b. 22/01/1918 Ralston, Washington. d. 13/11/1942 New Hebrides Naval Hospital, New Hebrides.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 12-13/11/1942 Iron Bottom Sound, Savo Island, Solomon Islands.
Keppler was born in Ralston, Washington. His father was a minister who transferred to the Northwest from the small town of Hosmer, South Dakota. He was raised in Washington and, after graduation from Wapato High School, enlisted in the United States Navy on February 19, 1936, aged 18.
After an honorable discharge, he reenlisted April 25, 1940 and was assigned to the heavy cruiser USS 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 November 12, 1942, at the beginning of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, he assisted in caring for the resulting casualties. That night and into the early morning of November 13, as the San Francisco participated in a chaotic battle with enemy warships, he labored valiantly, despite mortal wounds, to save his ship and wounded shipmates. (His tombstone incorrectly lists Nov 15 as his death.) It was for his “extraordinary heroism and distinguished courage” on these occasions that Keppler was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Keppler was initially buried at the American Military Cemetery at Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu; his remains were transferred in June 1948 to Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California. He was survived by his widow and younger brother Ben (who grew up in Hosmer). His widow was presented with his Medal on September 17, 1943 at the Naval District HQ in San Francisco from Vice Admiral John W. Greensale.
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 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 ship’s 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 firefighting operations and administering to wounded personnel until he finally collapsed from loss of blood. His great personal valor, maintained with utter disregard of personal safety, was in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
BURIAL LOCATION: GOLDEN GATE NATIONAL CEMETERY, SAN BRUNO, CALIFORNIA.
SECTION C, GRAVE 379.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: VALLEJO NAVAL & HISTORICAL MUSEUM, VALLEJO, CALIFORNIA.