Willard W. Keith, Jr.

NAME
Willard Woodward Keith, Jr.
NICKNAME
MCSN
O-6950
HOME OF RECORD
511 North Arden Drive, Beverly Hills, CA
NEXT OF KIN
Wife, Mrs. Peggy Keith
DATE OF BIRTH
June 13, 1920
DATE OF ENLISTMENT
April 18, 1939
DATE OF LOSS*
November 3, 1942 (official)
November 2, 1942 (reported)
REGION
Solomons
CAMPAIGN / AREA
Guadalcanal / Matanikau Offensive
CASUALTY TYPE
Killed in Action
UNIT
G/2/5th Marines
DUTY
CIRCUMSTANCES OF LOSS
On 2 November 1942, the 5th Marines continued enveloping a strongpoint at the base of Point Cruz, Guadalcanal. The regiment’s Second Battalion attacked north through the jungle toward the beach, cutting off the Japanese escape route to the west. Coral bunkers and automatic weapons held up the battalion and caused several casualties before the encirclement was completed.Captain Willard W. Keith of G/2/5th Marines was credited with inspiring and leading a bayonet charge against a Japanese strong point on 2 November. He was killed in action during or soon after the charge, and was buried the following day. For his “extraordinary heroism,” Captain Keith received a posthumous Navy Cross; however, his remains have never been accounted for.
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS
Navy Cross, Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK
Captain
STATUS OF REMAINS
“Interred in the vicinity of the forks of the Matanikau River, Guadalcanal.”
MEMORIALS
USS Willard Keith (DD-775)
Manila American Cemetery

* Note: Despite the primary sources listed below, and the language of his Navy Cross citation, Captain Keith’s official date of death is given as 3 November 1942.

Biography:
Coming soon. Contact the webmaster for information on this Marine.

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Captain Willard Woodward Keith, Jr. (MCSN: 0-6950), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service while commanding Company G, Second Battalion, Fifth Marines, FIRST Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on the afternoon of 2 November 1942. During an offensive by the battalion in the Matanikau River Area, Captain Keith, with exceptional skill and inspiring courage, led a platoon against a hostile strong point made up of a single platoon reinforced with machine guns. Although the Japanese positions were firmly entrenched on commanding ground and concealed by heavy jungle growth, Captain Keith, recognizing the inability of our mortar and artillery fire to dislodge the enemy, initiated and led successive bayonet and hand grenade charges in the face of tremendous fire until the hostile group was annihilated and he himself was killed. His grim determination and aggressive devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave up his life in the defense of his country. 

Note: The commander of G/2/5 was Captain Thomas Richmond. Keith’s role with the company is not known; he joined on 22 October 1942, and had previously served as the battalion adjutant (Bn-1). He was likely a replacement for Captain Edward W. Bryan (WIA 8 October 1942) and may have been acting as the executive officer.


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