Americans in Wartime Experience

Robert Beach

World War II

Robert Beach

US Navy in World War II

Robert was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut in April of 1924, where he grew up and joined the Navy at age 17. He opted for the Navy because of his childhood experiences with the Naval Sea Cadet program. On the 30th of March 1942, he joined the Navy and shipped off to training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center.

When Robert completed boot camp, he transferred as an unrated deck seaman to the USS SAVANNA at the Boston Naval Shipyard where it was dry-docked. Upon completion of the dry-dock period, the ship got underway for Northern Africa where he took part in the invasion of Northern Africa (Operation Torch) in November 1942. Upon conclusion of the landing, the ship returned to Norfolk, Virginia.

Almost immediately upon his return to the US, Robert’s experience was needed to fill temporary crew billets on the USS PRINCETON and USS LANGLY as they went out on post-dry dock shake-down cruises. On the 6th of January 1944, Robert transferred as a part of the permanent crew to the heavy cruiser, USS CANBERRA. The ship departed New York and entered the Pacific Ocean via the Panama Canal. After a stop in Pearl Harbor, the ship drove eastward. Over the next few months, Robert participated in 18 combat engagements with his final being on the 13th of October 1944. On deck at the time, Robert witnessed a group of six Japanese aircraft take aim at the cruiser for their torpedo run. Five planes were shot down before dropping their torpedoes, yet one successfully deployed its munition before being shot down after passing over the ship. The torpedo impacted the hull causing severe damage.

Crippled, the USS CANBERRA along with another damaged ship, the USS HOUSTON, was towed briefly toward Japan as a diversion to draw out the Japanese Navy, then to a dry dock established in a recently liberated port. After enduring another aerial attack while in dry-dock, temporary repairs were made so that the ship was stable enough for its journey to the Naval Shipyard in Boston for more permanent restoration. The USS CANBERRA was in dry-dock for ten months; thus Robert finished the war in Boston. He discharged from the Navy in December of 1945.

Shortly after his separation from the Navy, Robert decided to re-enlist and joined the crew of a troop transport. Over the next year and a half, he made several trips to Europe to pick up returning American soldiers. Over the next 15 years, Robert transferred to several ships and climbed the ratings as a Storekeeper (Logistics), reaching the exalted rate of Chief Storekeeper. To be a Chief is the pinnacle of any enlisted career in the Navy (and Coast Guard).

After 26 years of service, Chief Beach retired in 1968. His awards consisted of the Navy Good Conduct Medal with six stars, American Theater Campaign Medal, European/African/Mediterranean Campaign Medal, Asiatic/Pacific Campaign Medal, WW2 Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal, and Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

Upon his retirement from the Navy, Robert worked for the government as a civil servant at the Government Printing Office for 12 years. After his time with the GPO, he established a print shop, where he works today- 37 years later.Bio prepared by Shannon P. Reck, MMH

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The Americans in Wartime Experience explores the impact of war and conflict on America since WWI. It honors those who served in the military and on the home front and highlights the values they demonstrated in serving – duty, honor, and courage. It examines how periods of conflict have profoundly shaped American society. It educates visitors about the costs of war, both on a personal and social level. It challenges visitors to remember the service and sacrifices made by their fellow citizens to preserve and defend our freedoms. LEARN MORE

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