Private 1st Class George C. Beebe (1919–1944)

George C. Beebe from the July 12, 1944 Wilmington Morning News (Courtesy of The News Journal)
Home StateOccupations
DelawareTruck driver (later career soldier)
BranchService Numbers
U.S. Army20257041 (National Guard) / 12014068 (Regular Army)
TheatersUnit
Mediterranean, EuropeanCompany “E,” 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division
AwardsCampaigns/Battles
Purple HeartOperation Torch, Tunisia, Sicily, Normandy

Early Life & Family

George Conrad Beebe was born on December 20, 1919 in Wilmington, Delaware.  He was the son of James Archie Beebe (a railroad brakeman, 1890–1936) and Grace Lee Beebe (née Young, 1895–1951).  He had at least ten siblings (two older sisters and an older brother, as well as four younger sisters and three younger brothers).  According to his military paperwork, he was Protestant.

Just after George was born, the Beebe family was recorded on the census on January 8, 1920 living at 1210 King Street in Wilmington (today 1210 North King Street).  By the time the Beebe family was recorded on the next census on April 5, 1930, they had moved downstate to 317 East Front Street in Milford, Delaware.  By April 23, 1940, after James A. Beebe’s death, the family was living in unincorporated Sussex County, Delaware (likely in the area of Lincoln based on newspaper accounts).

Beebe dropped out of school after completing grammar school.  Before entering the military, Beebe was a truck driver.


Military Career

A July 12, 1944 article in the Wilmington Morning News indicated that his National Guard career was brief: “In his zeal to get into the armed forces, Private Beebe voluntarily underwent an operation, when he was rejected because of a disability from enlisting in the 198th C. A., and immediately after his recovery enlisted in the Army.” 

The 198th Coast Artillery of the Delaware National Guard was indeed federalized on September 16, 1940.  The newspaper article suggested he was unable to join the National Guard at all, though a digitized enlistment card dated September 16, 1940 suggests he was already a member of a Coast Artillery unit when the unit was federalized.  Perhaps the medical condition was overlooked upon his entry into the National Guard but prevented service on active duty, resulting in his discharge.

Beebe volunteered for the U.S. Army (Infantry Branch), enlisting in Dover, Delaware on January 10, 1941.  According to the State of Delaware Individual Military Service Record form filled out by his mother in 1946, Beebe was first stationed at Fort Jay and then Fort Wadsworth (both in New York City).  On August 23, 1941, he moved to Fort Devens, Massachusetts. 

Beebe’s mother implied that he joined Company “E,” 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Devens.  According to Shelby L. Stanton’s book, World War II Order of Battle (Revised Edition), the regiment was indeed located there in August 1941.  There are some discrepancies in his movements during the following year (see the notes section), but Beebe arrived in the United Kingdom in August 1942.

Beebe was promoted to private 1st class on an unknown date.  He participated Operation Torch in 1942, followed by the Tunisian campaign and the invasion of Sicily in 1943.  That fall, the 1st Infantry Division moved back to England to begin training for the invasion of Normandy.  The division was earmarked for Omaha Beach on D-Day with the 16th Infantry Regiment leading the division ashore.


1st Infantry Division soldiers in England waiting to ship out for the Normandy invasion. Note that some are wearing lifebelts and have wrapped their weapons in plastic to keep water and sand out during the landing. (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo, National Archives)

D-Day in Normandy

The terrain at Omaha Beach was particularly tough, due to high bluffs, with a handful of draws providing the only routes to move men and equipment inland.  In his book Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy, Joseph Balkoski wrote:

The success of the Omaha invasion depended on quick seizure of these draws.  The Yanks expected to be able to drive their trucks and tanks off the beach through these gaps only three hours after the first wave.  The Germans, of course, also recognized the importance of the draws and were prepared to defend them resolutely.

H-Hour was 0630 hours, with armor from the 741st Tank Battalion preceding four companies from the 16th Infantry Regiment scheduled to land at precisely 0631.  Private 1st Class Beebe’s Company “E” was assigned to the sector designated Easy Red, with the objective of taking the St. Laurent (E-1) Draw.  The actual landings at Omaha Beach did not go as planned.  The naval and aerial bombardments did little damage to the German positions, nor did they effectively clear many of the beach obstacles and landmines.  Much of the supporting armor and artillery sank offshore.

In his book The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach, John C. McManus wrote that Companies “E” and “F”

were supposed to touch down together at the exact same moment in the least-defended portion of the beach […]  With the exception of one boat, they landed haphazardly between ten and fifteen minutes later, from 0640 to 0645, an average of about a thousand yards too far to the left, at Fox Green, right in the kill zone between [German fortifications] WN-62 and WN-61. […]  Five E Company boats touched down in the middle of Fox Green, in the shadow of the E-3 [Colleville] draw.  Indeed, as a group, they could scarcely have landed at a worse spot or in a more vulnerable posture.

Some members of Company “E” disembarked from their Higgins boats in water that was over their heads.  The German fortifications on the bluffs above opened fire with machine guns, mortars, and artillery as the Americans struggled ashore.  There was no cover except for the limited protection afforded by the beach obstacles themselves.

McManus wrote that “Throughout the morning, small groups of soldiers found weak spots in the German defenses and advanced inland,” often with the support of gunfire from the handful of tanks that made it to the beach as well as destroyers offshore.  They neutralized the German positions one by one.

Private 1st Class Beebe was killed in action sometime on June 6, 1944.  As with so many men who perished on D-Day, the specifics of his death are unclear.  The cause of death was not recorded in either his Individual Deceased Personnel File (I.D.P.F.) nor the hospital admission card (which was most likely filled out after his death).

His death was announced in the Wilmington Morning News on July 10, 1944.  The article stated:

A letter dated May 16 was received from him the day the telegram announcing his death arrived.  He wrote, ‘Just a few lines to let you know I am well and in the best of health and hope you are the same.  Give my regards to the kids’ (his brother and sister, twins, Gerald and Geraldine.)

George C. Beebe headstone (Courtesy of Jon Strupp)

Private 1st Class Beebe was buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery St. Laurent on June 12, 1944 (Plot A, Row 10, Grave 196).  He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.  After the war, in 1947, the government offered his family the option of either repatriating his body or having it remain in a permanent overseas cemetery.  Beebe’s mother chose the latter option.  His body was disinterred on September 17, 1947 and reburied soon after at what is now known as the Normandy American Cemetery (Plot J, Row 23, Grave 8).


Notes

Service Numbers

Army enlisted personnel were usually only issued a new service number if they became an officer.  George C. Beebe was assigned service number 20257041 when he was federalized as a member of the National Guard.  Apparently because he was discharged first, he was issued a different service number (12014068) when he volunteered for the Regular Army shortly thereafter.

Movements in Military

Information supplied by families to the Delaware Public Archives Commission can be one of the only available sources of information on fallen Delawareans’ military careers.  However, the information often contains errors. 

Beebe’s mother stated that her son moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina around October 17, 1941, and remained there until November 1941.  The information that she supplied is a little unclear, but also seems to state that he was then stationed at Camp Blanding, Florida until February 22, 1942 before morning to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation around June 23, 1942.  Mrs. Beebe wrote that her son went overseas in July 1942 and arrived in England the following month.

Stanton wrote in World War II Order of Battle about several movements by the 16th Infantry Regiment during 1942: Camp Blanding, Florida (February 23, 1942), Fort Benning, Georgia (May 22, 1942), and Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, Pennsylvania (June 6, 1942) before going overseas on August 1, 1942. 

The pattern of movements recorded by Beebe’s mother generally match those of the 16th Infantry Regiment (with the reference to Fort Bragg presumably being due to maneuvers in the Carolinas around that time).  In addition, Beebe’s mother stated that her son moved from England to North Africa on March 9, 1942.  That’s extremely unlikely, since Operation Torch began in November 1942.  She also stated that he went from Sicily to Italy before going to England, whereas the 1st Infantry Division did not participate in the mainland Italian campaign.


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Jon Strupp for the use of the photo of Private 1st Class Beebe’s headstone and to The News Journal for permission to use a photo printed in a predecessor, the Wilmington Morning News.


Bibliography

Beebe, Grace L.  George Conrad Beebe Individual Military Service Record and accompanying letter, circa September 16, 1946.  Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II.  Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware.  https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/17645/rec/10

“Four From State Listed As Killed In War Theaters.”  Wilmington Morning News, July 10, 1944.  Pg. 1 and 5.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/76512041/beebe-kia/

Headstone Inscription and Interment Records for U.S. Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942–1949. Records of the American Battle Monuments Commission, 1918–ca. 1995. Record Group 117. The National Archives at Washington, D.C.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/9170/images/42861_647350_0536-00131

Individual Deceased Personnel File for George C. Beebe.  National Archives.

“Lincoln City Man Dies in Action on D-Day.”  Wilmington Morning News, July 12, 1944.  Pg. 11.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/69080291/george-c-beebe-kia/

McManus, John C.  The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach.  Dutton Caliber, 2019.

“PFC George Conrad ‘Georgie’ Beebe.”  Find a Grave.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56642241/george-conrad-beebe

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920.  National Archives and Records Administration at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4295770-00593

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930.  National Archives and Records Administration at Washington, D.C.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531895_00018

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940.  National Archives and Records Administration at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00547-00152

World War II Army Enlistment Records. Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park. College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/85181739/world-war-ii-army-enlistment-records-george-c-beebe, https://www.fold3.com/record/83492194/world-war-ii-army-enlistment-records-george-c-beebe

U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954. Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 112: Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775–1994.  https://www.fold3.com/record/704057187/u-s-wwii-hospital-admission-card-files-1942-1954-beebe-george-c


Last updated on May 29, 2021

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