Keesler's Namesake


Samuel Reeves Keesler, Jr., was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, on 11 April 1896. He was an outstanding student leader and athlete in high school and at Davidson College in North Carolina.

Keesler entered the U.S. Army Air Service on 13 May 1917. He was commissioned a second lieutenant on 15 August, and received training as an aerial observer at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before sailing for France in March 1918. After additional training in aerial gunnery and artillery fire control, Lieutenant Keesler was assigned to the 24th Aero Squadron in the Verdun sector of the Western Front on 26 August 1918.

During World War I, while performing a reconnaissance mission behind German lines during the late afternoon of 8 October 1918, Keesler and his pilot, First Lieutenant Harold W. Riley, came under heavy gunfire from four enemy aircraft. Keesler immediately returned fire and shot down the leader, but Riley quickly lost control of the badly damaged airplane. Keesler continued to fend off the attackers even as they plummeted to the ground. Seriously wounded during the battle and the ensuing crash landing, Keesler and Riley were eventually captured by German ground troops and held prisoner. Unable to receive immediate medical attention, Keesler died from his injuries the following day. For his gallantry, Lieutenant Keesler was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. 

On 25 August 1941, Army Air Corps Station No. 8 was officially designated Keesler Army Airfield in his honor. 

Facsimile of Keesler Letter of Commendation

A Short History Of Keesler Air Force Base