In Memory of
U.S. Air Force Private First Class Wagner, South Dakota
Charles Mix County

October 1, 1930 – December 6, 1952
Died at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada


Keith Arlen Deal was born October 1, 1930, in Wagner, South Dakota, to John and Erma Deal. Keith had two brothers: Norman and Garry, who later died in Vietnam. Keith moved with his family to Mitchell at the age of six. He was educated in the Mitchell area. In 1946, Keith’s father died, and his mother married Lester Johnson. At about this time, Keith “served an enlistment in the National Guard, during with time he was sent to the Aberdeen Maryland Proving Grounds for specialized training,” according to the newspaper. In 1948, the family moved back to the Wagner area where Keith farmed with his parents for awhile. On July 22, 1951, Keith married Pearl Gullikson. They later had a son, Keith R. Deal who was born at Amarillo, Texas.

On December 2, 1951, Keith entered the Air Force at Mitchell, and was sent to Lackland Air Base in San Antonio, Texas, for basic training, and then Amarillo Air Force Base, also in Texas. There he learned maintenance for jet mechanics, graduating in July of 1952. Before he reported to his new assignment at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, he went home for a brief leave. He was about to be promoted to the rank of E-4 when he returned to duty.

Private First Class Keith Arlen Deal died at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, on December 6, 1952. According to his brother, Norman, the following is an account of the accident which took his life:

He was killed by trying to take a fuel capsule off the end of the wing. The person in the plane cockpit released the electric switch instead of the manual switch. A spark entered the capsule and when it hit the ground, it exploded. Keith saw the spark and put his body over the capsule to protect the rest of the crew. One person was badly burned, but he was the only one who sacrificed his life to save the others.

His body was returned to South Dakota, and he was buried with military honors at the cemetery at Wagner. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

We will remember the service and sacrifice of the Deal family.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Hillary Stevens, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, July 15, 2004. Information for this entry was obtained from an application for a SD veteran’s bonus and the Wagner Post, 2/21/52 and 12/18/52 issues. Additional information and profile approval by Norman Deal, brother.