Sweet because I have had the high honor and privilege of knowing some of these men in recent years who have called me friend and shipmate. Bitter in knowing the friendships would be short-lived.
The young men above are three of the “greatest”: Bob Allard, Gene Beckstrom and I don’t know the third young man. In September we lost Bob Allard, and then in mid-November we lost Gene Beckstrom.
I met Bob Allard briefly at a ship reunion in Denver, and that was a sweet experience. Gene and Bob served together on the Porterfield down in the fire-rooms, but hadn’t seen one another since 1946 and the end of the war. When Bob saw Gene, his countenance lit up and he shouted out “Beckstrom – where the hell have you been? I’ve been looking for you for years.”
I was the mouse in the corner eaves-dropping on this wonderful reunion, and dared not intrude.
Bob gave the picture of the three shipmates to Gene who from that point on treasured it. The next year (2016) at the San Diego, Gene once more proudly brought out that picture. Gene’s son Bruce – also a Navy veteran – has the picture now.
I’ll greatly miss this man!
What is the legacy these men leave behind?
When these young man (Gene was 16), along with 10’s of thousands of others, entered the service the German war machine had overrun all of Western Europe, much of Northern Africa, were threatening Great Britain and had invaded the Soviet Union to the east. Germany’s ally Italy was part of the axis juggernaut.
In the far-east, the Japanese military had brutally invaded Korea, China, Southeast Asia, the Philippines and were threatening New Zealand and Australia.
So the task facing these young men was daunting indeed.
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What sort of world did these young men, and those who followed, leave behind?
A free Western Europe with representative constitutional governments and free market economies.
Communism was stopped with the former slave nations of Eastern Europe now living as part of the free world.
The Soviet backed North Korean invasion of South Korea was stopped and South Korea is now a strong, free and successful nation.
Japan has been transformed into a modern free industrial nation.