Taken from the book, “Soldiers Stories: A Collection of WWII Memoirs” with permission by Myra Miller; written by Marshall Miller.
War Stories don’t always end when the shooting stops and soldiers return to civilian life. The family of former Army Corporal Delmer Beam can tell you all about he horrors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Cpl. Beam;s separation papers list him as a “Combat Infantryman” in the Army’s 6th Division, 1st Infantry Regiment, C Company. His WWII experiences started in 1939, as a 17-year old, at Fort Jackson near Columbia, South Carolina and stretched into August 1945, after several years of bitter fighting in the South Pacific against Japanese forces at New Guinea and the Philippines.
Delmer’s wife, Gladys, told her children, Lonnie, Roger and Lana, that the father they came to know after the war was nothing like the “joyful, fun guy” who gave 6½ years of his life – and numerous difficult years beyond – to the cause of freedom.
Gladys said the war destroyed her husband, both mentally and physically. In the mid-1960’s, Lana said he submitted to shock treatments at Mount Vernon Hospital to calm down his combat issues. The children couldn’t understand why they weren’t allowed to shoot fireworks on the 4th of July.
The few stories Beam told about his experiences were tough to hear. Like the one where soldiers were ordered to shoot thirty rounds of ammunition every morning into the surrounding trees to protect the camp from Japanese snipers, who would climb high to get maximum angles on their targets. Once, Beam recalled, several soldiers were killed by a sniper, even after the morning strafing. After an exhaustive search, the sniper finally was located hiding in a water canvas bag hanging from a tree. He had crawled in, poked a small hole in the canvas and shot his victims with a pistol.
Japanese marksmen and fierce fighting weren’t the only obstacles thrown in Beam’s path. Malaria was a difficult burden and an attack from scrub typhus mites nearly killed him. Delmer told his family he got so sick from the mites that he was presumed dead while lying on a stretcher on a bench. Someone saw him move however and he was transferred to a hospital ship.
His son Roger, chronicled his memories of his Dad’s experience :
As a young boy, I was always enamored with army war stories. I would ask him about the war many times. Only on a very few occasions would he talk about it. It is strange how I can remember some of the stories he told me when I can’t remember what i did yesterday….
He said he saw GI’s almost kill each other over a piece of chicken wire. The reason is that they would stretch the wire over their fox holes so the Japanese hand grenades would hit the wire and bounce back before it exploded. It rained every day in the jungle and was very hot and humid…
He told me about his best friend, a young 19-year old from Hope, Arkansas. While they were being attacked one day by Japanese, my Dad kept telling him to stop sticking his head up over the embankment they were behind, but the young man kept doing it until he got hit in the head and died in my dad’s arms. This has always made a picturesque impression on me…
I know he was haunted the rest of his life about what he went through, just like so many others. He was a good dad and even got better the older he got… Dad never met a stranger, he would talk to anyone.
Despite his health issues, Delmer spent his post-war years in Dixon, Missouri, and worked at Fort Leonard Wood as a fire inspector. He died in 1991 at age 70. His daughter had these words to remember her Dad: I guess the most uplifting thing about my dad was… he really believed that he survived when others died because God wasn’t done with him yet.
From Beam’s grandson, Roger Beam Jr., :
My grandpa Delmar told me this story several times as a small boy. I think he always got a kick out of it and was probably one of his “better” memories of the war.
He told me of the time his squad was out one evening climbing around the sides of trees collecting peppers that they used to flavor basically all their food. They had rifles slung and arms full of peppers. As they came around a tree, to their shock and surprise they ran into a squad of Japanese soldiers doing the exact same thing! He said the resulting chaos was both terrifying and hilarious, as both groups scrambled away. Not a shot was fired and they saved their peppers!
In the midst of such a horrible time for my grandfather, it does make smile a bit remembering how he smiled when telling this story.
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