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Subase Pearl Harbor Det 716 

 

Born on a farm in Benton County, Minnesota on 15 November 1924, Keith Maurer began his life.  He had three siblings, two older sisters and an older brother. 

After the stock market crash in 1929 which resulted in the great depression Keith and his brother were sent to an orphanage in St. Cloud, Minnesota and his two sisters were farmed out as labor to relatives in order to feed and clothe them, as there were no jobs for their parents.  This was a common occurrence during the depression.

Keith grew up and attended school in St. Cloud.  He completed his education and graduated from St. Cloud Technical High School in 1941.

Kith_Maurer_(Dress_Blues).jpgWhen the United States entered WW II in 1941 all four of the Maurer children joined the war effort.  Keith’s brother joined the Army as a private and later served in the Army Air Corps where he obtained the rank of Coronal.  One of Keith’s sisters joined the Army Corps as a nurse and become a 2nd Lieutenant where she served in New Guinea and the Philippines.  The other sister served in Washington DC with the War Production Board and later became a Catholic Nun after the war ended.

Keith Joined the Navy 0n 21 November 1942 and was called up on 26 January 1943 when he attended the three month boot camp at the United States Naval Training Station at Farragut, Idaho.  At that time Farragut was the largest Navy boot camp.

He spent another four months of schooling, also at Farragut, and a month in Norton Heights, Connecticut to learn Signals used on Merchant ships and became a Signalman 3rd Class.

After boot camp and Signalman school, instead of going to the fleet, Keith was assigned to the Armed Guard, a Navy unit which manned the guns and the communications aboard Merchant Marine ships.

He was assigned to three different Liberty Ships during the war and was responsible for the communications between his ship and the other merchant ships as a Signalman. He served aboard each of the three ships about eight to nine months.

His first ship, the SS F. Marian Crawford, an ammunition ship with one cargo hold loaded with 55 gal drums of fuel oil was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. It was on this ship that the reality of the war would impact Keith when in March of 1944 the ship, off the coast of Anzio, Italy came under hostile gunfire.  German shore batteries fired their guns at the Marian Crawford.  The ship sustained two direct hits from the shore battery and caught fire.  The seamen were able to eventually control and extinguish the fire, but not before smoke from the fire aboard the ship could be seen from shore rising 250 meters in the air and the ship was severely damaged and temporarily removed from service.

The ship, heavily damaged, returned to the states for repairs and Keith was transferred to another Atlantic Ocean Liberty Ship, the SS John Clark a troop/prison ship.

Liberty ships normally were manned by the Merchant Marines who maneuvered and maintained the ship and the Navy Armed Guard which consisted of 26-27 sailors and 1 officer.  However the John Clark had 43 Armed Guard aboard which included, 3 Signalmen and 2 officers.Kith_Maurer_(on_Liberty_Ship).jpg

The John Clark would move American troops from the states to Italy, offload them, and take on Italian troops to be transported to the front lines at Livorno Italy.  Then they would load German POW’s aboard the ship and transport them back to the states to be taken to prison camps. The German prisoners being transported were guarded by Air Force personnel who had completed their 25 missions flown.  Guarding the prisoners was an easy job as the Germans were so grateful to be out of the war they caused little or no problems.

The prisoners were assigned duties aboard the ship such as cooking for the Armed Guard.  A German Captain, with both his legs missing due to the war, was in charge of the German prisoners.  He would set on deck and supervise and discipline the prisoners.  When he spoke, they listened and obeyed.

After leaving the John Clark, Keith returned to Treasure Island where he boarded the third Liberty ship, the SS William Sublette, a cargo/hospital ship bound for the American Submarine Base at Freemantle, Australia, loaded with supplies for the base.

Later the ship sailed from Freemantle to Calcutta India, then to Colombo Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).  Keith’s memory fails him as to what they were transporting to these two ports.  The ship then sailed to  Sidney Australia where they took on a complete fleet hospital for delivery to Manila located in the Philippine Islands.  When they reached Manila, and delivered the cargo, Keith ran into his sister, the Army Nurse Lieutenant.  He had no idea that she was stationed there.

The ship remained in the Philippines until the war ended in 1945, and then returned to Bremerton, Washington, making a short stop at Guam to ride out a typhoon.  Upon arrival in Bremerton the SS Wm Sublette was scrapped.

Keith worked in the Navy Post Office in Bremerton until he received orders to Great Lakes Naval Station, located near Chicago, Illinois to be discharged.  He was honorably discharged from the Navy on 30 January 1946.

 

During Keith’s tenure with the Navy, he received the following medals and ribbons:

Ribbon Details 

 

  •          American Theater medal (now called American Campaign medal)     
  •           European African Middle Eastern Campaign medal
  •           Asiatic Pacific Campaign medal
  •           Philippine Liberation medal
  •           Good Conduct medal
  •           Navy Combat Action ribbon for action at Anzio, Italy Mar 1944.
  •           WW II Victory ribbon

After his discharge, Keith returned to civilian life in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  He tried college but didn’t complete it.  He married and had eleven children.  He worked for some time as a locomotive fireman and later went into the insurance business.  He also served as the Sterns County commissioner for 28 years.Kith_Maurer_(recent).jpg

Keith was invited to participate in the Honor Flight to Washington DC, sponsored by the St. Cloud Hub of Honor Flight which took place on the 28th of April 2012.  He was joined by 97 other WW II, Korean Conflict and Viet Nam Veterans who made the trip to visit the war memorials and other monuments in Washington DC.

On the 24th of May 2012 Keith and many of the other Vets who made the trip to Washington DC were honored at a banquet dinner held at the Kelly Inn in St. Cloud.

Keith, now 88 years old and in the final act of his life, remains in St. Cloud where he remembers his three plus years serving in the United States Navy in the defense of his country.

 

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