b. 21/12/1907 Centralia, Washington. d. 09/07/1972 Puget Sound, Washington.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 13/04/1945 near Galiano, Philippines.
Kerstetter joined the Army from his birthplace of Centralia, Washington in March 1942, and by April 13, 1945, was serving as a private first class in Company C, 130th Infantry Regiment, 33rd Infantry Division. On that day, during a fight to take a ridge near Galiano, Luzon, the Philippines, he advanced ahead of his squad and engaged the Japanese soldiers alone until running out of ammunition. For these actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor seven months later, and it was presented by President Harry S Truman at The White House on October 12, 1945. He left the army with the rank of sergeant.
He began working at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in 1954. He drowned on July 9, 1972. His body was never recovered. A memorial gravesite was dedicated in his honor at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent.
He was with his unit in a dawn attack against hill positions appoachable only along a narrow ridge paralleled on each side by steep cliffs which were heavily defended by enemy mortars, machine guns, and rifles in well-camouflaged spider holes and tunnels leading to caves. When the leading element was halted by intense fire that inflicted five casualties, Pfc. Kerstetter passed through the American line with his squad. Placing himself well in advance of his men, he grimly worked his way up the narrow steep hogback, meeting the brunt of enemy action. With well-aimed shots and rifle-grenade fire, he forced the Japs to take cover. He left the trail and, moving down a cliff that offered only precarious footholds, dropped among four Japs at the entrance to a cave, fired his rifle from his hip, and killed them all. Climbing back to the trail, he advanced against heavy enemy machine-gun, rifle, and mortar fire to silence a heavy machine gun by killing its crew of four with rifle fire and grenades. He expended his remaining ammunition and grenades on a group of approximately 20 Japs, scattering them, and returned to his squad for more ammunition and first aid for his left hand, which had been blistered by the heat from his rifle. Resupplied, he guided a fresh platoon into a position from which a concerted attack could be launched, killing three hostile soldiers on the way. In all, he dispatched 16 Japs that day. The hill was taken and held against the enemy’s counterattacks, which continued for three days. Pfc. Kerstetter’s dauntless and gallant heroism was largely responsible for the capture of this key enemy position, and his fearless attack in the face of great odds was an inspiration to his comrades in their dangerous task.
BURIAL LOCATION: BODY NOT RECOVERED.
IN MEMORY OF MARKER AT TAHOMA NATIONAL CEMETERY, KENT, WASHINGTON.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.