Keeling, Birchell (P2, C3, L6)
Technician Fourth Grade Birchell Keeling, 19, of Burgin, Mercer County, died on 1 July 1942 at Camp Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, Philippines of dysentery as a prisoner of war serving with Company D, 192nd Light Tank Battalion.
Keeling was born in Mackville, Washington County 9 May 1923. He enlisted in Harrodsburg’s 38th Tank Company of the Kentucky National Guard on 1 June 1940. He listed his civilian education as farmer at the time of his enlistment. Keeling and went on federal active duty with his unit on 25 November 1940. The unit arrived at Fort Knox for training 28 November 1940 and in January 1941, he attended armor training. He participated in the Louisiana maneuvers in September 1941 with his unit. They then were sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana where they received orders for overseas and M3 “Stuart” tanks.
The unit sailed from San Francisco on 27 October 1941 and arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii on 2 November 1941.
On 5 November 1941 they sailed again in a convoy with the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and the transport, S.S. President Calvin Coolidge and arrived in Guam on16 November 1941 taking on with water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables sailed the next day and arrived in Manila Bay, Philippines on 20 November 1941 at 7:00 A.M. They disembarked from the ships some three hours later and were bused to Ft. Stotsenburg while the maintenance section remained behind to unload tanks from ship.
Keeling survived the initial air attack at Clark Field and participated in the Battle of Luzon (8 December 1941 - 6 January 1942) and Battle of Bataan (7 January 1942 - 9 April 1942)
Keeling was hospitalized at Cabcaben Hospital in April 1942 when the surrender took place. It is not known if his initial hospitalization was due to injury or illness. Keeling was held at Cabcaben, Bilibid Prison, and finally Cabanatuan where he was hospitalized on 14 June 1942 with dysentery. Keeling died 1 July 1942 of dysentery at approximately 3:00 a.m. and was buried in the Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery in a group grave. To date his remains have not been positively identified.
His name is listed on the Walls of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery, Philippines. On the Tablets, it shows that Birchell was a member of the 194th Tank Battalion. Although D Company was attached to the 194th, it was never officially transferred to the battalion and remained a part of the 192nd Tank Battalion throughout the Battle of Bataan.
Newspaper Clipping unknown publication and unknown date
Notification of the death of Pfc. Birchell Keeling was received Tuesday, June 5, 1945 by his parents Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Keeling, of Burgin, in a letter from General Douglas MacArthur. Pfc. Keeling was a member of Harrodsburg's National Guard and one of 66 men who fell prisoners of the Japanese, when Co. D., 192nd Tank Battalion was taken at the fall of Bataan April, 1942. Mr. and Mrs. Keeling had never heard from their son since he sailed, and had only a notification from the War Department after Bataan that he was missing.
Survivors besides his parents are two sisters, Mrs. Ann Walls, who husband is in the Navy, Miss Juanita Keeling; brothers, J. C. Curtis and Eugene Keeling, all of Burgin.
Gen. MacArthur’s letter dated May 25, 1945 in the Philippines, gave no time of the death of the young soldier. He said: "my deepest sympathy goes to you in the death of your son, Pfc. Birchell Keeling, while a prisoner of war of the enemy. You may have some consolation in the memory that he, along with his comrades-in-arms, on Bataan and Corregidor, and in prison camps, gave his life for his country. It was largely their magnificent courage and sacrifice which stopped the enemy in the Philippines and gave us time to arm ourselves for our return to the Philippines, and the final defeat of Japan. Their names will be enshrined in our country's glory forever. In your son's death I have lost a gallant comrade and mourn with you."