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USS Robert F. Keller (DE 419)

from Bob Donlon

HISTORY OF USS Robert F. Keller DE 419
(From the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships)

A GREAT OKINAWA DESTROYER ESCORT
As you read about all other ships hit by Kamikazes - I know your own nightmares will return. Robert F. Kellerís Officers and Crewman - Looked them in the eye, to stand and die! You stand tall and have earned your place in history by living, even making, it - so be proud.


Robert Franklin Keller, born in Denver, Colorado, 16 January 1918, enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves as seaman second class at Kansas City, Kansas, 14 February 1941. Bob was appointed Aviation Cadet on 15 May 1941. He was commissioned ensign, USNR, 10 October 1941. Following training in Kansas, Florida, Texas and California, he reported on 15 February 1942 to Patrol Squadron 43. He earned the Air Medal as second pilot of a patrol plane in action against enemy Japanese forces during the Aleutian Islands Campaign, 10 June to 20 June 1942. Braving severe Alaskan weather and with a low ceiling forcing his plane to fly through clouds to carry out its attack mission against Japanese ships in Kiska Harbor. Ensign Keller skillfully assisted in determined dive-bombing and strafing attacks. Pulling out in the clear at a very low altitude, his plane was subjected to withering antiaircraft fire from the enemy ship and shore batteries and pierced by shrapnel and lighter caliber projectiles on 14 June 1942, and failed to return from the mission.

USS Robert F. Keller DE 419, a John C. Butler Class Destroyer Escort was laid down by Brown Ship Building Company, Houston, Texas, 12 January 1944; Length: 306í; Beam: 36í8; Westinghouse-Geared-Turbine Drive, 12,000 shp; Draft: 13í4; Trail Speed: 24.15 knots; War Endurance: 4,650 Miles/12 Knots; Displacement: 1,600 tons; Complement: 14 officers, 201 enlisted; Fuel Capacity: 347 Tons; Armament: 2-5/38 cal guns-Main Battery; 2-Twin 40mm guns, 1-Triple Torpedo 21 Tube; 10 20mm guns; 1-Hedgehog; 2 Depth Charge Tracks, 8 K-gun projectors; launched 19 February 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Peter S. Keller; and commissioned 17 June 1944, Lcdr R. J. Toner, USNR, in command.

Following shakedown off Bermuda, Robert F. Keller escorted USS Currituck (AV 7) to the Canal Zone, then transited the canal 7 September 1944. She picked up a convoy of four Pearl Harbor bound merchantmen at San Francisco and escorted them safely to their destination. Arriving on 1 October, Keller joined Escort Division 72, assigned to screen carrier Coral Sea. With the 3rd Fleet, the group sailed to the Western Carolinas arriving 1 November. This became Kellerís advance base for operations until February 1945.

Keller Weathers Typhoon Cobra

During this time her task group, designated 30.7, conducted antisubmarine sweeps as a hunter killer group in the Phillipine Sea and adjacent waters operating in Escort Division 72 with Anzio (CVE 57), Melvin R. Nawman (DE 416), Oliver Mitchell (DE 417), and Tabberer (DE 418). This division, a hunter-killer unit of the Third Fleet, conducted antisubmarine sweeps in the Philippine Sea and adjacent waters where they weathered the wrath of Typhoon-Cobra. Remembering the original meaning of the word, kamikaze, the so-called Divine Wind that wrecked the fleets of the Kublai Khan when he attempted to invade Japan, one couldnít help but wonder if that wind were coming once more to save Japan. Furious winds drove waves to the height of a 10-story building.

10 December 1944, Keller, with Escort Division 72, screened the logistics ships supporting the landings on Mindoro. The Task Group then sped northwest on the 16th, straight into the teeth of a howling typhoon. On the morning of 18 December, the wind tore away anemometer vanes as the ship battled the waves astern of the carrier Anzio (CVE 57). In the eerie mid-day darkness, Keller rose high in the air on the crest of monstrous waves, only to crash into the troughs below.

The nightmare is related by Kellerís commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander R. J. Toner, and is reprinted by permission of U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, copyright 1976.

The harsh buzz of the sound-powered phone brought me sharply into wakefulness. I reached through the darkness toward the head of my bunk to grasp the accustomed shape of the phone from its cradle. As I answered "yea" into the mouthpiece, another part of my consciousness was aware of the staggering motion of the ship. I braced myself against the erratic actions of the destroyer escort, which several times almost pitched me bodily from the bunk. "This is the Officer of the Deck, Captain. The sea has been making up for the past hour or so. The wind has increased to gale force, and Iím having difficulty keeping station on the carrier. Also, the chief engineer has requested permission to commence deballasting."

I glanced at the luminous hands of the shipís clock above the foot of my bunk. It was 0430. "Is it light enough to make out the surface of the sea?" I asked.

"Not light enough to make out things clearly, Sir, but what I can see doesnít look good." "Very well, Iíll be on the bridge in a few minutes. Meanwhile, tell the chief engineer not to deballast. I doubt if there is going to be much fueling today."

The soft red light filled the sea cabin. I could feel the springs of the bunk sag deeply under me as an upward heave of the ship thrust my weight against them, then a light feeling in the pit of my stomach as the ship dropped from beneath me.

I would soon have to make a decision as to whether I should grant permission to deballast. This is done by pumping out the seawater, which had been taken into the shipís fuel tanks to compensate for the weight of the fuel burned. To deballast would remove tons of water from the fuel tanks, making the ship lighter and, in effect, cause a comparative top heaviness, a dangerous condition for a ship in heavy weather. With an effort, I eased myself out of the rolling, pitching bunk to pull on my shirt and trousers.

Since there was no immediate emergency requiring my presence on the bridge, I made my way carefully into the darkened passageway, moving cautiously so as not to be thrown against jutting equipment, thence down the steep ladder leading to the wardroom, dimly lit with red battle lights. I moved slowly to the buffet, on which an electric coffee maker was bolted to the top. The coffee was swirling about in the glass container, which was firmly held to the heating coils by metal bands. Pouring the coffee into a cup was quite a trick since I balanced myself against the leaping motion of the ship, holding the cup in one hand and cautiously pouring the coffee with the other, meanwhile attempting to maintain an upright position.

My mind reviewed the situation facing us as I sipped the hot bitter coffee. An operational message received earlier had designated our Task Group amongst other units scheduled to fuel at first light. We were steaming a few thousand yards ahead of the carrier which, when fueling operations commenced, would detach specific ships from the antisubmarine screen to fuel and to rejoin the formation before the escorts were detached. Kellerís turn would put us alongside the oiler at about 0830. Since it would require a few hours to deballast, we would have to start pumping within the next half-hour if we were to be ready to commence fueling as scheduled.

I was not too concerned, Keller was my third combatant sea command since the war began, and the approaching heavy weather, although an unpleasant prospect, did not cause me undue concern; nor did I think it would present any unusual complications. We had fueled at sea in heavy weather several tines, and the officers and men, as well as I, had profited by the experience. The ship had been secured for heavy weather before I had turned in last night. Lifelines had been rigged along the weather decks, and there was nothing to be done now but to recognize and take steps to handle each situation as it arose.

I finished the coffee and placed the cup in its hole in the fiddle board. Leaving the wardroom, I mounted the ladder to the pilothouse, which led to the open bridge. The Quartermaster of the Watch reported that the barometer was reading less than 28 inches and falling fast. About 30 inches is normal at sea level.

The open bridge on a DE is just that; it is completely open to the weather. Its principal advantage is that it gives a 360-degree view of the water about the ship. As I emerged onto the open bridge, I was immediately conscious of a stinging sensation in my nostrils, caused by the mist-like spume that was swirling about the bridge. The watch personnel were wearing handkerchiefs tied about their noses. I did the same and felt an immediate relief. I noted that the Officer of the Deck and the bridge watch were soaking wet, but the howling wind was warm and humid, and no one bothered to put on heavy weather clothing. I took a firm hold on the spray shield of the bridge and tried to sense the temper of the wind and sea.

The first light of dawn on 18 December was beginning to break in a dirty, yellowish haze, sufficient to disclose the surface of the sea only within 200 yard of the ship. As I watched, towering masses of dull, olive green sea would build up on our port quarter, overtake the ship until the fantail was awash in a swirling coil of foam that reached to the depth charge racks. The confused mass would then pass under us like an immense sea creature; the ship yawing with a drunken motion as it rushed along with the crest. Then the bow would rise sharply, and a heavy drag could be felt as though a gigantic hand had grasped the laboring ship. The vibration of the twin screws, sometimes spinning free of the sea, caused the ship to shudder as the bow fell rapidly, buried in a smother of foam. The various coachwhip antennae about the bridge were bent almost 45 degrees before the driving blast of the wind. The spindrift, cut sharply from the crests of the sea, scudded along the troughs like dust along a country road on a windy day. Then, striking the ship, it swirled about its superstructure and struck with a hissing sound against the stack abaft the open bridge.

I had seen enough. I knew there would be no refueling operations conducted this day. I directed the Officer of the Deck to have reville sounded and to caution all hands over the PA system not to use the weather decks, but to remain in shelter, also to inform the chief engineer to secure the fueling detail. My capable executive officer came to the bridge at this moment and I asked him to see to it that all watertight doors were closed. Place the ship in maximum watertight integrity and the most experienced and skillful officers and men stationed in all spaces where machinery or special equipment was operating. I had to shout with full lungs to make myself heard.

Daylight, when it came, was merely a lighter, yellowish, opaque haze and, if anything, visibility had decreased. The wind had backed, that is it had shifted in a counter-clockwise direction, so that it was now coming at us with rising intensity from slightly abaft the starboard beam. For some time, a strange shrill sound had been impinging upon my consciousness. I suddenly realized that it was the shriek of the wind about the mainstays of the mast. With the shifting winds, a confused sea had built up, causing the ship to lurch and yaw in wild, unpredictable motions. The Officer of the Deck reported the ship was very sluggish in answering the helm and that he was having considerable difficulty conning her. I then relieved him of control, giving direct orders to the helmsman and engine order telegraph operator.

A tactical signal received over TBS reversed the formation course by having all ships execute a simultaneous 180-degree turn. Execution of this maneuver placed the carrier ahead of us on a southwesterly course with the destroyers in an arc astern. The carrier canceled fueling operations and ordered all ships to rig for typhoon weather; the course change just executed was to take the formation out of the dangerous semi-circle of the typhoon. I had to assist the twin rudders with full speed on the outboard engine to bring Keller to the new course signaled by the carrier.

The awareness of the passage of time began to recede as my attention was more and more absorbed in the conning of the ship. I had experienced hurricanes in the Caribbean in one of my previous commands and heavy gales in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the others. Yet somehow, without ever forming the thoughts into words, I knew that this was becoming a struggle for survival. Normally, a course to steer is given to the helmsman, and he keeps his ship on course. However, the confused sea was making it difficult for him to keep the ship anywhere near the course of our formation. Occasionally, therefore, I would have to order an extreme amount of rudder and an increase or decrease in speed of one of the engines to add to the effect of the twin rudders and to assist the ship to struggle back to the desired heading.

The executive officer was standing beside me. Cupping his hands to his mouth, he yelled into my ear in order to make himself heard. "Captain, the bottom has fallen out of the barometer, and weíve just heard a TBS transmission from the carrier to the Fleet Commander, saying that sheís having difficulty maintaining her course, that some of her planes have broken loose on her hangar deck and that fires have broken out." I nodded to let him know I understood. There was nothing we could do except remain afloat and stay in her vicinity. I cupped my hands and yelled into the execís ear "Is everything secure below decks?" The exec nodded, turned and disappeared into the pilothouse to continue his rounds.

In periods of such intense concentration, the body and its demands recede and fuse into a mental-spiritual sensing. It extends oneís reactions to the utmost limits of the ship so that her next movement becomes as responsive and anticipated as the movements of oneís own limbs. In this strange orchestration, I was conscious that the wind had continued to back and reach crescendos of violence. Immense seas now came hurtling at us from forward of our starboard beam, the wind knifing their crests in a fury of spindrift. The ship was rolling deeply, now laboring up and across a mountainous wall of ugly sea, or pitching crazily with a skidding roll toward the depth of the trough.

These thunderous seas were not in regular sequence, nor from a predictable direction. The inhuman force of the typhoon now raging upon us did still not overcome the heavy and confused seas built up by the driving blast of the winds in their earlier directions. I used every combination of rudders and engines, yet the powerful-geared turbines and the twin rudders had little effect against the titanic forces beating down upon the slender destroyer escort hull. The ship in torment lay spent, almost inert in the fury about her. I could feel my insides quiver when an unpredictable sea smashed into her and buried her under its immense weight. Then, with agonizing slowness, she sluggishly achieved a movement of her own. Suddenly, without any transition, she was racing down a tremendous incline. I yelled for full rudder in the opposite direction.

The sensation is comparable to the sudden, breath-taking drop of a roller coaster. There did not seem to be any reaction to the rudders. For an interminable time, we rushed down that vast slope. I felt a brief flash of thankfulness that she had not yawed or skidded with her stern. This was a common fault with this class of ships in a following sea, as they were designed to turn quickly. Suddenly, the bottomless rush was over; a cross-sea smashed into Kellerís starboard bow and the impact could be felt through every frame of the ship. I mid-shipped rudders and waited for the next onslaught.

Looking back now, I recall an impersonal detachment from everything but sensing the ship and the force of wind and seas. I have a sailorís profound respect for the sea and I have felt her many times in my life, but this absorption was too intense to admit awareness of fear. I recall that, from time to time, someone would yell into my ear, giving me bits of information. The fire on the carrier was under control, one ship in our formation reported her lifeboat shattered, another reported damage to parts of her superstructure, while one took a roll of a 72 degrees. Our radar indicated that Tabberer on our starboard bow had closed to one half her former distance. The formation of our Task Group disintegrated as each ship fought for her life. The reports I received indicated that, so far, Keller was unharmed, except for superficial breakage. Each time, I would acknowledge the information; then my mind and that part of my being that sensed the ship withdrew into the intimate problem of keeping her afloat.

Ordinarily so responsive to her powerful engines, Keller lay like a stricken creature without reaction to her rudders or radical speed changes. She was almost "In Irons" an old expression from the days of sail, when a ship, coming about from one tack to another, failed to pay off the new tack and lay helpless in the eye of the wind. Then gradually, Keller would take on a life of her own, and slowly the gyro repeater would indicate that she was coming back to the course that I had ordered to meet the next thrust of the sea.

Someone was pulling my arm violently and pointing toward the murk, the color of burnt amber, on our starboard bow. He was excited and yelling at the top of his lungs, but I couldnít hear him. My eyes were stinging and blurred from the driving force of the spindrift. Then suddenly I saw what caused his alarm. There, only a few hundred yards from us, pitching high over the crest of a sea with its entire forefront uncovered, was the sharp reinforced bow of a destroyer escort. Behind her, I could make out the tophamper of the mast. The looming shape was almost upon us.

I yelled into the voice tube that led to the pilothouse, "All engines ahead flank! Then, grasping the cradle phone of the TBS, I yelled into it the code name of Tabberer. Those within the radio shack, removed from the shriek of the wind, told me later that they heard my voice over the loudspeaker in strong urgent tones call Tabberer and say, "My engines are ahead flank, back down full or youíll ram me!" A moment later over the loud speaker came the calm Georgia voice of the skipper of Tabberer, my friend, saying "Rogah, Ahím backiní full."

All watertight doors and hatches had long since been secured. Experienced personnel, including damage control parties, were manning their stations. In situations like this, where one is committed to a course of action, when all has been done that seamanship and experience indicates, everything hangs on a heartbeat. Itís up to the ship and the imponderables now. Tabberer, every part of her visible as were the figures on her open bridge, buried her bow into an immense sea abeam of us. Then, seeming to leap clear of it, she passed 100 yards astern of Keller in a flurry of foam and spray; then she was lost in the murk.

Shortly after noon, the Quartermasterís log indicated a rising barometer. The wind continued to back and, although it no longer blew with its former insane fury, the ship continued to make heavy going of it; so I kept the conn. I remember eating an apple that was handed to me and thinking that the salty taste of the spray mingled well with that of the fruit. Toward late afternoon, the sky to the west cleared and the sea abated sufficiently to permit me to change course and rejoin the carrier, whose distant shape and those of other ships could be made out scattered along the horizon.

On the following day, Tabberer rescued several survivors. Accordingly, Anzio, Keller and two other relatively undamaged ships of CortDiv 72, were ordered into the area where the survivors had been picked up to conduct a thorough search.

The tremendous seas worked up by the typhoon were still running. The carrier, normally a relatively stable ship, was rolling and pitching in such a manner that it seemed to us on the hard riding destroyer escorts that flight operations would be impossible. Yet Anzio flew her scheduled search missions for several days.

On the second day of the search, the carrier took a green sea over her bow. The immense flood of seawater washed a seaman overboard from a relatively protected position below her flight deck. Keller was ordered to pick him up. I was on the bridge and immediately took the Conn. I directed the Officer of the Deck to have Combat Information Center plot the position of the carrier and to give me a course to a position 500 yards astern of the carrierís present position. As I brought the ship about and headed in the general direction of where the man might be, Man Overboard quarters were sounded and additional lookouts were stationed.

There he is. I see him. Several men were pointing almost dead ahead. Now a new problem presented itself. I realized that we could not launch a boat in these seas. I directed the exec not to lower the whaleboat, but to rig as many mattresses as possible along our starboard side and to have several strong swimmers standing by with lines secured to their life jackets.

I reduced speed until we had bare steerageway, and then sighted the small figure in the water ahead of us. The helmsman in the pilothouse could not see him, so he was conned toward the manís position, who sometimes dropped out of sight behind the crest of a huge sea. I had a clear view from my position on the starboard side of the bridge. I backed the engines when the man was about 50 yards to leeward and somewhat forward of our beam. Keller handled beautifully; the wind caused us to drift down upon the man. He caught a line heaved from our deck, fastened it about himself, and was hauled aboard without injury. I feared the injury that might have resulted had he been dashed against our bilge keel, a strip of steel about a foot wide, welded to the turn of the bilge to reduce the shipís roll.

The medics cared for the rescued man. A signal to the carrier advised our recovery and that we were proceeding to rejoin the formation. I increased speed slowly as we headed almost directly into the long surging seas. After a few minutes of observing how she handled at ten knots, I was about to order an increase to twelve knots when, to my astonishment, I heard the cry "Man Overboard!" Keller had taken a huge green sea over the focísle, which roared down the port weather deck. Then, with the roll of the ship, it had crossed to the starboard side of the fantail and washed overboard the watch at the depth charge racks.

I instinctively gave the order "Right Full Rudder!" to throw the stern away from the man. Fortunately, he was still in sight and apparently uninjured. We executed the same procedure as for the previous recovery and had our man on board in a very short time. Anzio reversed the formation course so that all ships would pass close aboard Keller, enabling her to rejoin the formation without difficulty.

Our double rescue was a blessing in disguise, for it gave us confidence and an expertise, which we were able to put to excellent use two days later. On the third day of the search on 22 December 1944, one of our lookouts sighted what appeared to be some wreckage on our starboard bow. The mid-morning was bright with heavy seas still running, but the wind somewhat abated. Through my binoculars, I was able to make out the figures of 3 or 4 men grouped together of capsized destroyer Hull, victim of the typhoon. The seas were still too heavy to risk lowering a boat. As a result of our previous experiences, mattresses were rigged over the side without an order being given as soon as "Man Overboard" was piped.

As we approached the castaways, I was engrossed in handling the ship and couldnít pay attention to their condition other than to note their location. However, I was struck by what seemed to be an oddity; the men appeared to be wearing white gloves. As Keller drifted down upon the huddled group, several men volunteered to go overboard to assist the survivors who appeared to be in a weakened condition. Permission was granted, and these brave men risked circling sharks as well as the sharp edges of the bilge keel. Riflemen were standing by to shoot any sharks that got too close. The four survivors were brought aboard without injury, along with their floater net, which had supported them and our rescuers.

The rescued men were very young, 17 to 19 years of age. They were weak but lucid after three days and four nights on the floater net without food or water. Several other men had been with them but, one by one, had slipped away. The evening before we sighted them, a chief petty officer, who had become delirious, had said "Excuse me, lads, Iím going below to the chiefís mess for a sandwich." Before anyone could stop him, the Chief cleared himself from the floater net and was last seen swimming away over the crest of a wave.

The medics later informed me that, what had appeared to be white gloves on the menís hands, was actually a condition known as Immersion Hands (and feet), caused by excessive exposure in water.

The survivors reported that they had seen the rigid life rafts go end-over-end, spilling men and equipment into the raging seas. However, those lucky enough to reach the floater nets - open weave net of lines with rubber disks secured at intervals - survived the worst of the typhoon. The floater nets were as flexible as the motion of the seas and the survivors; their feet thrust through the open weave of the nets, rode atop the waves. At times, an immense sea would crash down on them and they would emerge choking, half drowned. Despite warning, some would gulp whole mouthfuls of salt water, causing a few to become crazed.

Two days after the last rescue, one of our lookouts sighted a body floating in the now much calmer seas. We put over a boat but, as it approached the body, a shark was sighted. I gave orders over the loud speaker to the boat officer not to allow any of the men to enter the water. A line was placed about the body to tow it to the ship. A stretcher was lowered, and the body was hoisted aboard.

The body was dressed in the uniform of a chief petty officer. None of the survivors recognized the corpse. The medics had the painful task of taking fingerprints, identifying dental work, scars and other markings. Modern destroyers no longer have sail makers, an extinct rate in the Navy. However, the boatswainís mates sewed the body in a canvas shroud and weighted it with 40-millimeter rounds.

After all these years, I still recall the brilliant pacific sunset as I walked to the fantail to read the "Service for the Dead." The ship was at GQ, except for a small representative group of the shipís company, drawn up on either side of the fantail near the flag-draped figure lying on the deck. The menís bodies swayed in unison with the surge and lift of the sea. All hands uncovered. Then, from the Book of Common Prayer, I read the short and beautiful words for Burial at Sea. The burial detail had lifted the body on its wooden pallet and, when I read the words "We therefore, Oh Lord, commit the body of our shipmate unto Thy Hands and into the depths," the inboard end of the pallet was raised and the body launched into the seas, leaving the fluttering colors held by a boatswains mate. Taps were sounded, the traditional three rounds fired, then the shrill piping of the boatswain calling "Now secure from Burial Service."

For several days, the area in which the destroyers went down was thoroughly searched by ships and planes. Orders were finally received to secure the search and proceed to Ulithi Atoll. When we anchored in the vast lagoon, we made preparations to transfer the survivors to a hospital ship. By this time, with the resiliency of youth, all were sufficiently recovered to walk to the gangway and enter the waiting boat without assistance. Two of the men still wore bandages on their hands.

Prior to departing from Ulithi for the next phase of the Philippines campaign, I recommended decorations for the officers and men who went overside during the rescue of the survivors. For the others, I held Meritorious Mast and awarded Letters of Commendation, which became a part of their service records.

1945

On Wednesday January 3, 1945 aircraft from fast carrier task force (Vice Adm. J. S.McCain), commence 2-day strike on Japanese shipping and aircraft in the Ryukyu Islands and Formosa. United States naval vessels damaged: escort carrier Sargent Bay (CVE 83) and destroyer escort Robert F. Keller (DE 419), by collision, Philippine Islands area.

Keller at the Invasion of Iwo Jima

On January 28, 1945 all ships of Task Force 30.7 were assigned to the U.S. 5th Fleet and proceeded on 2 February to cover a group of transports in their voyage from Eniwetok to Saipan. At this newly annexed Pacific Island, Keller was attached to Air Support Unit 2 and was with that division as it participated in the Iwo Jima campaign of February 1945. While acting as carrier screen, on the night of 21 February, her crew witnessed the sinking of escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea during a Kamikaze attack. She remained in the Iwo area until 7 March and then retired to Leyte Island in the Philippines for upkeep and repair in preparation for the Okinawa operation.

Bloody Okinawa

Keller was ready for the operation by 21 March 1945 and proceeded to Okinawa, destroying three floating mines enroute. Her duties were identical to those she had known in the Iwo campaign, acting as air defense and antisubmarine screen for the carriers involved in covering the invasion from the air. The ship left the area on 27 April escorting the carrier Anzio (ex-Coral Sea) to Ulithi. She was back in the war on 10 May escorting the cruiser San Francisco to the Okinawa battleline and then guarded the convoy lanes around the beleagured island fortress. She returned to Leyte for availability 17 June.

Keller Helps Sink Japanese Submarine I-13

Task Group 30.6 set out again on 6 July on what was to be Kellerís last combat operation of the war, antisubmarine sweeps east of Tokyo. Ten days later Keller assisted in a kill when USS Lawrence C. Taylor (DE 415) caught Japanese submarine I-13 on the surface and raked her with gunfire until she sank. When the end of hostilities was announced, Keller proceeded to Guam. After escorting transports loaded with occupation troops to Jinsen, Korea, on 8 September, Keller returned to Okinawa on 22 September. She remained in the Far East for the rest of the year, calling at several Chinese ports.

Keller Goes Home

Robert F. Keller decommissioned on 24 April 1946 at San Diego. In September 1946 she was placed "in service" and assigned to the 13th Naval District at Puget Sound, Washington, to lend her assistance in the Navyís Reserve training program. In January 1950, she sailed to the east coast via the Panama Canal and was placed "in commission in reserve" on 31 March 1950, assigned as Naval Reserve Training Ship at Washington DC, under Commandant, Potomac River Naval Command. On 18 November 1950, she was again placed on "active status in commission" and trained reserves while maintaining sea readiness. Through 1955 she made 39 cruises and assisted in the training of over 3,500 reserve officers and enlisted men and visited most major ports in Eastern Canada, the West Indies and the United States. She continued this duty until 1959, sometimes crossing the Atlantic to visit European ports.

On 21 September 1959 Robert F. Keller decommissioned and was placed "in service" assigned to Naval Reserve training in Baltimore under the Commandant, 5th Naval District. She recommissioned 2 October 1961 incident to the Berlin Crisis and was manned by reserves, steaming in the Atlantic and Caribbean during the rest of the year. She again decommissioned and was placed "in service" as a Naval Reserve training ship of the 5th Naval District, 1 August 1962. She was placed out of commission in reserve at Philadelphia in January 1965, where she remained until 1972. After survey, in the spring of 1972, Robert F. Keller was found to be unfit for further service and was stricken from the Navy list 1 July 1972.

During eleven months of continuous war service in the Pacific, Keller destroyed nine enemy floating mines, picked up seven downed Navy pilots. She was a member of a Hunter-Killer group that destroyed four Japanese subs, several aircraft and participated in two amphibious support operations. This Hunter-Killer group destroyed the last Japanese sub of the war prior to the Hiroshima bombing.

Keller earned five battle stars for her participation in Pacific engagements; Leyte, Luzon, Iwo Jima, Okinawa Gunto, and the Third Fleet Operations against Japan.





Keller's Crest

Two tridents, quartered on a field of red, two lamps of learning quartered on a field of blue - and beneath, Multum in Parvo (literally translated means: Big things come from small things). William H. Bartlett, Cdr (ret.), skipper of the USS Robert F. Keller (DE 419), who also served aboard the USS Gatling (DD 671) and USS Los Angeles (CA 135) and now resides in Leesburg, Florida graciously gave this plaque to me which now rests aboard the USS Slater (DE 766) at Snow Dock in Albany, New York. It is stored, and can be seen, in the Memorabilia Locker for USS Robert F. Keller (DE 419) artifacts.

Robert M. Donlon, SOG3
USS Robert F. Keller (DE 419)
2326 Gurenson Lane
Niskayuna, New York 12309
Tel. (518) 374-9046
E-mail: rdonlon@nycap.rr.com

Yeoman CAP-DESA
Capital District- Destroyer Escort Sailors Association
CAP-DESA Albany, New York Chapter
Founded Saturday 25 April 1998
Home of the USS Slater (DE-766)



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