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"We came home in Army uniforms. We couldn't wear the American Marine uniform over there; it was too much like the color of the German uniform." (Audio Interview, 1:20:23)

   Arthur Roland Keller
Image of Arthur Roland Keller
Arthur Keller, Sr., WWI USMC
War: World War I, 1914-1920
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: Company A, 1st Machine Gun Training Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment; 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment
Service Location: Parris Island, South Carolina (boot camp); Meuse-Argonne, Toulon-Troyon, Chateau-Thierry, Soissons, Marbache, St. Michiel, Blanc Mont, Verdun, France; Belgium; Luxembourg; Germany
Rank: Corporal
Place of Birth: Jefferson County, IA
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Arthur Keller enlisted in the Marines at the age of 19 during a trip to Chicago from his home in Fairfield, Iowa. At that time, the spring of 1918, the U.S. was starting to send over replacement troops to replenish their losses. Keller, who was interviewed by his daughter in 1974, offers a vivid portrait of life in the trenches, dealing with relentless German shelling and just as persistent body lice. Though he considered the Marines the best disciplined of the services, Keller acknowledges the spirit of cooperation among all those serving. After the Armistice, Keller and a comrade spent six months of the Occupation living with a German family, forging an unlikely bond that prompted a tearful farewell in July 1919.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
»Complete Interview  (87 min.)
»Photo Album (3 photos)
 Official Documents
»View List (4 items)
 Other Materials
»Photocopy of Arthur Keller's medals
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
Why he enlisted in the Marines; tired of hearing people asking why he wasn't in the service; going to Chicago to enlist; attracted to the Marines by a recruiter in an impressive looking uniform; noticing when he went over to France the difference in discipline between Marines and the other services; talking to Marines from subsequent wars and they assure him the standards are still high. (05:10) How the Marines, soldiers, and sailors got along; Marines got a lot of publicity but the others didn't resent it; jawing back and forth with cavalry soldiers. (02:02) Replacements showing up sick with flu, some of them dying within 24 hours of arrival; into the Argonne forest; hearing rumors in the last week of the war about German surrender; protecting against artillery shells by digging in; losing his rifle to an artillery shell; told to pick up the first one he saw; danger of moving while flares lit up the area. (07:35)
American Springfield rifle was best equipment they had; receiving brand-new Browning rifles right after the Armistice; with those rifles, they could have won the war even sooner; using inferior French equipment; walking behind the American artillery; horses pulling the big guns well-trained not to react to the noise. (06:07) Going 3 days without food with their galley stuck in the mud behind them; filling their canteens from water running in the ditches; once in Germany, told to keep out of the local houses; disobeying to ask for clean water; dealing with lice in their clothing; taking a shower two weeks after the Armistice; no change of uniform the whole time he was over; boiling his uniform to clean it. (05:17) Adventures in Germany after the Armistice, following the German Army; starting in France, through Belgium and Luxembourg; treated to pastries by a couple in Luxembourg; in the week leading up to Armistice, officers sending anyone with an excuse back to the hospital to avoid unnecessary casualties; crossing the Meusse River in the dark; staying in a convent, with nuns providing pillows and blankets. (09:51)
Where he was at 11am on November 11, 1918; hearing a German gun getting "the last word in;" instructed not to fraternize with the German soldiers; Belgians not at all grateful to see them; sleeping in a barn with huge rats; crossing the Rhine at Remagen; made battalion clerk; staying with a German family; helping with household chores that German men wouldn't think of doing; scrounging food staples for their family from the Army's supplies. (12:48) On the ship coming back, receiving radio communication asking if the divisions wanted a parade in New York; in the August heat wearing bathing suit under their jackets and pants; parading 131 blocks down Fifth Avenue; walking for 15 minutes, stopping for five to conserve their energy; coming home in Army uniforms; couldn't wear the Marine uniforms in France because they were almost the same color as the German uniforms. (02:43) Marines-only homecoming parade in their new uniforms; no one got tired; more warmly received than in New York. (01:26)
 Official Documents (4 items)
Commision in the United States Marine Corps [April 1, 1918] Award of a Good Conduct Medal [1/8/1921] Honorable discharge
Military Record  
Home » Search Results » Arthur Roland Keller
  The Library of Congress >> American Folklife Center
   May 26, 2004
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