There will be several veterans from Washington County on Saturday’s Stars & Stripes Honor Flight including Edward Burke, a WWII Navy vet from Hartford, WWII Navy veteran Dale Carlson of West Bend, Korean War Army veteran James Menzel of West Bend and Charlie Beckman a Korean War Navy veteran from West Bend.
Charlie Beckman, 86, grew up in Eau Claire and graduated high school in 1948. “I enlisted in the Navy and went for basic training at Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois,” said Beckman.
After training Beckman was an Interior Communications Electricians 3rd Class; he shipped out of Los Angeles on the heavy cruiser U.S.S. St. Paul and went to Japan.
“We were going to Formosa Island and our assignment was to keep our eye on China,” he said.
“It was dangerous because as we were going up the Yangtze River in 1949; this is when Communists were fighting the Nationalists and as we went up the river you could see the shells go from one side of the river to the other,” said Beckman.
Beckman initially signed up to serve three years in the Navy but received an extension in what was called a “Harry Truman year.”
Discharged in 1952, Beckman returned to Eau Claire where he bought his first car, a 1952 blue Ford. “I ended up driving back to California because I met a guy in the Navy, Owen Porter, and we started working together,” he said.
One of Beckman’s memorable experiences was being a forklift driver for Howard Hughes.
“We were lifting weights and putting them on a helicopter for Howard Hughes,” said Beckman. “He was testing how much weight helicopters could have on board. He called me by name.” said Beckman.
Taking advantage of his intelligence Beckman left the forklift and went to work for Western Electric in L.A. Following a brief stint in the Eau Claire area in 1960 Beckman put in an application to do defense work with Western Electric in Greenland where he spent a year and a half before transferring back to the states.
Beckman has been to Washington D.C. before. He said he is looking forward to seeing the Korean War memorial.