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Keith Everett Selders

Young American Patriots

West Virginia
Veterans Memorial

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Keith Everett Selders
1924-1945

"The campaign to free up Antwerp cost the Allies dear. They had lost 703 officers and 12,170 other ranks killed, wounded or lost in action, presumed dead…. However, the capture of Antwerp and the ability to use its port facilities was vital for the Allies as they drove on to Germany."

C. N. Trueman, “Antwerp and World War Two,” The History Learning Site

Keith Everett Selders was born in Aurora, West Virginia, on September 21, 1924, to Thurman and Nellie Winters Selders. In 1930, according to the U.S. Federal Census, the family was living in Preston County. Mr. Selders was a farmer, living with his wife, their children, and his aunt, Sarah Wotring. In 1940, the family was still in Preston County. Keith Selders’ siblings, still at home, were Duard, Cecil, Gerald, and William.

On December 22, 1942, Keith Selders registered for military service. He entered the army on January 3, 1944. He’d been a student at West Virginia University, but research for this biography did not reveal his major. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, indicate that he enlisted in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and his civilian occupation was categorized as semi-skilled in the manufacture of automobiles.

His military service record was summarized in the book Young American Patriots as service at Ft. Meade, MD; Camp Gordon Johnston, Florida; New York, New York; England; France; Holland; Luxembourg; and Germany, before his final placement in Belgium, where Antwerp’s port served a vital element in solving the problem of increasing supply chain distances from the source of materials and equipment to Germany. He travelled overseas in August 1944, according to articles published in the Cumberland News (“War Dead Returned to United States,” 7 October 1948) and Cumberland Evening Times (“Selders Reburial,” 28 October 1948) on the event of his re-interment in West Virginia.

According to the memorial developed for him on the TogetherWeServed.com site, Keith Selders served with the Transportation Corps. The military occupation specialty code was longshoreman, and the unit in which he served was the Engineering Amphibian Command. In 1945, he was in Antwerp, the so-called “City of Sudden Death”:

The first time the press referred to Antwerp as “The City of Sudden Death” occurred in March 1945 in TIME magazine. Reporters had spoken to many of the US soldiers working in the port area during the final week of the V-weapon activity. The soldiers told of the terror reigned on the city for the past 4-5 months. (“Antwerp: ‘City of Sudden Death,’” V2Rocket.com, accessed 17 August 2018, http://www.v2rocket.com/start/chapters//antwerp.htm.)

The above source contains interviews with eyewitnesses and details of the devastating attacks on Antwerp.

In an article on ThoughtCo.com, Kennedy Hickman writes of the V-2 rocket:

In the early 1930s, the German military began to seek out new weapons that would not violate the terms of the Treaty of Versailles….

The eventual result would be the world's first guided ballistic missile, the V-2 rocket. Originally known as the A4, the V-2 featured a range of 200 miles and a maximum speed of 3,545 mph. Its 2,200 pounds of explosives and liquid propellant rocket engine allowed Hitler’s army to employ it with deadly accuracy. (“World War II: V-2 Rocket,” 16 March 2018, ThoughtCo, accessed 13 August 2018, https://www.thoughtco.com/world-war-ii-v-2-rocket-2360703.)

Unfortunately, Sgt. Keith Selders was caught in an attack on the harbor. According to the application for recognition on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial submitted by his family, Sgt. Selders was on guard duty at Antwerp Harbor when he was killed during a bombing raid. The details of the attack were not found during research for this biography, and so it is not a certainty that the attack was executed with a V-2 rocket, but the documented attacks and the devastation that ensued describe the overall difficulty of guarding posts and protecting the city by any means.

A June 19, 1945, letter to Mrs. Selders from James Putnam, Major, T. C., Technical Information Officer, states: “Recently a boat was named in honor of your son, Sgt. Keith E. Selders. Enclosed photograph shows the living memorial at the great port of Antwerp.” An undocumented newspaper article provides the following details:

During a recent dedication ceremony at the port of Antwerp, a U. S. Army ship was named for Sergeant Keith E. Selders of route 2 Oakland [Maryland—citizens of that area of Preston County often had an Oakland address], who list his life while on duty with the Transportation Corps in the European Theatre of Operations.

The ceremony was held at the American docks, where the Army paid tribute to 11 soldiers and civilians of the Transportation Corps as 11 harbor vessels were christened in their memory. Four platoons made up of all the Harbor Craft Companies at the Post attended the dedication and paid honor to their fallen comrades.

The dedicatory address was delivered by Colonel Curtis A. Noble, deputy port commander, who said that these men “have contributed in no small measure to the magnificent accomplishment in supplying and transporting the combat forces which have finally overcome and conquered the most dangerous attempt against freedom of mankind which the world has ever known.”

Flying their flags and pennants in dressed ship array, the vessels were christened by Colonel Noble, and Captain Martin S. Durkin, port chaplain, invoked blessings on them and offered prayers in memory of the men whose names they now bear.

gravestone

Gravestone for Sgt. Keith E. Selders, Aurora Cemetery, Preston County. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

The Cumberland News, October 29, 1948, carried the news that Sgt. Selders’ body had arrived in Davis, West Virginia, that week and listed the schedule of services ahead of burial in the Aurora Cemetery. Various newspaper articles at the time describe these events as reburials, indicating that his remains had been buried initially at a cemetery in Europe.

Sgt. Selders was awarded the Purple Heart and the American Victory Medal. Two of his brothers, Gerald and Cecil, also served in World War II.

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens.
July 2018

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Keith Everett Selders

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