Learn About WWII Hero Dick Kerin

SWOFCA Co-Founder

Dick Kerin was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio where he played high school baseball and football. From there he went on to play college football at Southwest Missouri State, where he played guard. In 1942, one year into his college career, he decided to join the Marines. At the time his two brothers, John and Chuck, were in the Navy.

Life During WWII

Kerin joined the Marines in Cleveland in 1942 after completing one year of college football. In 1943 he was sent to a base in San Diego where he attended parachute school. After making six jumps he was sent to New Caledonia in the South Pacific to train in May of 1943.
The New Marine, Dick Kerin.
After six months of training in New Caledonia, Kerin joined the Bougainville Campaign. In November of 1943 his squad loaded up in rubber boats at 4:00 am to launch a surprise attack on the Japanese. One of the first shots fired from the enemy hit Kerin in the middle of the back, a shot that Kerin said “felt like being hit by a ton of bricks”. The shot was from the machine gun of a Japanese soldier. Kerin’s squad leader, Lonnie Stokes from North Carolina, dragged him to cover. This move, according to Kerin “saved my life”. U.S. Destroyers then showed up and began total destruction of the Japanese army where Kerin and his squad were engaged in the firefight. Kerin was then taken aboard a naval destroyer and evacuated to the island of Vella Lavella an on to Guadalcanal.

The gunshot wound put him in the hospital for two and a half months where he would contract pneumonia, which he describes as “worse than being shot”. Kerin was transferred back to New Caledonia for recovery. After recovering, Kerin’s war was not over as he joined the 27th Regiment of the Marines in 1944. He was 20 years old when he started training at Camp Pendleton in California. He distinctly remembers being issued and training with the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) in which he attests is the “best infantry weapon ever made”. It wasn’t long until Kerin was back in action.
Dick Kerin with his BAR.
In February of 1945 he was sent to combat in the Battle of Iwo Jima where the fighting was heavy. It was there he took part in what was known as “Assault on Hell”. He would see 20 days of action before he was shot for the second time in World War II. On the 21st day, Kerin saw a 17-year-old Marine shot in the buttocks. He ran over to his wounded comrade where he dusted his wound with sulfur powder and bandaged it up, all the time while under fire from the enemy. He then dropped his M1918 BAR, put the wounded Marine on his back and carried him 30 yards to safety where a medic took over. This act saved the soldier’s life. Kerin knew he could not expect to survive long without his rifle so he ran to retrieve it. While running back for cover with rifle in hand, a Japanese sniper hit him in his right arm. Even though he was using the evasion tactic of zigzagging, the sniper’s bullet found Kerin’s shoulder, spinning him around and knocking him to the ground. Kerin was able to crawl 50 yards to a medic who took him back to the beach. While being inspected by the medic, a photographer from the Washington Post would take a photo of Kerin and his wound that would be seen around the world.
Dick Kerin and his famous through-and-through sniper wound. Taken by a combat photographer.
Kerin would recover from the wound he received from the Japanese sniper on island of Iwo Jima. After the atomic bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered, Kerin would finish out his stint in the Marines in the occupation of Japan.

Kerin, wounded twice during the War, was awarded two Purple Hearts and the Silver Star, which is third highest military decoration for valor and is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.

Life After World War II

Kerin would not let the Japanese stop his desire to fight for the United States and he did not let them take away his passion to play football either. With three years of eligibility left, Kerin rejoined the Southwest Missouri State Football team in 1946 and played through 1948. While at Southwest Missouri State he met his wife Gini who was a varsity cheerleader.

All three years he was named to the All-Missouri Intercollegiate all-star team as a guard and linebacker. In 1947 he was named a Little All-American and was a co-captain of his championship team in 1948.

Kerin earned his first high school coaching job in 1949 at St. Agnes High School in Springfield, Missouri. In 1950 he moved to Galion High School in Ohio where he was a football and baseball coach. In 1957, Kerin came to Cincinnati to coach football and baseball at Taft High School from 1957-58. SWOFCA was started during this time and Kerin was at the second SWOFCA meeting where he became a member from there on out. In 1958 he went to Western Hills and became an assistant to Bill Nead and coached the offensive line. In 1962, he became the coach at the new Aiken High School in College Hill where he remained until 1971. Kerin moved on to Green Hills High School, where he eventually retired in 1983. In his years as a teacher he taught World and American Histories, Western Cultures, History of Civilization, Sociology, Economics, Physical Education and Health.

Through the years Kerin was SWOFCA President three times, Coaches Clinic Chairman nine times and Regional Director to the OHSFCA five times and continues to attend meetings periodically. The Dick Kerin/University of Cincinnati Coaches Clinic is named in his honor and in 1977 he was the Doc Collins Man of the Year , the first recipient of this yearly award given by SWOFCA..

He served as the head coach for both football and wrestling in the East-West All-Star series. He is in the Winton Woods School District Hall of Fame, received the Bron Bacevich Award from Roger Bacon High School in 1997 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cincinnati Chapter of the National Football Foundation.

Dick and his wife Gini have been married for 65 years and have four sons, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Dick turned 90 years old this year, ironically enough on the first day of the 2014 Dick Kerin/UC Coaches Clinic.

Dick Kerin’s service to the United States and contributions to high school football in Cincinnati cannot be summed up in one article, thank you or award. He is owed a great deal and his story needs to be shared with our youth for years to come, as he is truly an American hero.