Reinhardt John Keppler
(22 January 1918
– 13 November 1942
) was an American
navy serviceman who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor
for his actions during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
in World War II
Early life and military service
Keppler was born in Ralston, Washington. He was raised in that state and, after graduation from Wapato High School, enlisted in the United States Navy on 19 February 1936, aged 18.
After an honorable discharge, he reenlisted 25 April 1940 and was assigned to the heavy cruiser San Francisco (CA-38). Keppler was promoted to First Class Petty Officer at the beginning of October 1941. During the war Boatswain's Mate First Class Keppler participated in action at Pearl Harbor, the early wartime raids on Bougainville and New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands campaign.
When a Japanese bomber crashed into his ship on 12 November 1942, at the beginning of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, he assisted in caring for the resulting casualties. That night, as San Francisco participated in a chaotic battle with enemy warships, he labored valiantly, despite mortal wounds, to save his ship and wounded shipmates. It was for his "extraordinary heroism and distinguished courage" on these occasions that Keppler was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Keppler is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.
In 1946, the destroyer USS Keppler (DD-765) was named in his honor. Previously, the destroyer escorts DE-311 and DE-375 had been assigned the name "Keppler", but both were cancelled before construction began.
Medal of Honor citation
Medal of Honor citation:
- "For extraordinary heroism and distinguished courage above and beyond the call of duty while serving aboard the U.S.S. San Francisco during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands, 12–13 November 1942. When a hostile torpedo plane, during a daylight air raid, crashed on the after machine-gun platform, KEPPLER promptly assisted in the removal of the dead and, by his capable supervision of the wounded, undoubtedly helped save the lives of several shipmates who otherwise might have perished. That night, when the hangar was set afire during the great battle off Savo Island, he bravely led a hose into the starboard side of the stricken area and there, without assistance and despite frequent hits from terrific enemy bombardment, eventually brought the fire under control. Later, although mortally wounded, he labored valiantly in the midst of bursting shells, persistently directing fire-fighting operations and administrating to wounded personnel until he finally collapsed from loss of blood, and died, aged 24. His great personal valor, maintained with utter disregard of personal safety, was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country."