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Dated:  August 20, 2011

Walter Keene

Staff Sgt Walter Keane
 Battery A, 328th Field Artillery Battalion
85th "Custer" Infantry Division

 Staff Sergeant Walter Keane served in the same artillery unit as my father.  What is amazing about his story is that when he shipped home, Sgt. Keane discovered the flags of the 328th Field Artillery Battalion that were discarded in a warehouse and kept them.

Before the War; first enlistment
On February 8, 1938, at the age of 18, Walter Keane went to the Army building located at 37 Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan and enlisted as a private. He was given a physical and a railroad ticket and soon he was headed on his way south to Delaware and Fort Du Pont.  After arriving at the train stop in Wilmington, Delaware, he was given a police escort 20 miles to Fort Du Pont. From there he was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, to join Company "B", 17th Armored Engineers Battalion. He was promoted to Sergeant before serving 3 years and was discharged on February 7, 1941.

During the War
Walter Keane served again with the 328th Field Artillery Battalion.  He was with this unit from their origin at basic training until the end of the war.  He had four brothers who also served during WW2. 
John was a metal smith in the Navy.  George and Gerald served as petty officers in the Navy.   James was a navigator in the Army Air Force.

His duties with the artillery was in charge of getting the ammunition to the artillerymen operating the 105mm Howitzers. Trucks would bring the ammunition  from the stock piles as far as they could. From there the shells would have to be carried by his men, and most of the time it was up hill.  Dad can recall that most of the time the mountains were so muddy that you would continually fall and have to get up again and walk again.  They were constantly covered in mud from head to foot.

Photos of Sgt Keane and his buddies.
Pvt. Santo DePompeo, Pvt. Fred Jenseen, Pvt. William Reich
Pvt. Santo De Pompeo, Pvt. Fred Jenseen, and Pvt. William Reich.  Photo appears to be at the Desert Training Center.
Sgt. Walter Keane and Staff Sergeant Benoit taken near Yuma Arizona
Sgt. Walter Keane and Staff Sergeant Benoit taken at the Desert Training Center, near Yuma Arizona.

2nd Lt. Charles H. Usvolk
2nd Lt. Charles H. Usvolk
Maintenance Officer

Cpl. Robert Dudley, Market, McPherson and Cpl. Cornelius Cutin
Cpl. Robert Dudley,
S/Sgt Herbert A. Market, McPherson and Cpl. Cornelius Curtin.

Sgt. Keane saved the Flag of the 328FA.

                    Flag of 328FA
                   Overall view of flag showing the gold fringe.

Flag of the 328FA

After the war ended,
Sgt. Keane and about 10 other men were selected to take a 10-day vacation to Nice, France. When they returned, they found that the 328FA and the 85th Division had shipped out for home in late August 1945.  Eventually, Sgt. Keane caught a ship home and arrived in Virginia.
   When they disembarked from the ship, they entered a large warehouse where everything left on the ships had been unloaded.  Soldiers were dumping their old uniforms and boots and souvenirs, as well as crates of other items from the other ships docked in the port.  Sgt. Keane spotted the two flags of the 328FA lying on the floor.  One was the artillery flag shown above and the other was the National Flag.  He retrieved the flags and packed them away in his duffle bag.
    Flags such as this were issued to rifle companies, artillery battalions, quartermaster companies and other units.  Each unit had one Stars-and-Stripes flag and one flag for their unit.  When the unit was deactivated, the flags were retired and placed in storage.   Some may have made their way to a muesum or returned to the Quarter Master Museum at Fort Lee, VA.  In most cases, the location of many flags such as this one was lost forever in the Army's warehouses and eventually discarded.   If it wasn't for his actions, the flags would probably have been lost.
   Flags issued to artillery units were red.  The shield in the center of the eagle is the crest for the 328th Field Artillery Battalion that depicts a Ram's Horn representing the division's connection to General Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn.  The inverted 'V' with 13 artillery shells represent the identify of the battalion, 328, and the division, 85.

After the War
Walter was finally discharged from Fort Knox, Kentucky on Oct 9, 1945 and returned home to New York City.  Walter married Katherine Walsh on November 24, 1945. They have 7 children, five girls and two boys, and 12 grandchildren and 10 great-grand children.  He retired from Fairchild Republic Aviation Corporation on Long Island after 35 years of service.

Wedding of Walter & Katherine
Walter and Katherine in 1945.
Walter Keane at 94
Walter Keane at age 94.


This biography was contributed by Patricia Corbett and Walter Keane, Jr., daughter and son of Sgt Walter KeaneWalter, Jr. is a retired Navy Lt. Commander.  For more biographies and photos of the 328th Field Artillery Battalion, see links below.  You may contact Patricia directly at Patricia@custermen.com.

Cpl Arthur Groweg
Cpl. Arthur Groweg

Cpl. George Ferguson, Cpl. George Nicula and Pvt. William Reich at Mintuno, Italy
Cpl. George Ferguson, Cpl. George Nikula, and Pvt. William Reich
at Mintuno,
Italy in May 1944.

German motor cycle
German motorcycle.
See  History of 328FA - A history of the 328th Field Artillery Battalion, with Operational Reports and group photos.

Biographies of other members of 328FA:

Capt. Wm Dempsey, Battery C  
1st Sgt Eric Bauch, Battery B 

Sgt Newton Cole, Battery B  PFC Clarence Mills, HQ Battery 

Go to Desert Warfare Training for maps and info on the camps in southern California.

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