Intermission Story (3) – Cpl. Delmer R. Beam & PTSD

Cpl. Delmer Beam

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.

Delmer and Gladys Beam

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.

Soldier’s Stories

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.

Leather map case

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.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current PTSD Assistance –

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/

http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/38624/new-va-online-tool-helps-veterans-learn-compare-effective-ptsd-treatments/

https://www.va.gov/VLER/vler-health-exchange-registration-guide.asp?utm_source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=vler-promo2017-vawide

http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/38287/veterans-conquer-depression-equine-therapy/

http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/38060/va-announces-new-strategic-partnerships-advance-solutions-tbi-ptsd/

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Military / Home Front Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joseph Armstrong – NYC, NY; US Coast Guard, WWII, PTO, LCI

Gustave Breaux – Notleyville, LA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO / Vietnam, CMSgt. (Ret. 28 yrs.)

Joseph Dixon – Ochlocknee, GA; US Navy, WWII

Parker ‘Bill’ Fredericks – Midvale, NJ; US Army, WWII, ETO / Korea, Lt.Col. (Ret. 26 yrs.)

Roy James – Sylvarina, MS; USMC, WWII, PTO

John Jarrosak – W.Rutland, VT; US Army, Korea, 11th Airborne Division

Darcy Larking – Taranaki, NZ; RNZ Army # 624362, Pvt.

Robert Shoemaker – Killeen, TX; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, West Point Class of ’46, General (Ret.)

Hans Traber – Unterseen, SWITZ; Swiss Army, WWII

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 26, 2017, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 82 Comments.

  1. My maternal grandfather fought in the trenches in France in WWI. When I was a kid, I wanted to hear his war stories – but he never, ever would talk about his experiences in France. I couldn’t understand why. Now I understand …

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have heard similar statements from readers and it makes me feel very good to know that in some small way I help people to understand what the troops have gone through.

      Like

  2. Wonderful post GP. Even my father, who didn’t have direct combat experiences, has war memories which bring tears to his eyes. My grandfather and my great uncle had PTSD from WW1. Another issue which affected many was survivor guilt.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. thank you for sharing the beautiful smile
    offered to you,
    despite your father’s trauma 🙂

    Like

  4. The more I read these stories, the better I understand my own father who survived Peleliu, among other battles.

    I did enjoy the story of the pepper “cease fire” too. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The “pepper story” was lovely in this emotional story. Most of his life has been marred by these memories. The episode with his close friend putting himself in life danger reminds me of “All Quiet on the Western Front”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love the pepper story! I can’t imagine that he could smile about any story from that time, but he still a sense of humor during the most difficult time of his life. Thanks for posting this! It’s a good reminder of the sacrifices people went through to keep us free.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just as they concentrated on mail call and military humor for morale purposes, so are the humorous stories they tell. Many also felt as my father did, that they preferred to ‘protect’ their children from such horrors and only told them ‘cute’ tales of the military.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Reblogged this on KCJones and commented:
    WOW So many great stories!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Many soldiers who was lucky to stay alive after this horrible war never say stories about their experience. My father (born 1911) started his battle experience when he was almost 30. I asked him many times to tell me something about the real war. His answer was no. The explanation was pretty simple. I do not want to tell you beautiful lie but the honest truth is so horrible that you can not even imagine and understand. While he watched movies, read books or listened somebody’s stories he was upset because nothing was close to the real war experience. It is ok when people write about all these battles to let us know what it is all about. However, it is impossible to convey the feelings these soldiers experienced. I think this is why a lot of them had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
    Thank you for your interesting articles.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are quite right, Alexander. No one can even imagine what these troops endured and it is difficult to believe how any of them returned home and led productive lives. That is why they are the great generation. They went from being born around the 1st world war and then into the Great Depression and slap into an even bigger world war!!
      My father was almost as old as your dad when he went in; he was drafted just before he turned 28.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Quite a powerful story GP! My heart went out to this family as I too know the ravages of PTSD for our soldiers. Both my uncles fought in Korea and one of them suffered horribly with PTSD for years and years. My brother came back from Nam with PTSD. Unbelievably even suffering that bad my brother never lost a day of work.

    Both never wanted to talk about the wars. But I did hear a story my uncle told about being in a fox hole and his buddy next to him being hit and splattering his brains all over my uncle.

    My brother nearly died from malaria and dysentery while in Nam. There were hardly any medics to assist them, so the patients in their medical hut were pretty much left to their own devices.

    My brother also told me some stories about the war in reference to women and children blowing up our soldiers so no one could be trusted. Huge rats set on the soldiers while out in the field on search and destroy missions. He spent an entire night with 4 other Marines on a small mound in the middle of a rice paddy surrounded by the enemy. They fought to stay silent while the rats leapt on them all night long.

    Fortunately the next day, the helicopters came to extract them. My brother said there was nothing so wonderful to hear as the helicopters coming for them and he still awakes to the sound of those helicopters.

    Liked by 2 people

    • In Nam, no one knew who was the enemy or not. My father said the same about the Philippines. I am so sorry your family went through such horrors of war, their stories are important for us to learn. Maybe one day we’ll understand why war doesn’t truly solve anything – no one really wins. Please shake the hand of any veteran you know to extend my thanks.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Good post, GP. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Yet again you remind us of the cost of the freedom we too often take for granted in the USA. This account reminds us that the destruction of war goes far beyond the day the peace treaty was signed, thank you for bringing this sad account to light.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m glad there is increasing awareness for PTSD now xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. Years ago it had many misunderstanding connotations associated with it. Hopefully more are getting help, our military, the same troops, are sent overseas in far too many repeated tours.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Yes. How terrible is the pain we expect them to bear. I have one I’m writing at the moment but I am being very careful so it is taking time.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for sharing this moving story, GP Cox. As always, the comments and your replies add insight into the sories of the brave men.
    Hope your week started well!
    Greetings from Norway and Norfolk,
    The Fab Four of Cley

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I know a veteran who “never met a stranger”. Seems to be his way of dealing with what he went through in two wars. Really important these stories are shared. Vets are humans too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, my father was like that as well. From waitresses to ditch diggers to executives – to Smitty, they were all just human and he knew they had a story – he’d take the time to listen.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. PTSD is always a subject that needs to be addressed. Glad you put up this story.

    There’s a new name to add to your farewell salute: Jack Heyn. He served with the 3rd Bomb Group. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/desmoinesregister/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=185901665

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This is just so heartbreaking. You have to wonder whether any soldier comes out of a war unscathed, whether physically harmed or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. What a crazy story of the peppers

    Liked by 1 person

    • Of course now that it is over and everyone can look back on it, they probably all looked rather funny scurrying around to get away from each other – BUT – still protect the peppers!!!!
      Thank you for reading it, MaryLou!

      Like

  19. This is a very moving post–thank you so much for sharing it. So many of the WWII and Korea Vets carried the scars of war home with them and the effects of those traumatic experiences touched the lives of everyone in their family. Thank you again for sharing this powerful story.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. PTSD is a very serious illness that was not recognized as such in WWII. The soldiers affected by the disorder were often treated as if they were cowards. To mind comes the movie ‘George Patton’ I once watched, in which he slapped one of his soldiers who suffered from shell shock. Thank you for your post on a timely topic, GP!

    Liked by 4 people

    • It was very misunderstood back then, definitely. As I said to John, every man experienced something different and reacts differently. Kids today play a violent video game and think they can understand what actually goes on!!

      Liked by 2 people

  21. It seems that some men are asked to sacrifice every last bit of themselves, including their thoughts, for the cause of freedom. I saw a TV programme a little while back where a 108 year old man was still waking up screaming about the First World War. I suppose that that is something which makes war even worse. The fact that so many people cannot leave it behind them. It even takes their thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just as each of the stories I relate is somehow different, so are their experiences and reactions. You are so right about just how much they need to give of themselves.

      Like

  22. Such a moving story… Thank you for providing a look into an unromantic but important – and grim – aspect of war.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s my point when I bring up the Confederate statues, etc. History can not be changed and should not be hidden or erased – it needs to be learned from. We can not judge the past on our way of thinking, it’s like talking about 2 different planets. But our persistent wars put our military into the same combat traumas.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Nice story to end with, GP. Fascinating stories. Thanks for sharing them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are so many in this book [that also has Smitty’s “Jungle Juice” story] and other similar books, websites and veteran’s projects. It’s always great to see history shared!!

      Liked by 2 people

  24. Thanks for sharing Dan’s story. It was nice to know he found something to remember that made him smile along with all the horrors. When my uncles returned, the family said they were so nervous and never wanted to be around noisy crowds. But they never talked about the war..

    Liked by 1 person

    • So many were like that – and still come home like that too. I think nowadays though, many of the new vets are learning from these older ones and are talking more about it. I hope your uncles were able to work things out.

      Like

  25. Sometimes the stories you find just blow me away…this is one of them. Thanks, as always, for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Wonderful post! Shared on Facebook.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Brave men, I grew up on these stories, and I am proud to don the uniform in the great traditions. Three cheers to Cpl. Delmer Beam, may God bless his soul and bless his family.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I positively love the story about the peppers. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. These soldiers brought back a lot from that war. For the most part, they carried it silently. Only the people who knew them, before and after, understood. Thanks for sharing this story.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I felt it was about time, Dan. An often misunderstood condition.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Throughout my childhood, my mom, her parents and my brother and I vacationed in a cottage on Lake Erie for a week or two each summer. One summer in the mid-60s, my dad drove up to join us for the weekend. Our cottage was above a swampy lagoon, complete with sights, sounds and smells that you would expect. The sleeping arrangements in the cottage included a bunch of Army surplus cots.

        Dad got very sick the first night he was there. Mom called a doctor, and he said that the symptoms were consistent with Malaria. My dad had had Malaria in during the war. My dad said it was a “flair-up” but as soon as he could drive, he boogied out of that place and he never joined us again.

        Liked by 1 person

        • How sad for your Dad. Smitty had one recurrence of malaria that I saw, but he scruffed it off, saying he never had a real bad case of it, so it would go away. I think the surroundings of your cottage and the all-too familiar furnishings were a catalyst for his ‘flair-up’. I think it was wise of him to stay away.

          Liked by 1 person

  30. Another moving and very personal story from that war. I often wonder how many returned mentally-scarred, but too ‘macho’ to seek help. Things were very different back then.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Pierre Lagacé

    So many touching stories to be told.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Thank you, sir, for putting up a post about PTSD.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Thank you for the link.

    Like

  34. Thank you, Andrew. This is a subject that needs attention.

    Like

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