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Staff Favorites

A showcase of our most treasured collections selected by VHP staff members. The written descriptions of these veterans’ stories highlight the diversity and dramatic content of our holdings. View additional staff favorites.

Image of Arthur KellerArthur Roland Keller

Go to Arthur Keller's Collection

On November 18, 1974, Arthur Keller, a 75-year-old Marine veteran of World War I, sat down with his daughter Joyce to talk about his war experiences.  As Joyce Keller would later recall about that day, “I asked him for lunch and placed the recorder on a chair under the table (it was large) and the mic among the things on the table after we finished.” The recording begins as a casual conversation, but Joyce Keller deftly turns it into an interview, and Arthur, warming to the task, begins telling stories with very little prompting of his service in France. The result is a vivid description of the waning days of World War I (Keller didn’t arrive in France until the summer of 1918) and the ensuing Occupation.

Keller is proud to have joined the Marines, but he goes out of his way to commend the other services, noting that the Marines had to borrow uniforms from the Army when it was learned that their own uniforms were almost indistinguishable from those of the German Army. Another smaller enemy were the lice which could only be eradicated when the Marines boiled their uniforms. Keller notes that not all casualties from the war died violently; one day, replacement troops arrived from the U.S., and the next morning several were dead from the influenza epidemic that swept the world that year. During the Occupation, he and a fellow Marine lived in a German village as guests of a family, and over the course of six months, the Americans and their hosts forged a remarkable bond, helped by Keller’s facility with the German language. Coming home so long after the Armistice, Keller still participated in two parades, the more memorable one a Marines-only affair in Washington, DC.

He died in 1980, and in 2007, Joyce Keller attended a lecture by Tom Swope, a frequent interviewer for VHP who lives in northern Ohio. She offered a copy of the interview to Swope to contribute to VHP, which Tom (and we) accepted with gratitude.

Chosen by Tom Wiener, Historian with the Veterans History Project since 2005.

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  The Library of Congress >> American Folklife Center
  April 3, 2009
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