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Joseph A Beck II

Military

Assigned to 12TCS, 60TCG, 8AF [later 12AF] USAAF. Transferred to 94TCS, 439TCG, 9AF USAAF.
Involved in the airborne invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Normandy and Southern France. Failed to Return (FTR) glider tow mission to Groesbeck, Holland. Hit by flak, glider released, A/C put down in successful forced landing Schouwen Island, Holland. Crew then came under enemy fire and were captured. Prisoner of War (POW). 18-Sep-44. MACR 9838.

Awards: DSC, DFC, AM(3OLC), Croix de Guerre, POW, WWII Victory, EAME (Silver plus 4 x Bronze Star).

DSC Citation:
"First Lieutenant (Air Corps) Joseph Albert Beck, II, United States Army Air Forces, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Member of the Crew of a Troop Transport Airplane of the 60th Troop Carrier Group, 12th Air Force, in action against enemy forces on 8-Nov-42. The personal courage and zealous devotion to duty displayed by First Lieutenant Beck on this occasion have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 12th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces."

Post war: Worked for 19 yrs in South America in Uruguay, Venezuela and Argentina for a series of companies including Coca Cola, US Steel Corp and H B Maynard Co. Returned to Pittsburgh in 1966, working for the K K Porter Company Inc., then joined Keystone Metal Company 1971, to manage its plant in Newark, N.J. Moved to Westfield, N.J. and finally retired from Keystone in 1985.

Here is his WWII story in his own words:
'I graduated from Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh in June 1940 and joined the US Army in September and went to flying school in Tuscaloosa Alabama. I received my wings in May 1941 and was assigned to a transport squadron at Middletown Air Depot in Pennsylvania flying C-33's and C-39's. These were the military version of the DC-2. The Army Air Corps had 7 Depots with 2 Transport Squadrons at each.'

'When the Army began airborne training in 1941, planes were sent to Fort Benning, Georgia for a few weeks at a time to drop the trainees. The United States did not have a separate Air Force until after the war.'

'After Pearl Harbor, the decision was made to form the Troop Carrier Command and a number of pilots from the transport squadrons were transferred to form the nucleus of the new Squadrons and Groups.'

'In early spring of 1942, I was sent to Westover Field in Massachusetts and joined the 12th Squadron of the 60th Group. This Group was sent to England and was the first tactical Air Corps unit sent there. One battalion of paratroopers was sent by ship. We weren't sure what we were going to do but I was sent to Ringway Airfield for a month to adapt British airborne equipment to the C-47 which they were going to get. The 60th Group went to Aldermaston and spent a few months getting accustomed to England.'

'Thirty-five planes of the 60th Group and these paratroopers took part in the invasion of North Africa flying from fields in Cornwall at night to attack two French fields south east of Oran at daybreak. I was shot down later that afternoon by Vichy French fighters.'

'A month later, a number of our more senior pilots were sent back to the States to join the nuclei of the new Groups which were being formed.'

'In December 1942, a number of officers of the 60th Group were sent back to the States to be a cadre for the large training program for new Troop Carrier Groups. The 439th was one of the new groups. In March of 1944, General Williams was appointed commander of the new Ninth Air Force Troop Carrier Command in England and left Algiers with his staff to go up and assume command. I was offered leave to go home but I said that I would prefer to have command of a tactical squadron if one were available.'

'One of my friends from the 12th Squadron who had gone back in 1942 had been the first commander of the 94th and had been lost in the South Atlantic in a storm when leading the squadron over to England. I was given command of that squadron and joined them at their base in Balderton.'

'We shortly moved down to a new field at Upottery, just below Taunton. Before moving to Upottery, I had to get acquainted with my new squadron. We did a lot of formation flying by squadrons. One of the interesting sights in the higher land which was, I think, to the west, was a small lake which had what looked like a copy of a Roman Galley anchored in it. I never asked about it but always thought it must have been some wealthy man's folly or maybe left over from a movie.'

'Close to Balderton was an RAF field which was a 4-engine transition school. They were using retired bombers - Stirlings, I think, as trainers. I was leading my squadron back to Balderton one day at about 3,000 feet when we slowly overtook a Stirling just a little to our right and about 1000 feet lower. I was watching him when his left outboard engine began to trail smoke. A minute or so later he just rolled over to the left and dove straight into the ground. Sudden death!'

'Another day, we saw a recovery unit with a problem. The Stirling had a large, very long fuselage. The recovery unit had one of these and was trying to maneuver it through a nearby village when they got it cross ways in the village square.'

'The people of Balderton were very nice and organized a dance at the base for the officers. The Group was new to England and English ways didn't really know how to handle themselves. I had been in England long enough to feel at home and tried to get my crews organized to operate in small groups but even with some of the British elders' organizing circles it didn't go too well, which was a shame as they had made a real effort. When the dance was over and the ladies were getting into trucks to go home I even apologized to several loads for the shyness of the Yanks.'

'From Upottery, I carried paratroopers into Normandy in the invasion. We then moved to Orbetello in Italy and I carried paratroopers and then towed a glider into Southern France. Back to England, where we carried fuel and supplies to [General] Patton. We had just moved an advance echelon into a field in France when we were called back to Balderton for the invasion of Holland.'

'I towed a glider the first day, September 17, 1944, and I was the lead plane of the center column towing a glider again on the second day when I was hit by anti-aircraft as I crossed the coast of Schouen Island and had to belly in just in front of a pill box. My co-pilot was killed by a mortar shell and the crew chief was wounded by a bullet.'

'In one of the coincidences of war, this co-pilot (not my regular one) came from the same small town in Iowa as had my radio man who was killed on November 8, 1942 almost two years before! (I visited both families after the war.)'

'The squad from the pill box came out and got me and my navigator. That night we were evacuated to the mainland and I ended up in the interrogation center at Frankfort-am-Main.
I spent a month in solitary before they sent me to Stalag Luft 3 at Sagan.'

Service

People

  • Vernon Gillespie

    Military | Sergeant | Radio operator | 439th Troop Carrier Group
    Assigned to 94TCS, 439TCG, 9AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) glider tow mission to Groesbeck, Holland. Hit by flak, glider released, A/C put down in successful forced landing Schouwen Island, Holland. Came under fire from nearby bunker, wounded by...

  • Fred Lorimor

    Military | Captain | Co-pilot | 439th Troop Carrier Group
    Assigned to 94TCS, 439TCG, 9AF USAAF. 7 x missions [Normandy 6, 7 June. 2 x missions August Toulon, France. Nimjwegen, Holland 16, 17, 18 Sept]. Failed to Return (FTR) glider tow mission to Groesbeck, Holland. Hit by flak, glider released, A/C put down...

  • Vincent Paterno

    Military | First Lieutenant | Navigator | 439th Troop Carrier Group
    Assigned to 94TCS, 439TCG, 9AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) glider tow mission to Groesbeck, Holland. Hit by flak, glider released, A/C put down in successful forced landing Schouwen Island, Holland. Came under fire from nearby bunker, captured....

  • Charles Patterson

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Flight Engineer | 439th Troop Carrier Group
    Assigned to 94TCS, 439TCG, 9AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) glider tow mission to Groesbeck, Holland. Hit by flak, glider released, A/C put down in successful forced landing Schouwen Island, Holland. Came under fire from nearby bunker, captured....

Units served with

Aircraft

  • 42-93098

    C-47 Skytrain
    Assigned to 94TCS, 439TCG, 9AF USAAF. Serial #1 Chalk #1 D-Day - Lead A/C carrying initial stick of pathfinders of 377th PFA, 502nd PIR to drop zone A, St-Germain-de-Varreville [Crew: Pilot Lt Col Joel L Crouch, Co-pilot Capt Vito S Pedone, Nav's Capt...

Associated Place

  • Aldermaston

    Military site : airfield
    Aldermaston was built for RAF use in 1941-1942, and handed over to the Eighth Air Force in 1942. It was home to several Troop Carrier Groups, and became an airfield of the Ninth Air Force in 1943. Handed back to the RAF in 1945, it was placed on Care...

  • Chelveston

    Military site : airfield
    Chelveston was adapted and expanded in preparation for the arrival of American forces. Rather than heavy bombers, the first aircraft to fly from its runways were C-47 Skytrains that were flown by the 60th Troop Carrier Group in July 1942. The first...

  • Upottery

    Military site : airfield
    Known locally as Smeatharpe, Upottery was built during 1943-44 potentially as a USAAF medium bomber, or reconnaissance or transport base. It had three concrete runways, 50 loop hardstandings, and two dispersed T2 hangars. Opened in February 1944 and...

  • Stalag Luft III

    Other location

  • Ponte Olivo

    Military site : airfield

Events

Event Location Date
Born Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA 4 August 1919
Enlisted Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA August 1940

Enlisted fall of 1940

Graduated flight school Tuscaloosa, AL, USA May 1941

Graduated flight school and received his pilot wings in May-41.

Based Chelveston 1942 – August 1942

Assigned to 12TCS, 60TCG, 8AF USAAF. Based at Chelveston.

Based Aldermaston August 1942 – November 1942

Assigned to 12TCS, 60TCG, 8AF USAAF. Based at Aldermaston.

Based Relizane, Algeria November 1942 – May 1943

Assigned to 12TCS, 60TCG, 12AF USAAF. Based at Relizane Algeria.

DSC Action - Op Torch Oran Province, Algeria 8 November 1942

Won DSC for actions during Operation Torch 8-Nov-42

Based Ghriss Airport (MUW), Ghriss, Algeria May 1943 – June 1943

Assigned to 12TCS, 60TCG, 12AF USAAF. Based at Thiersville Algeria.

Based Hadjar Mefrouche, Algeria June 1943 – August 1943

Assigned to 12TCS, 60TCG, 12AF USAAF. Based at El Djem Algeria.

Based Contrada Ponte Olivo, 93012 Gela CL, Italy August 1943 – October 1943

Assigned to 12TCS, 60TCG, 12AF USAAF. Based at Ponte Olivo Sicily.

Based 95040 Gerbini CT, Italy October 1943 – 1944

Assigned to 12TCS, 60TCG, 12AF USAAF. Based at Gerbini Sicily.

Based Upottery 1944 – 18 September 1944

Transferred to 94TCS, 439TCG, 9AF USAAF.

Forced landing Schouwen-Duiveland, Netherlands 18 September 1944

Failed to Return (FTR) mission to Groesbeck, Holland. Hit by flak, glider released A/C put down in successful forced landing Schouwen Island, Holland. Crew then came under enemy fire. POW. 18-Sep-44. MACR 9838.

Prisoner of War (POW) Zagan, Poland 18 September 1944 – May 1945

Prisoner of War (POW). Stalag Luft III.

Buried Erie, Pennsylvania 16505, USA December 2008

Interred
Calvary Cemetery
Erie
Erie County
Pennsylvania, USA

Died Wooster, OH 44691, USA 22 December 2008

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
20 June 2017 10:44:21 Lucy May Changes to biography
Sources

Joe's account of his service was written up for Howard Heeley of the Newark Air Museum.
This correspondence was then shared with the American Air Museum by Balderton researcher Colin Savill.

Date Contributor Update
20 June 2017 10:43:16 Lucy May Changes to nickname, biography and place associations
Sources

Joe's account of his service with the American Air Museum was written up for Howard Heeley of the Newark Air Museum.
This correspondence was then shared with the American Air Museum by Balderton researcher Colin Savill.

Date Contributor Update
19 June 2017 20:06:24 Al_Skiff Changes to biography and events
Sources

http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/dbmsn.asp?SN=42-93098&Submit6=Go
https://www.fold3.com/image/139139752
http://www.militaryhallofhonor.com/honoree-record.php?id=311720
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/60th_Operations_Group
http://wwii-pows.mooseroots.com/l/9569/Joseph-A-Beck
http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=6390
https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=32407164

Date Contributor Update
19 June 2017 19:05:10 Al_Skiff Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, suffix, nickname, nationality, service number, highest rank, role, biography, events, unit associations, place associations and aircraft associations
Sources

http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/dbmsn.asp?SN=42-93098&Submit6=Go
https://www.fold3.com/image/139139752
http://www.militaryhallofhonor.com/honoree-record.php?id=311720
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/60th_Operations_Group
http://wwii-pows.mooseroots.com/l/9569/Joseph-A-Beck
http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=6390
https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=32407164

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