World War II vet saw stateside service helping returning wounded soldiers

Published 10:06 am Tuesday, December 12, 2017

World War II vet saw stateside service helping returning wounded soldiers

On Sunday Garry Bean of Jacksonville, Ark. presented his uncle with commemorative hats to reflect his World War II service in the Navy.
The Panolian photo by Myra Bean

By Rita Howell
Seventy-six years ago last Friday, December 8, Master Bean, then 16 years old, heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
“We were out in a field in the Macedonia Community, when the mail carrier came by. That’s how we got our news,” Bean explained in an interview with The Panolian. “He hollered out that they’d blown up Pearl Harbor.”
Bean, 92, a retired farmer and carpenter, is one of a handful of World War II veterans still living in Panola County.
He was too young to immediately enter the fray after the Pearl Harbor attack, but when he was 18 1/2 years old, he was drafted and joined the Navy.
He left Panola County by bus and was taken to Jackson, and from there to Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Maryland. He was trained as a steward’s mate, and remembers the hard work of loading ammo or airplanes onto ships.
“Sometimes I had to lean up against a wall to sleep for a little, just to keep going,” he said.
He was sent to California, where he worked as a steward’s mate at several bases, including San Diego and Oakland, never leaving U.S. soil. He served from 1944-1946.
“I didn’t do any fighting, but I was close to some that went on (to areas of combat), he said.
He remembers being stationed within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the fear at the time that the structure was vulnerable to enemy attack.
As a steward’s mate, Bean said his work included cleaning and cooking and a multitude of other duties.
“We’d do just about everything,” he said.
As wounded soldiers and returning prisoners of war were shipped into Oakland Air Force Base, where Bean was stationed at the time, he found himself serving as a medical assistant to them.
He often talked to some of the patients. The ex-POW’s told him about their experiences, how they’d sometimes go days without anything to eat, or had to eat tree bark to survive. Some described how they were beaten by the captors, he remembered.
“We just tried to give them comfort,” Bean said.
He was a member of a quartet who often performed for the patients.
“They’d ask us for entertainment,” he said. “We sang mostly Christian songs.”
After his discharge in 1946, after the war ended, Bean returned to the farm in Panola County. He’s never been back to California.
“I didn’t love it, but some of it I liked,” he said.
On Sunday, Bean’s nephew, Garry Bean of Jacksonville, Ark., presented him with two commemorative caps that conveyed his status as a Navy veteran of World War II.
Bean is the father of Myra Bean, Linda Bean, Sandra Bean, and Master Bean. He has a granddaughter, Danielle Maury, and a great-granddaughter, Alexis Wilks.
He is the widower of Dirus Bean.

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