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Harris Melvin Beecher
HQ Battery, 54th Anti-Aircraft Arty Brigade


March 24, 2015

On September 19, 2014 I applied for a third adoption grave at both WW2 American cemeteries in Belgium. The adoption grave I was provided at the Ardennes American Cemetery is the one of Technician 4th Class Harris M. Beecher:


Before the war


Harris was born on the 16th of August in 1920 in Aitkin County, Minnesota (USA).
Harris was the son of Harry C. Beecher and Martha (Osterheim) Beecher. He had six sisters, Marion, Harriet, Lenore, Charlotte, Daphne and Wanda and one brother, Milton. Harris was born between Charlotte and Daphne.
Harris left home before his 19th birthday and wandered to Denver County, Colorado.


Minnesota, USA

Aitkin County



Colorado, USA

Denver County

Before Harris joined the army he worked in Denver and had been away from home for three years.

Harris married Edna Ash in Denver, Colorado on April 9, 1943. He was on leave from his training in the army.

In the army


Harris enlisted on July 13, 1942 in Denver, Colorado. After passing the physical exams he reported for active duty as a Private in Fort Logan, Colorado on July 27 and stayed at this reception station only until July 31, 1942.

Fort Logan was a military installation located southwest of Denver, Colorado. It was established in October 1887, when the first soldiers camped on the land, and lasted until 1946, when it was closed following the end of World War II.

After the fort closed the site was used as a mental health center and part of the land was set aside for the Fort Logan National Cemetery.


Fort Logan, Colorado

Fort Logan, Colorado

Fort Logan National Cemetery, Colorado

From August 2, 1942 until October 10, 1942 Harris was in Battery B, 32nd C.A.T.B. in Camp Wallace in Texas. On August 28, 1942 he scored Expert (182) on the Modified Rifle Course C. On September 11, 1942 he became a 2nd Class Gunner.

Camp Wallace, Galveston County, was designed as a training center for antiaircraft units in World War II. It was formally opened on February 1, 1941, and named for Col. Elmer J. Wallace of the Fifty-ninth Coast Artillery, who was fatally wounded in the Meuse-Argonne offensive of 1918 during the First World War.

For two years Camp Wallace served as an antiaircraft replacement training center. On April 15, 1944, the camp was officially transferred to the United States Navy as a naval training and distribution center and was used as a boot camp. After the war it became the Naval Personnel Separation Center. It was declared surplus in 1946.


Camp Wallace, Texas

Camp Wallace, Texas

From October 10, 1942 until January 9, 1943 Harris stayed at the Blackstone Hotel in Tyler, Texas. Harris was in the Signal Corps Radio School at the time. The class size at Tyler Commercial College was 100; some of the soldiers were billeted in the Blackstone. During his stay he was promoted to Corporal Technician on January 7, 1943.


Blackstone hotel, Tyler, Texas

Corporal Beecher trained in Camp Davis, North Carolina, from January 19, 1943 until March 1943. He trained in the Battery C, AAA School, Enlisted Division. During his stay at Camp Davis he was promoted again to Sergeant-Technician 4th Grade.

In late December 1940, Camp Davis was built by the United States Army as an antiaircraft artillery training facility. Between 1942-43, two 5,000 feet (1,500 m) paved runways were built for Camp Davis Army Air Field (AAF). Part of the runway for the airfield was built through one of the old Civil War fort's walls.

During World War II Camp Davis housed approximately 550 German prisoners.

In 1944 the anti-aircraft training facility was transferred to Fort Bliss, and on 17 February 1946, Camp Davis was closed.

Runway 18/36 was resurfaced with concrete in 1997, possibly for use by V-22 Ospreys.


Camp Davis, North Carolina

Camp Davis, North Carolina

From April 18, 1943 until June 10, 1943 Harris trained in the HQ Battery, 54th Coastal Anti-Artillery Brigade in Camp Haan, Callifornia. On June 1 he became Radio Operator.

In November 1940, development began for a Coast Artillery Antiaircraft Replacement Training Center that as next to March Army Air Field now called Marsh Air Reserve Base. Known as Camp Haan, the base opened in 1941 at the height of World War II for the United States.

The Army camp became incredibly large and at one time housed 80,000 soldiers. Although there wasn't a piece of trash to be found in the camp, the temporary huts, tent-style and desolate atmosphere made Camp Haan one of the dullest places for training.

After the war it was transformed into a separation center, which were used to house soldiers before they were discharged from the Army. Camp Haan would eventually close on August 31, 1946. The buildings were sold, the land divided and sold as parcels. Much of the land is comprised of the General Olds Golf Course.


Camp Haan, California

Camp Haan, California

During the month of July 1943 Anti-Aircraft maneuvers took place in Leesville, Louisiana, in Fort Polk. On July 1 Harris was promoted to T/5. He also qualified for the .30 Caliber M1 on July 13, 1943 with a score of 151. From June 13 through November 7, 1943, his mailing address was APO Annex 403 c/o Postmaster, Shreveport, Louisiana.

Fort Polk was built in 1941 to prepare the army for battle in North-Africa, Europe and the Pacific. There was a desperate need for large-scaled maneuvers to prepare a fast growing army for war. Therefor Fort Polk and the Louisiana maneuvers were invented.

From July 1943 German prisoners started arriving in Fort Polk so it also became a POW camp. The prisoners picked cotton, cut rice, and cut lumber.

After the war the Camp closed and re-opened regularly until the early 60's. It is still used to the day.


Fort Polk, Louisiana

Fort Polk, Louisiana

From November 24 1943 until December 2, 1943 Harris was in Fort Hamilton, New York, preparing for the European Theater of Operations (ETO). There they shipped out on December 3, 1943 and headed to Scotland where they arrived on December 9, 1943. On this day Harris received his ETO Ribbon.

Until July 26, 1944 Harris was in England. He arrived in France on July 29, 1944 with the HQ Battery, 54th AAA Brigade where he stayed until March 10, 1945. Here he received the Bronze Battle Star for participating in the North-France campaign.

From March 11 the HQ Battery, 54th AAA Brigade moved to Belgium. Harris' life ended abruptly on April 8, 1945 because of an unfortunate accident with his truck near Corbion, Namur in Belgium.

Harris' death


Harris did not die during battle. He died in a single vehicle accident and was given the DNB status (died non-battle).

Harris died on April 8, 1945 in Belgium, in the region of a little village called Corbion in the province of Namen. Harris was driving a truck, most likely between the villages of Corbion and Leignon. The truck skidded and hit a high bank which made the vehicle turn over. Harris was pinned beneath the vehicle. Death was instantaneous.


Corbion, Namur, Belgium

His comrades that were driving in front of him hurried to help him from under the truck. Within five minutes a medic arrived to take care of him, but there was nothing he could do anymore. Harris was taken to hospital but there he was declared dead.

He is buried at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupré in Belgium. His grave is located at plot D, row 31, grave 15.


Ardennes American cemetery and memorial, Neupré, Belgium

Many service records stored in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO, USA were damaged by fire in July 1973. This letter from Brigadier General Hickey to Harris Beecher's wife, Edna, survived mostly intact:

Dear Mrs. Beecher:

Please accept my deepest sympathies on the recent death of your husband, Technician 4 Harris M. Beecher, 37330957. When Sgt. Beecher died you not only lost a fine husband but the army lost a good soldier and the nation an excellent citizen. He has been a soldier under my command for two years and during that time has won the respect and admiration of the officers and men alike by the excellence of his work and by his kindness and friendliness.

His death occurred at 2:00 PM on 8 April 1945 near Corbion, Province of Namur, Belgium when his vehicle overturned. His death was instantaneous. Every possible help was given to save his life. At the time the accident occurred one of our other vehicles was just ahead of Sgt. Beecher and the soldiers who were in that truck were giving assistance in a matter of seconds. A medical aid man was called to the scene and arrived within five minutes and Sgt Beecher was taken to the hospital immediately. The accident apparently resulted when his vehicle skidded and hit a high bank which caused it to turn over.

Sgt. Beecher, prior to his death, was acting as a radio operator and driver and I would like you to feel, as I do, that he gave his life for his country every bit as much as though he had died on the field of battle.

He was buried 9 April 1945 at the Allied Military Cemetery, Noville En Condroz Belgium. His funeral was attended by his friends in this organization and by his Battery Commander. A protestant chaplain officiated at the services, Chaplain (Major) Harold B. Cornelison from the 130th General Hospital.

Please accept again my deepest sympathies on your tragic loss and let me hope that you will find some measure of atonement for your grief in the knowledge that Sgt. Beecher died for his country.

D.W. Hickey, JR.,
Brigadier General, U. S. Army
Commanding.


HQ Battery
54th Anti-Aircraft Arty Brigade



HQ Battery


54th Anti-Aircraft
Arty Brigade

Technician 4th Class

I can't find any information about these units. If you can help me find any information, please send an e-mail to nicklieten@hotmail.com.

Contact


In April 2017 someone told me to find for relatives through large Facebook pages located in the town where my adoption soldiers was born, so I took the effort to search for relatives of Harris Beecher on an Aitkin County buy and sell page.

Soon many people liked my request and started tagging other people who might know someone or something. Some gave tips to contact the Aitkin County Historical Society to inform if they might be able to help me, so I did.

On Friday April 28, not even one day after I put my request on Facebook, I received an e-mail from Marty Stephens. He is the son of Harris' older sister, Charlotte. A bit later I also received an e-mail from his brother Dennis, one Laurel Miller and a few days later from John Razmus. Each is a nephew or niece of Harris Beecher.

Word seemed to spread quickly and I was very delighted with that. They immediately showed me their gratitude for what I, and many others, do for their family here in Europe. For me it's very important that they know that these men will never be forgotten.

Personal information


Technician 4th Class, U.S. Army
Service # 37330957
HQ Battery, 54th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade
Entered service from: Colorado

Born: August 16, 1920 in Aitkin, Aitkin County, Minnesota
Residence: Denver, Denver County, Colorado

Died: April 8, 1945 in Belgium
Status: died non-battle (DNB)

Buried: Plot D, row 31, grave 15, Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupré, Belgium
Awards: /


Family
Parents: Harry C. Beecher (1878 - 1949) and Martha Osterheim Beecher (1896 - 1968)
Wife: Edna (Ash) Beecher
Brother: Milton
Sisters:
Marion, Harriet, Lenore, Charlotte, Daphne, Wanda

 






More pictures




Sources

- ABMC
- http://www.wwiimemorial.com NARA
- http://www.wwiimemorial.com overseas American cemeteries
- Find a grave

- Fields of Honor Database
- Klassikat
- Marty & Dennis Stephens (Harris Beecher's nephews)
- Aitkin Independent Age
- Wikipedia
- militarybases.com

Any information you can provide me about this soldier, can be mailed to me (nicklieten@hotmail.com). Thank you!