Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"GERONIMO", High Flying War Dog of the 507th

Down from the heavens he gracefully soared, all fours extended for a soft landing. Sergeant Geronimo the parachuting war dog of WW II was master of his trade. Named for the famous "jump shout" of the paratroopers, he did his job as well as any proud soldier of the 507th.

During the month of June 1942, Alliance, Nebraska was authorized as a new site for establishment of an Army Air Base. The unique Sandhills area just east of Alliance were considered ideal for softer landings and as a good training area for paratrooper's jump training. The base was ultimately used to train paratroopers, glider and C-47 pilots. Within a few short months an entire military community sprang up about 3 miles east of town, eventually raising the combined total population of the once small community to close to 20,000. Helping to build the base was a great undertaking by the small agricultural community. The entire base was built from the ground up wth over 775 buildings being erected. The base became a functioning city of its own and became the largest air field in the state of Nebraska. The landing strips still serve this community and are to this day some of the longest of their kind in the United States. At its height in 1943 more than 14,000 paratroop infantry men were training here. One of the best known of these soldiers was "Geronimo", the Sergeant canine who was a member of the 507th Paratroop Infantry Regiment. He was the mascot of the 507th and their jumping partner.

Geronimo was believed to have been part coyote, part German Shepard, and he had been picked up as a stray by Kenneth Williams who was a soldier with the 507th. The men trained the dog to jump from the airplanes and he had his own special parachute and beautiful canine "coat" which sported his Sergeant stripes. It has been said that he came to love jumping and often had to be restrained from leaping out of the airplanes too soon!

The canine was actually trained and used in demolition work during the war. Starting early in 1943 when the 507th began training here at the Alliance Base, Geronimo made several appearances as a paratrooper. He made jumps from Omaha throughout Nebraska and even over Denver, Colorado. His exhibition jumps thrilled audiences when ever he performed. During a large ceremony in Alliance in 1943 he performed for what was thought to be nearly 60,000 people who had gathered for a parade and to watch the paratroopers. At Denver he performed for well over 100,000 spectators. Sergeant Geronimo was featured in many magazine and newspaper articles of the day, including a great layout in "Life" magazine which I am lucky enough to own along with some other nice momentos of his life. Over his great but short lived career, the Army figured that the public popularity of the war dog had helped to raise millions of additional dollars in war bonds.

My uncle was Brigadier General Maurice M. Beach and he was, in 1943, the Colonel and Commander of the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing which was stationed in Alliance at the Air Base. His men trained with the paratroopers and gliders in preparation for what was to become the invasion at Normandy, France. He had many photos which were taken at the base and had told us stories about Geronimo. You can read more about General Beach and the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing on one of my earlier posts. The 507th Paratroop Infantry Regiment deployed to Europe shortly after leaving Alliance and became an integral part of the Normandy invasion forces.

The war dog Geronimo, was considered a hero by all of his fellow soldiers when he helped to save the life of his friend Kenneth Williams when Kenneth was injured badly on maneuvers to destroy a bridge. He alerted his fellow paratroopers who came to the aid of soldier Williams. After nearly a year, Kenneth Williams recovered from his injuries and both he and Geronimo were given honorable discharges. They retired to the Denver Colorado area together.

Geronimo was tragically killed by a hit and run driver in 1947 when he got out of the yard of his home. He is buried in the Denver Pet Cemetery in Commerce City, Colorado. Over the years since then, two markers have been erected as memorials to the brave canine by subsequent members of the 507th Paratroop Infantry Regiment. His grave site may be visited by the public. I am proud that Geronimo was part of the history of my home town- Alliance, Nebraska.

In his memory:

I dedicate this article about Geronimo who was a special character in my local history to our precious "Macey Girl" who we lost recently. Most families have been touched by a special canine at one time or another. Some were WAR HEROES like Geronimo, some were awesome service dogs, and some were just beloved family pets like our Macey, but "family members" in any shape or form can be included in a genealogists prized collection of treasures.

Friday, April 24, 2009


When I started down the road to find my husbands Swedish ancestors, I never dreamed that I would become obsessed with finding these people that we had very little knowledge of and had never known. As I began this journey, I discovered that maps could play a major role in solving some pieces of this mystery and thus using them has become a big part of my quest towards the discovery of these ancestors. One can easily get so engrossed in antique map study that consequently sometimes I must remind myself of the original goal of finding the elusive LARSON and ANDERSON ancestors!

For nearly 50 years now there has been genealogists in my husband's family who have searched for our Swedish relatives. First was Aunt Hazel. She began the research on this family including those who were her Great Grandparents. Nearly all research at that time and for many years forward was strictly hands on and involved a lot of legwork. Aunt Hazel's work has given us some wonderful records to work with. Her sister, Kathleen, who is also my Mother-in-law, picked up the cause and worked hand-in-hand with Hazel through the years. Kathleen worked tirelessly for several years, pouring over records in the Mesa, Arizona Library while she lived there and she now works almost every day at her computer, still doing her research. Over time, many little bits and pieces have been added to our Swedish records but they have come painstakingly slow for a variety of reasons.

Finding good records and especially MAPS was difficult at best. Kathleen was able to copy a few early maps while in Mesa and this helped us to begin to find our way. Two pictures with scant information and a couple of birth records are about all we started out with. Great Grandpa Larson and his wife "Minnie" did not seem to talk a whole lot about their life back in Sweden and as most people, brought only a few personal things with them as they immigrated to the United States. We had places of birth for them so that has been the starting point on my map quest and studies. Floby and Falkoping, Skaraborgs Lan, Sweden.

Our Great Grandfather , Frederick Albert (Gustafson) Larson,was born May 24, 1867 Falkoping, Sweden and emmigrated from Goteborg, Sweden to the United States in 1888. He first arrived and went to the Illinois area where his brother, John(Johann) had come before him. Last names of Gustafson and Larson had been used and to complicate matters, John changed his last name to Hellgren. Already we had confusing usage of different Patronymic names and then Hellgren was added to the mix. Both brothers married Anderson sisters who also had come from Sweden. Frederick Larson married Wilhelmina "Minnie" Anderson who was born July 25, 1869 in Falkoping, Sweden. They married on Dec 2, 1891 in Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois. John had been born in Floby, Sweden and married Christina Anderson abt. 1886- we believe prior to coming to America. We are lucky enough to have a photo of Gustaf Larson and Clara Edlund who were the parents of Frederick Larson and John (Gustafson) Hellgren. We also have a photo thought to be another sister(with her family) to "Minnie" and Christina Anderson. We believe they probably stayed in Sweden so this quest may eventually lead to many cousins!

As I have now begun the next phase of the search for our elusive Swedish ancestors, I have made an effort to learn all that I can about my ancestors where they came from, language, how they might have lived, why they left their homeland. This ultimately is a quest to find their parents and extended families. Using maps as a starting point has already rewarded me with great new clues and has had the added bonus of imparting more education and exercising the brain cells!

Early Swedish maps are hard to find especially involving specific time periods or dates. A few days ago, a great new website came online. WORLD DIGITAL LIBRARY is free, quite different and offers some great digital maps, photos, and documents from around the world. In looking under the Europe>Sweden section, I found a wonderful old map "The Kingdom of Sweden" dating from 1797. This is just the right time frame for covering the approximate dates that I will be primarily researching within. I was able to pinpoint the locations of both of our town sites. This great map also has illustrations of topographical features and shows the locations of established church parishes.You can read more about this great new site at the Genealogy Insider blog for Family Tree Magazine. The study of topography of an area can often help to determine how people moved around or may have interacted. Marriages often involved people from other neighboring communities within a small geographic area and land barriers played important roles that affected the interaction of those communities. Using the topographical features of a map, often helps to solve mysteries of where and why ancestors moved.

Google Earth and Google Maps are both very useful for showing the beautiful topographic features of the land. You can see the awesome land features with great clarity. Rivers and streams usually change course over time so I have been using both old maps and the new technology together to get a better overall perspective.

As I am part of the You Go Genealogy Girls Team and will soon be heading to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I have studied their catalog for listings of maps on Sweden. In preparation I have printed off papers listing all the call numbers and locations of the maps that I want to study while there. Some are in book form and many are on microfilm. This will save several hours of "catalog" time while there, allowing me more time in other search areas.

Knowing much more about the land and the neighboring communities should help me to be more successful in locating hard to find records. If I should be unsuccessful finding records in the locations that I believe are the most likely- I can then easily branch out into the nearest village or parish area. Knowing the geography and topography beforehand may save several hours or even days of precious time trying to figure out where to look next.

As I progress forward with my Swedish family research I will share with you what I hope will be a successful journey to find my husband's GG Grandparents and other ancestors.

Watch for PART 2 of this post: RESEARCHING MY SWEDISH GENEALOGY - "Strategic Plans and Finding the Records".

In PART 2, I will use the knowledge I have gained through the awesome help provided by You Go Genealogy Girl #1 - to show the organized plans that I have for finding my records once I get to the Family History Center.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Maurice M. Beach
Maury on his 80th birthday
Maurice M. Beach wrote his memories titled as "The Saga Of An Average American Boy" but to all his family there was nothing average about this wonderful and warm hearted man that we all loved and cherished. I am so proud that he was my uncle.

Maurice Milton Beach was born on April 1, 1903 in Caro, Michigan. He married my aunt, Stella Moore O'Brien on Nov 15, 1947 in Macon, Georgia. Uncle Maurice spent nearly all of his adult life in the service of his country. He never went further than the 10th grade in school, dropping out to pursue his own interests. He was a self taught master mechanic in addition to aspiring to grand heights as an Air Force Commanding officer. If any appliance, vehicle or motor needed an overhaul, he was the one who could do it, and do it right. Before and after his distinguished military career, he was a mechanic and owned/operated successful car garages. This knowledge also helped him several times as he moved up through the military ranks.

Ft. Wayne at Detroit, Michigan was where he began his military career in 1923. Over the course of the next 20 years he worked his way up through the ranks starting out by hauling gravel to build hangar floors. His sole early goal was to enter Flight Training which he was able to do in 1924. During his early years he was part of a light Bombardment Attack Unit in Texas and then the 19th Pursuit Fighter Squadron, stationed in Hawaii. By 1935 he was involved in Reconnaissance operations training back on the mainland of the United States. Next stop was the Air Corps Supply Depots, moving passengers and supplies throughout the country flying mostly DC-3 aircraft. In 1938 as First Lieutenant, "Maury" took over the Air Transport System that operated between Panama and Alaska. Shortly before December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked, some of his transports were released to start training with paratroops and gliders. By late 1941 he had been promoted to Major and was Commander of the 10th Transport Group with C-47s (DC-3s) and was continuing to train with the paratroopers and gliders in different areas of the country. Reserve officers who were commercial pilots were assigned and as the war was going in earnest by then, the men were "busy as hell" as Maurice later wrote. He was by then a Colonel. Soon after he was promoted to Colonel he became the Wing Commander of the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing. This was part of the 9th Troop Carrier Command. At that time he was rated as Command Pilot which was the top rating of the Army Air Corp.

The next several moves of the command included one to my hometown of Alliance, Nebraska. Here again his command was training with the gliders and paratroops. It was in Alliance that Maurice first met my aunt, Stella Moore O"Brien, who was the secretary to the base commander. Soon after their training ended in Alliance the troops of the 53rd were sent across to England and North Africa for final training before the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France.

Maurice Beach's Headquarters for the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing were set up at Greenham Common, England which was near London. It was from there that he commanded his troops in training for the upcoming invasion of Normandy, France on D-Day-June 6, 1944. One of his groups, the 438th under the command of Col. Donaldson, led the paratroop aircrafts. Approximately 350 loads of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions headed for France starting at 12:20 am. Maurice Beach left England at 4:00 am in the lead glider "tug" plane. He took the first group of gliders into France. General Eisenhower was at their headquarters in England to see them off.

During the invasion of Normandy and for many months after, the troops of the 53rd took part in many actions. These included Rome-Arno, Normandy, Northern France, Southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe. The 53rd Wing under the command of Lt. Col. Beach carried over 206 million pounds of supplies, moved over 149 thousand airborne troops and evacuated 114 thousand casualties during WWII. Maurice and his boys delivered over 3 million pounds of gasoline to General Patton while he was stranded near Chartres, France. Maurice was promoted to Brig. General in early 1945.

While stationed at the Air Base in Alliance, Nebraska during 1943, Maurice had proven the ability to tow 2 gliders at once by towing them from Alliance on a flight to Fayetteville, N.C. and this tactic was used during the final operation of the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing when they flew across the Rhine River to Vessel, Germany.

After V-E Day in 1945, Maurice continued with the mission of occupation in Europe until his return to the states later that same year. He retired from active service in late 1945 but he continued to attend military meetings for many years. During his distinguished career he was awarded the following medals: American Defense, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Bronze Star, French Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre, and the WWII Victory Medal. His great speaking voice and love for the military led him to spend most of his retirement years giving speeches and showing military movies to various groups, in particular at International Rotary Clubs. He loved to teach others about those important years from our history. Maurice passed away Jan 17, 1987 and was interred at Sun City, Arizona with full military honors.

Aunt Stella and Uncle Maurice had no children of their own but he loved all of his nieces and nephews as if we were his own. To me and the rest of the family he was our Uncle "Maury". Brig. General Maurice M. Beach was a great veteran but more importantly he was a loving and awesome Uncle. He loved people and treated everybody with respect. He really was one of the few who could truly be called an "OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN".

Thanks for stopping by my blog, come back soon-Cheri

Links to other great articles featured in this edition, titled ("Uncle, Uncle"), can be found within the 70th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy at Creative Gene. Uncles from all walks of life are spotlighted in this edition of the carnival. Pour a cup of coffee and settle in to read some great postings!

Thursday, April 9, 2009


This unusual story came together for me over a period of forty years. Little bits of information began to fall in place over time to form this Wyoming historical tale.

I spent most of my high school and college years working for one or both of my Grandfathers after school and on weekends. My Grandpa, Dueward "Wick" Hopkins, owned a road construction company which worked out of Wheatland, Wyoming and built roads throughout the entire state. As we drove around on the job site, we often talked about Wyoming and times past. In the 1960s, we were working south of Wheatland near Slater, Wyoming on I-25 construction and passed over a creek named "RICHEAU". I mis-pronounced the name and Grandpa told me it was pronounced "Reshaw" and was named after John Richeau, a Frenchman who had built the first bridge across the North Platte River in central Wyoming on the old Oregon Trail.

My other Grandpa was Earl Harvey. His farm was located near Slater, Wyoming and in the general vicinity of this historical event. As mentioned, I sometimes worked for my Grandpa or his neighbor doing farming and haying. Grandpa would often stop by to check on my work and we would often take a break and visit. Grandpa Harvey was an avid arrowhead hunter when he was not farming during the off season of the year. On one visit he told me that years before while hunting arrowheads, he had come across a pile of very old spent cartridges near the field where I was working that day. He noted that the cartridges were odd as compared to any others he had ever seen. They had no primers in their bases like modern ammunition does and were very large in size. Only a tiny dent was visible in the center of the base of the shell casing. Grandpa looked them over but did not pick them up to bring along as he was hunting for arrowheads that day. Little did he or I know at the time he was telling me the story, but he had probably stood on the site of an early historical event in Wyoming history.

Years later in the early 1990's, I found an old rifle cartridge near Fort Robinson, Crawford, Nebraska. This had been the site of a cavalry fort and an early Indian Agency. The shell looked like the same type that Grandpa Harvey had talked about years earlier. My friend, Don Sheldon, is an avid cartridge collector and he identified the casing as a benet', inside primed cartridge which dated from about 1860 and was used up until about 1880. The common caliber was 45-70 and happened to be the same ammunition as had been used by General George Custer at the Little Big Horn.

Late in the 1990's, I purchased a rare book entitled "FOOTPRINTS ON THE FRONTIER", written by Virginia Cole Trenholm. There were only 1,000 of these books printed and it is a factual history of south east Wyoming. It just happened that the author's brother was good friend to my Grandfather, "Wick" Hopkins, and this book had been a favorite read for my other Grandpa, Earl Harvey. As I read the book, there was an account of an Indian skirmish that took place along the "Richeau" Creek in Wyoming.

The book tells a story of the 1870's about three men who resided on the M Bar Ranch in what is now known as the Slater Flats area and how they were attacked by Indians. The men had gone out to collect their livestock. The horses were herded into the corral and they had gone back out after the cattle which were further out on the range. As they were riding along the breaks of Richeau Creek, they were attacked by Indians who wanted their horses. Both groups fired repeated volleys of bullets at one another. The horses were killed and both men were wounded. The men did manage to get back to the ranch figuring the Indians were headed there for the livestock. There were three women and a boy at the ranch that evening along with a soldier. As they all sat at the dinner table that evening, the boy looked out the window and saw the Indians driving off the last of the horses. They figured the Indians got what they had wanted and probably would not lay siege to the cabin with one soldier there and more likely to come.

I came to realize that the pile of old cartridges that Grandpa Earl had found many years before along the creek were very likely laying in the exact spot where the skirmish with the Indians had occurred. The time frame, cartridge type, and location were all good clues. After over 40 years, the odd pieces of this story were all coming together. My Grandpa, Earl Harvey, passed away in 1974 but I have since wondered if he had realized, while reading his favorite Trenholm book, that he had probably stumbled across the scene of the skirmish years prior while hunting arrowheads along "Richeau Creek"? It was simply a compilation of people, timing, bits of history, and Grandpa's story that brought all these facts forward and led me to believe he had stood on historical ground.

As for me, I never cared for history when I was young and in school but Grandpa's little mysterious find set me on a path toward a great appreciation for my history. It was a start down the road to discover my past and learn more about the history of where I was born and grew up. Studying Wyoming and Nebraska early settlement, old firearms, family genealogy, and WWII history have all become of great interest to me over a lifetime, mostly because both of my Grandfathers' cared enough to include me in the telling of Wyoming Tales!

note: this blog post written by Geoffrey Hopkins, husband of the owner of "THOSE OLD MEMORIES" and the story of the Indian skirmish was abridged from a written account in the book "FOOTPRINTS ON THE FRONTIER" by Virginia Cole Trenholm.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Having ones eyesight does not guarantee that we see the world around us. While most of us are lucky enough to have reasonably good eyesight, one special person in my life did not, but he excelled at living his life in spite of losing the use of his eyes.

Thomas Moore Beagle, "Tom" was born to Harry Frank Beagle and LaVaughn Elizabeth Moore on November 3, 1936 in Alliance, Box Butte Co., Nebraska. His maternal grandparents were Oswin Chester Moore and Pearl May (Zehrung). Grandparents on his father's side were Perce Beagle and Nelle(Telander). Tom was the oldest of four children, with two brothers and a sister. He grew up in the house that had been his great grandfathers from the early 1900's and was raised in a loving home with many cousins and other relatives living near by. He was a typical boy, delivering newspapers in his hometown of Alliance and he loved spending time with his brother, cousins and friends playing baseball. He participated in the Legion baseball games in Alliance throughout his adolescence.

Hunting, fishing and camping were some of the things that he loved the most. He spent many enjoyable times with his Uncle Freddie, Aunt Irene and cousins; Bill and Dick while growing up. His uncle Freddie was an avid fisherman and Tom accompanied him and his family on nearly every camping and fishing trip as he grew into his early teen years. It was during these young years while Tom was in about the 7th grade that he developed juvenile diabetes--the disease that would soon rob him of his eyesight and health. My mother told me of Tom's struggle with his disease as a child but also of his bravery and perseverance in dealing with his illness. Learning to give his own insulin shots, he strove to keep up with life and the other boys in a normal manner.

Hunting and being outdoors was something he loved and he took every after school or weekend occasion to get out in the fields with cousins and friends to hunt game. Cars and hot rods also held great interest for Tom, his brother-Jerry, and their cousins. If they weren't driving one, they were working on a car in their free time. Tom had great pride in his candy apple red and fully customized 1946 Chevy 2 door sedan. That was the day of the "real" classics!

After graduation Tom was employed in Alliance as an auto mechanic and in 1959 he moved to Scottsbluff, Nebraska to work for a dealership there. Tom met his future wife there and he was married in Scottsbluff on July 10, 1960. His wife already had a daughter and Tom soon adopted her. Their new little family soon had to deal with the onset of his sight loss.

The issue of diabetes combined with glaucoma came to the forefront in the early 1960's and Tom became totally blind by 1962 due to the effects of his diseases. The whole family, of course, was devastated but Tom did not give in and he looked for a way to move forward with his life and provide for his family.

The Lions Club in Alliance, Nebraska worked with them and offered great support for Tom and his family. They arranged for him to move to Omaha, Nebraska and begin training for a job opportunity. Tom became a sales representative for the Caravan Sales Program which was sponsored by the Services For The Visually Impaired-State of Nebraska. He and his family traveled throughout the state selling products that were made by the blind. These included brooms, mops, dishtowels and many other helpful household products.They would travel to a town and usually set up their display in the downtown area. He was an inspiration to
others and communities looked forward to his arrival. Speaking engagements, including at Lions Clubs throughout the state, also kept him busy.

Cars never lost their appeal for Tom even after his loss of sight. In about 1963, other family members and I (age11) accompanied him to the Nebraska State Fair to go to the "sprint" car races. He knew every car by the sound of the motor as it rounded the track and he kept perfect track of them as they raced. On another occasion his family joined ours on a camping trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. We always fished at night for trout at our favorite lake there. "Coleman" camp lanterns were hung out over the boat edge to attract fish at night (yes, it was legal in SD). Fish could be caught hand-over-fist in this manner most of the time. Tom was baiting hooks and catching more fish than any of us that night as the fish were biting very lightly. He was pulling them in one after another and fish were "flying" all over the boat. The lantern glare was detrimental to the rest of us and he just laughed and laughed, saying that not being able to "see" the line move was his secret to success! His natural instincts were quite keen. As we sat around the campfire, revisiting times past, I never once ever heard him lament to the loss of his eyesight and we all had a wonderful time. Tom once was once quoted in a local newspaper as saying "A person that loses his sight has to have a positive attitude and continue to do the things he did before he became blind". He did just that and more.

Thomas and his family continued with his Caravan Sales Program until his health declined due to the ravages of diabetes. He passed away on February 2, 1966 in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was a very sad day for us all and a very special person had been taken home. He is buried in the Alliance Cemetery in Alliance, Nebraska beside his grandparents and a younger brother. Tom Beagle was only 29 years of age.

It did not matter how we were related to him, close or distant, he loved everybody and every one of us loved him- most importantly because of the "man" that he was. His nephew, who is named after him, has had very big shoes to fill!

A wonderful deep laugh would fill the room and his big smile showed his true soul. Self pity was never part of his vocabulary.

Thomas Moore Beagle was a son, husband, father, brother and nephew. He was my cousin....and my HERO because "vision" is not the measure of a man.