. Keesler continued to fend off the attackers even as they plummeted to the ground. Seriously wounded at least six times during the battle and the ensuing crash landing where they were strafed by German aircraft, Keesler and Riley were eventually captured by German ground troops and held prisoner. Keesler had severe chest and abdomen wounds and died from his injuries the following day due to not receiving immediate medical attention. Once released, Riley recounted the actions of Keesler and in his letter of commendation said that "his conduct was a grand demonstration of the morale of our Air Service." On August 25, 1941, Army Air Corps Station No. 8 was officially designated Keesler Army Airfield in his honor. The airfield became Keesler Air Force Base Jan. 13, 1948. KEESLER LETTER OF COMMENDATION AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES U.S. AIR SERVICE Paris, France, January 16th. 1919. From: 1st. Lieut. H. W. Riley, 24th Aero Squadron To: Chief of Air Service, American E. F., (Thru channels) Subject: Distinguished conduct of 2nd. Lieut. Samuel R. Keesler, observer, 24th. Aero Squadron. 1. In the late afternoon of the 8th. of October, 1918, Lieut. Keesler and myself were on a mission east of Verdun. Shortly after we crossed the lines and just before we had covered the assigned territory, four Fokkers came from the French side of the line and attacked us. I am certain Lieut. Keesler shot down the leader as he attacked first, and I saw him go down in a steep nosedive. The other three E. A. opened fire immediately and crippled one aileron, shot away my rudder controls and part of my elevators. Lieut. Keesler fired all the way down and after we crashed although he had been shot three times thru the chest and three times in the abdomen. The three Huns hung over us at a low altitude and kept firing after we were clear of the wreck. Lieut. Keesler was hit in the hip before we could get under cover. From 5:15 until 12:00 that night, when we reached a dressing station, Lieut. Keesler received no medical attention and although he must have suffered terribly, he showed wonderful self-control and won the admiration of all the German soldiers who came to look at him. Lieut. Keesler died the following noon. 2. Lieut. Keesler's conduct was a grand demonstration of the morale of our Air Service and I hope it will not go unrecognized. //Signed// H. W. Riley, 1st Lieut., A. S., U.S.A. Pilot, 24th Aero Squadron

His Silver Star citation:
Awarded for actions during World War I
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.
General Orders: GHQ, American Expeditionary Forces, Citation Orders No. 3 (June 3, 1919)

Action Date: October 8, 1918

Service: Army Air Forces

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Company: 24th Aero Squadron

Division: American Expeditionary Forces
Samuel R. Keesler, Jr. 2nd Lieutenant O-1, U.S. Army Air Service Aviation Section, U.S. Army Signal Corps 1917-1918 U.S. Army Air Service 1918 World War I 1917-1918 (POW, Died in Captivity) Tribute: Samuel Keesler was born on April 11, 1896, in Greenwood, Mississippi. He entered the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps on May 13, 1917, shortly before it became the U.S. Army Air Service. Keesler was commissioned a 2Lt on August 15, 1917, and was trained as an aerial observer at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before sailing to France in March 1918. After received additional training as an aerial gunner and artillery fire controller, Lt Keesler was assigned to the 24th Aero Squadron in the Verdun sector of the Western Front in August 1918. While performing a reconnaissance mission behind German lines on October 8, 1918, Lt Keesler and his pilot, 1Lt Harold Riley, were forced down and crashed. Keesler managed to shoot down one of his attackers even though he was wounded 6 times in the battle. After their crash landing, they were both taken as Prisoners of War, but Lt Keesler died of his wounds the next day, October 9, 1918. Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi, is named in his honor.
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