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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Careage Hills resident remembers service in Japan

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A veteran recalls - Ken Beckman, 80, who served aboard a ship in Japan in WWII, is currently a resident of Careage Hills. Photo by Dan Whitney.
Ken Beckman celebrated his 80th birthday on March 7th, and the Minnesota native reminisced recently about his days in the United States Navy in World War II.

Beckman was farming in southern Minnesota when he enlisted as a teenager. Following training at Great Lakes Naval Base in the Chicago area, he shipped out on the USS Pensacola, a heavy cruiser.

Seaman First Class Beckman and his shipmates were headed for Japan in that last year of the war, and when they arrived, their ship was harbored directly in front of a large battleship- the USS Missouri.

On September 2, 1945, none other than General Douglas MacArthur, the Commander of the U.S. Army's Southwest Pacific Theater, was present on the USS Missouri. MacArthur was there, as it turns out, to meet with delegates of Japan and several other countries to sign a Peace Treaty, which would bring an end to the Pacific war, and soon after, to "the war to end all wars," the four-year-long World War II.

At long last, peace - General Douglas MacArthur witnesses a Japanese delegate sign the Peace Treaty aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. File photo.
Beckman said that the delegates went right by their cruiser ship to board the battleship, and also recalled that it was "only about an hour or so," before the Japanese delegates came back by the Pensacola once again.

In retrospect, Beckman wishes that he had been able to see more of the historic signing of the Peace Treaty, but he says the soldiers and sailors were pretty much kept out of the way, and in the dark , when it came to important events such as that.

With the end of the war, Seaman Beckman headed Stateside, back to civilian life.

Beckman said he was only in the service "for a year or so," and when he was discharged, he returned to his native Minnesota. Beckman grew up thirteen miles north of Worthington, and attended a country school. As a young man he did some farming before enlisting in the Navy , and he started farming again after the war.

After his return, he began dating a young woman, Mabel Just, who had lived just a mile away from him as they grew up. Ken and Mabel soon married, and he continued farming. The couple adopted two babies, a son Arnold and a daughter Nan. Mabel Beckman has passed away, after a long and happy marriage. Daughter Nan is now married and lives in Spencer, Iowa, and Arnold and his wife and two children live in Cedar Rapids.

Ken Beckman currently lives at the Careage Hills care facility in Cherokee. When I thanked him for serving our country, he said that, though he was very happy to be discharged from the service all those years ago, he "would do it again in a minute" if he were younger, and had the opportunity.

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