Farm Boy to Service in Alaska

Aleutian Islands to War's End



Kenneth Beard was born on a farm in Sullivan, Ohio in March 1922. He took a farm wagon to school and grew up in a home with no electricity. He worked with his father making haystacks as a thresher throughout the Great Depression [Annotator's Note: the Great Depression was a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1939 in the United States]. Several of his neighbors lost their homes or livestock due to debts. His family made it through okay. Much of his childhood was working on the farm and driving tractors. Beard was working in a factory when he heard the news of Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941] over the radio and remembers thinking about how new everything would be for everyone. He heard President Roosevelt [Annotator's Note: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States] discussing the draft over the radio. On 2 October [Annotator's Note: 1942] Beard was sent to Fort Hayes [Annotator's Note: in Columbus, Ohio] to be selected into service. After receiving a physical he was selected for the ordnance and declared unfit for the infantry because he was short and partially deaf in his left ear. He was then sent to Raritan Arsenal in New Jersey to begin his basic training. He was trained on the rifle range on at Fort Dix [Annotator's Note: now Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Trenton, New Jersey] on Thanksgiving Day 1942 but only for one day. After three months of training, they boarded a train to Chicago [Annotator's Note: Chicago, Illinois] and then onto Fort Lewis [Annotator's Note: near Lakewood, Washington]. Beard completed a bivouac [Annotator's Note: a bivouac is a temporary campsite] exercise on which he was assigned to fire duty all night. The next day he was allowed to sleep since he had been up all night. Around four in the afternoon, he woke up with an excruciating headache and was sent to the doctor who sent him back with some pills. Feeling worse the next morning, he went to the hospital where it was discovered he had contracted spinal meningitis [Annotator's Note: inflammation of brain and spinal cord membranes typically caused by an infection]. His unit was quarantined for two weeks as the disease was highly contagious. Some weeks later this unit left for Seattle [Annotator's Note: Seattle, Washington] where they boarded ship to Seward, Alaska, stopping for a night in Ketchikan [Annotator's Note: Ketchikan, Alaska]. At Seward they boarded a train to Anchorage [Annotator's Note: Anchorage, Alaska] where they would spend three months at Fort Richardson [Annotator's Note: now Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, near Anchorage, Alaska]. Beard heard the train conductor say that the train was the same train used when building the Panama Canal [Annotator's Note: in Panama]. While at Fort Richardson, he fed black bears candy bars while on guard duty. His unit built six dummy airplanes to confuse Japanese aircraft patrolling overhead.


While Kenneth Beard was stationed in Anchorage [Annotator's Note: Anchorage, Alaska] during World War 2, he and some of his fellow servicemen decided to take a trip to Fairbanks [Annotator's Note: Fairbanks, Alaska] but only made it as far as Parma [Annotator's Note: Parma, Alaska]. After three months of guard duty, Beard and his unit boarded a ship to Adak [Annotator's Note: Adak, Alaska]. His sleeping quarters was a hut. He was assigned as a switchboard operator and perform other administrative duties. While he was there, he observed major construction on the island, including a sports arena. He watched Canadian and American naval ships come into harbor preparing to take back Kiska [Annotator's Note: Kiska, Alaska] from Japanese control. Beard found out later that there were Japanese submarines just outside the harbor keeping tab on how many ships were assembling. Before the attack could happen, the Japanese sailed from Kiska. The morning of the proposed invasion was a foggy morning. Canadian and American ships unknowingly exchanged friendly fire before realizing that the Japanese had already left. The Japanese left all of their equipment. He remained on Adak for 21 months before returning to the mainland of the United States. When he received orders to go back, he packed his bags to board ship. While he waited, it was announced that President Roosevelt had died [Annotator's Note: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States on 12 April 1945]. It took him two days to make it to Seattle [Annotator's Note: Seattle, Washington]. He was given liberty [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time], so he took a trip to Miami Beach [Annotator's Note: Miami Beach, Florida]. Beard was then assigned duty at the Army separation center at Fort Knox, Kentucky before being separated there in November 1945. He met a soldier name William William William. Beard had no choice of what branch he was assigned to because of his hearing disability. During basic training he did a lot of physical activities including hikes and training on an M1 [Annotator's Note: .30 caliber M1 semi-automatic rifle, also known as the M1 Garand] and bazooka [Annotator's Note: man-portable recoilless 2.36-inch anti-tank rocket launcher weapon]. Beard received a Brown Star [Annotator's Note: unable to identify] for his good behavior. Beard was on duty at the separation center when he heard the news of Germany's surrender. After the war, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill [Annotator's Note: the G.I. Bill, or Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, was enacted by the United States Congress to aid United States veterans of World War 2 in transitioning back to civilian life and included financial aid for education, mortgages, business starts and unemployment].


Kenneth Beard's most memorable experience of World War 2 was being a switchboard operator. He chose to serve because he was drafted. If not for his service experience, he would not have met his wife, which changed his life. They married in Greenup, Kentucky. [Annotator's Note: Beard asks a question to someone off camera 0:27:14.000]. By being in the service he learned to take orders and be polite. Because of World War 2, America was able to branch out. Kids should be taught to take orders, exercise, and salute. He saw a movie where there was a Japanese fleet in the Pacific and American bomber planes came by and sunk the fleet.

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