Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"ABOVE AVERAGE" AMERICAN BOY... BRIG. GEN., MAURICE M. BEACH


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!

5 comments:

  1. A great tribute and excellent recounting of your uncle's military service - I can see why you are proud of your Uncle "Maury"!

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  2. I enjoyed the post about your uncle, I'd be proud, too.

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  3. What a handsome and distinguished gentleman, and what an exciting career. You've put together a wonderful tribute to him.

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  4. Cheri great stuff. Uncle Maurice was my Grandfathers brother and I too have may fond memories of being in his "larger than life" presence. My grandfather, Kenneth W. Beach, served with him during the war. He was a noncom and had told his brother that he was going to be a pilot as well. Uncle Maurice asked him what he meant and he said "I'm going to fly Gliders". Uncle Maurice full knowing the mortality rate in those machines said "Hell no you aren't", and immediately got him into Officers Candidate School to serve with him. Talk about looking out for your little brother! Many great stories of the 2 of them together over the years and as a young boy always intrigued by the small statue of "Lafayette on Horse" at his home in Arizona! Yes he was a very handsome man as are all the Beaches. His brother looked much like Errol Flynn. I have a picture of him if you are interested as well.

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  5. I would love any pics that you might have to share. I remember Ken as we had met him a couple times when I was small.

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