a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A lucky soldier

My father, James R. Beveridge, in the middle, celebrated with his steel mill buddies in Monessen, Pa, not long after returning to work after World War II ended.

Part VI: The second war ends

By Scott Beveridge

James R. Beveridge was going to have plenty of time for reading or playing cards to tackle the boredom of a long ocean journey to the war in Japan.

His ship was among a convoy that bid farewell to Europe at the Rock of Gibraltar, crossed the Atlantic Ocean and meandered through the Panama Canal during a 60 day journey that came to a halt off the Marshall Islands.

They were held back just before Japan’s informal World War II surrender on August 14, 1945. It was a week after the USAAF B-29 Enola Gay had devastated the Japanese city of Hiroshima in the first of two and only Atomic bombs ever dropped in the world brought an end to the war. As he had in Germany, my father was fortunate by a hair to escape the fighting.

Millions were left homeless in Europe, while “Allied peoples all over the world celebrated” the victory in Japan, newspapers across the world blared in headlines.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army would be slow in returning to their homes such soldiers as my father who saw little or no fighting. Beveridge waited in a stretch in Okinawa before being discharges as a corporal in January 1946.

As a gesture of thanks, the White House issued veterans thank you letters stamped with President Truman’s signature, acknowledging them for answering the nation’s call to war.

“Because you demonstrated the fortitude, resourcefulness and calm judgment necessary to carry out that task, we now look to you for leadership and example in further exalting our country in peace,” the letter stated.

Dad eventually returned to his job in at a fence and wire mill in Monessen, Pa, after returning to his home in nearby Charleroi.

“The towns were full of vets,” he recalled in 2005.

Many former soldiers living there in the Monongahela River valley took advantage of something they nicknamed, “the 52 - 20 club,” he said.

Its so-called members received $20 a week for up to 52 weeks under the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, more commonly known as the G.I. Bill.

“Every week, you had to stand in line to get your 20 bucks,” said Beveridge, adding that some veterans were known to take the money straight to a veterans club and spend it on beer and whiskey.

“Some of them drank themselves to death,” he said. “I guess they had seen too much war.”

Four years later he married the former June Hart, who he met at a dance at the Veterans Club of Charleroi. They would have three sons, James, Scott, and Kelly by 1958, raising them in the nearby village of Webster. Beveridge would go on to lose his job as a pipefitter in 1972, becoming one of the earlier victims of the steel industry’s sharp decline in the region. He took a low-wage job as a Pinkerton security guard until something better came along, after also giving up his long love affair with Iron City beer. Two years later, he met the qualifications to become a police officer at California University of Pennsylvania, a position from which he retired in 1986.

He died Monday, March 5, 2007, in UPMC-Shadyside Hospital, Pittsburgh, from congestive heart failure.

(Click here to return to Part 1: Preparing for a battle dad would never see)

(This oral history was written in 2005 to fulfill my graduate studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. It is being edited and published here as a series.)

1 comment:

Susanna said...

Thank you for sharing your father's story. I am sure it is one repeated by many of his generation. You are fortunate to have shared so much: our dad never spoke of his experiences and hardly mention his service. Thank you for a wonderful glimpse into the world of those who defended our nation in WWII.