Keigler E. Flake was born in Ridgeway, South Carolina on August 21st of 1920. Flake served as a Marine in World War ll, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In 1942, he received a battlefield commission on Guadalcanal which promoted him from the rank of first lieutenant to second lieutenant. During World War ll, the promotion usually occurred because of the leadership demonstrated by a particular person and/or because of an opening in a unit that had to be filled (Battlefield Commissioned Officers n.d.).
The Campaign, or Battle, of Guadalcanal, took place in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific Ocean and worked to stop any Japanese expansion attempts. Many Marines were stationed there to carry out the plan and it was a harsh place to be with its hot, humid jungle landscape (Life on Guadalcanal 2017). Food was scarce, tropical diseases like malaria were present, and enemy fire and threats occurred often. The ration, amount of food allowed, was two tablespoons of rice per day, often infested with worms or other bugs. Many Marines were children from the Great Depression who were already quite skinny going into the battle; They lost up to 40 pounds during their time on the island (Life on Guadalcanal 2017)!
While serving at Cape Gloucester, New Britain on January 3-4 of 1944, Flake received a Silver Star for his actions against the Japanese enemy forces. The Silver Star, the 3rd highest military combat award is awarded in action for gallantry, or extreme courage, in just a few different scenarios which include when involved in action against an enemy of the United States.
Awarded a Silver Star for combat action on New Britain. Silver Star Citation:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to First Lieutenant Keigler E. Flake (MCSN: 0-15849), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while attached to the FIRST Marine Division during action against enemy Japanese forces on Cape Gloucester, New Britain, 3-4 January 1944. While in command of a self-propelled 75-mm. gun section, in support of the Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Lieutenant Flake fearlessly advanced with his weapon through deep jungle terrain to within 30 yards of a strongly defended hostile position and, skillfully firing at point-blank range, assisted in the destruction of the heavily fortified emplacement despite a constant, intense barrage of enemy machine-gun, rifle and mortar fire. First Lieutenant Flake’s brilliant initiative, valiant fighting spirit and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of grave peril contributed to the success of our forces in that area, and his heroic action was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
His Silver Star Citation illustrates how he commanded a self-propelled 75 mm. gun section. This type of gun was mounted on a platform, usually on a tank. First Lieutenant Flake moved quickly with courage through the jungle terrain of Cape Gloucester to advance closer, within 30 yards, of a heavily defended emplacement. An emplacement holds and protects military weapons from damage. He fired his weapon with impressive skill towards the enemy to destroy the emplacement. During his intense actions, enemy troops continued to fire their weapons which included machine guns, rifles, and even mortar fire, which fires explosive bombs towards the target. The United States Naval Service recognized his devotion to the United States and the heroic spirit he demonstrated.
Regis Philbin, often known for being a TV presenter, talk and game show host on the show: Who wants to be a Millionaire , actor, etc. from the late 1950s to the early 2010s, served in the Navy and knew Flake. Regis Philbin’s autobiography: How I got this Way, Regis talks about his own military service and his encounter with Bill Rankin and Keigler Flake. He credits the two men for pushing him to pursue his dream career in TV (Philbin 2011, 3)!
Keigler marred Helen W. (Penry) who also served in WW2. They are buried together at Rock Island National Cemetery.
“Battlefield Commissioned Officers.” 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans. 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Education Center. Accessed January 14, 2022.
“Description of Medals.” U.S. Military Awards for Valor – Top 3. U.S. Department of Defense. Accessed January 14, 2022.
“Keigler E. Flake.” The Hall of Valor Project. Sightline Media Group, 2022.
“Life on Guadalcanal.” The National WWII Museum | New Orleans, October 2, 2017.
Philbin, Regis. How I Got This Way, 3. HarperCollins Publishers, 2011.
Photo of grave on google doc: https://www.vlm.cem.va.gov/KEIGLEREFLAKE/50FDF44