Omar Keller was born in 1917 in Arlington, Nebraska. He graduated from high school in 1934 and joined the Navy with the intent of entering the Naval Academy. He was assigned to the USS OKLAHOMA (BB 37) in 1935 and assisted in the rescue of American civilians and German Jews caught in the Spanish Revolution. After attending prep school in Norfolk, Virginia, he entered the Academy in 1937, but left before graduating. He reenlisted in the Navy in 1941, hoping to avoid being drafted by the Army. He started as second class boilermaker on board the USS WHARTON (AP 7), which cruised in the Pacific following the outbreak of World War II. He subsequently served on board the USS KENDRICK (DD 612), the USS CALIFORNIA (BB 44) in Bremerton, Washington, the USS THOMPSON (DD 627) on convoys in the Atlantic, the USS CONE (DD 866) at Staten Island, New York, and the aircraft carrier USS TARAWA (CVS 40) off Cuba and the West Coast. In 1946 he was transferred to shore duty in San Ysidro, CALIFORNIA. In 1949 he joined the light seaplane tender USS DUXBURY BAY (AVP 38) on a round-the-world cruise, and then moved to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where his family joined him. In 1952 he was transferred to the Naval Weapons Laboratory at Dahlgren, Virginia, and in 1955 he was assigned to the USS ESSEX (CV 9). After his last assignment to the Naval Air Station in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, he retired in 1956 and returned to Nebraska where he worked for the Army Reserve for sixteen years. At the time of the interview Keller was working as a Coast Guard Auxiliarist in Arkansas.
Topics discussed by Keller include service on board the OKLAHOMA during the Spanish Revolution and before entering the Naval Academy (p. 3); his intent in and preparation for enrolling in the Academy (pp. 1, 3-5, 20-21); use of the USS REINA MERCEDES (IX 25) at the Academy as housing for midshipmen being punished (p. 5); use of the USS CUMBERLAND (IX 8) as segregated housing for stewards and mess attendants at the Academy (p. 5); the dairy farm at the Academy (pp. 5-6); reasons why he left the Academy (pp. 6-7); and his education and experiences in his plebe year at the Academy (pp. 7, 21). His discussion of wartime events includes comments on his reasons for reenlisting (p. 7); service in the WHARTON in the Pacific (pp. 7-8, 22); service as boilermaker and "oil king" on board the KENDRICK (p. 8); service as first class boilermaker on board the CALIFORNIA while at the pier in Bremerton (pp. 8-9); service as boilermaker and oil and water king on board the THOMPSON in Atlantic Ocean convoys (p. 9); personnel transfers between sea and shore duty (pp. 10-11, 18); and experiences with civilian employees on fleet shore patrol in Norfolk (pp. 24-26), San Francisco (pp. 26-27), and Casablanca (pp. 27-28).
Topics regarding his time following the end of the war include service on board the DUXBURY BAY on a round-the-world cruise (pp. 11-12), plus a description of sights in the Persian Gulf (pp. 30-31); life and service in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1950 and 1951 (pp. 12-13, 18-19); service at the Naval Air Station in Quonset Point, Rhode Island (pp. 14-15), and the training there of several chief disbursing clerks (p. 15); employment as an Army Reserve technician (p. 16); and summer lake patrols as a Coast Guard Auxiliarist (pp. 17-18). Keller also discusses relationships between Academy graduates and non-graduates (pp. 18-20) and the sinking of the OKLAHOMA (pp. 23-24).
For more information see Collection #534.
Gift of Omar Christian Keller
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