Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran William George Beem. William served during World War II.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, William went to enlist with the Navy, but was denied due to color blindness. Despite having been rejected from the Marines, in 1943, William was drafted into the Army and was given training to operate the new M10 tank destroyer.
After receiving training at Camp Hood, Texas, William was assigned to the 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 5th Armored Division and deployed to Europe.
In Europe, William participated in the Normandy landing on D-Day and was part of the third wave. Of his Battalion, only William and his five crewmen survived, his tank destroyer being the only one of 180 tanks to make it on shore.
After landing in Normandy, William and his tank crew fought up through France and earned the distinction of being the first tank to cross the Rhine into Germany. While in Europe, William was injured twice, breaking his left arm and his right leg.
After the fall of Berlin, William and his crew were shipped to the Philippines where they engaged in heavy combat with Japanese forces. While in the jungles, William’s color blindness became incredibly useful as he was able to spot camouflaged targets faster than other soldiers. During his deployment in the Philippines, William nearly died after contracting malaria but was ultimately able to recover.
William learned of the Japanese surrender after noticing the Japanese forces in the Philippines were no longer fighting back. After waiting five months for a transport ship, William returned to the U.S. and was discharged at the rank of sergeant. Upon returning home, William began a career in sales.
Throughout his service, William was awarded 45 medals and citations including an honorary citation from the French Government, an Army Commendation Medal, a Philippine Liberation Medal and several Oak Leaf Clusters.
Thank you for your service, William!
Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Graphic designer: Kimber Garland
Fact checker: Tavia Wager
Editor: Agnes Song