Woodrow Wilson Keeble

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MSgt Woodrow W. Keeble, Medal of Honor recipient. Courtesy of the National Guard. "Keeble was the embodiment of Wo´yuonihaŋ (honor)."

Russell Hawkins, Keeble's stepson, 2008. 

Woodrow Wilson Keeble was born in 1917 in in Waubay, South Dakota. When young, he moved to Wahpeton, North Dakota, and became a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. After his mother died, Keeble's father, who was too impoverished to feed his family, permanently enrolled Woodrow and his siblings in the Wahpeton Indian School.

Keeble excelled in sports, especially baseball, and pitched the Wahpeton amateur team to 10 straight victories. He was being recruited by the Chicago White Sox when his Army National Guard unit was called up to serve in World War II, becoming the North Dakota 164th Infantry Regiment.  The 164th fought in several famous battles in the Pacific Theater of the war--Guadalcanal, Leyte, and Mindanao among them.  During the Korean War, the 164th was again deployed, and Sgt. Wilson distinguished himself several times in combat.  He returned to Wahpeton and died there in 1982. 
Following a long campaign by his family and the congressional delegations of both North and South Dakota, Keeble was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on March 3, 2008 by President George W. Bush for his actions in the Korean War. Keeble had previously been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with V device for Valor, the Bronze Star for merit, and the Combat Infantryman Badge (first and second awards).  Although he was wounded at least twice in World War II and three times in Korea, he received only two Purple Hearts.  His Medal of Honor was the first ever awarded to a member of the Dakota nation. 
American Indians in the Military
American Indians have served in all our nation's wars even though they were not granted legal citizenship until 1924. Twelve thousand Native Americans served in World War I, 44,000 (of a total population of 350,000 Native Americans at the time) served in World War II, and 42,000 (more than 90 percent of whom were volunteers) served in Vietnam. Native Americans still have the highest record of service per capita of all the ethnic groups in U.S. history.
In World War II, the United States used Navajo code talkers, as well as Lakota speakers, to transmit coded messages.
Resources for Further Research: 


First Sioux Receives Medal of Honor. CNN.

Library of Congress Veterans History Project

Native Americans in the U.S. Army.

Native Words Native Warriors. The National Museum of the American Indian. 

Oliff, Helen. Native American Code Talkers. National Relief Charities Blog.



First Sioux to Receive Medal of Honor. U.S. Military. President's remarks

Meyer, Holly. Last Lakota code talker Clarence Wolf Guts dies at 86. The Rapid City Journal, 2010.



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