For World War II veteran Edward A. Beebe of Noank, just knowing he’d played his part in saving the world all those years ago was reward enough. Sure, he’d earned medals for his heroism—but somehow they were lost just after the war, and while Ed wished he could find them, the awards weren’t the most important thing to him. However, Ed’s son Tom wanted his dad to have the medals he’d earned so courageously when he was a young man, so he and his own sons wrote to Congressman Joe Courtney and asked for help.
On Friday, August 31, just a few weeks shy of Ed’s 85th birthday, Congressman Courtney paid a visit to the Beebe home and proudly awarded Ed three medals to replace the ones he had lost — the American Theater Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and Asiatic Pacific Medal with two bronze stars — as well three additional awards he’d earned but never received: the Combat Action ribbon, the Discharge Button, and the Honorable Service lapel pin.
Congressman Courtney told Ed that, “You have had an amazing life, and I mean that sincerely. You have been part of American history. Your life is tied to many important events in the world, as well as in Southeastern Connecticut.”
Born on Thames Street in Groton on September 25, 1927, Ed enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17 in September, 1944, following the example of his older brothers. He was trained to be a fireman for oil-burning engines. As a Fireman First Class, Ed served aboard the Navy destroyer USS Ralph Talbot, part of the Pacific Fleet. The Talbot participated in assaults on the Philippines, Iwo Jima and the Ryukyus Islands. In April 1945, the destroyer was attacked by two Japanese Kamikaze aircraft—an attack that killed five crew members and wounded nine others. Ed miraculously survived.
“I was assigned to the magazine on deck, but agreed to switch places with a sailor who was assigned below but had claustrophobia,” Ed recalled. “He was killed that day, while I survived.”
After his honorable discharge in 1946, Ed remained in the U.S. Naval Reserves until 1954. He married Geraldine Mathis of Groton in 1949 (she passed away in 2011); they had two sons and six grandchildren.
Ed worked at Electric Boat in Groton from 1950 until his retirement in 1980. While at Electric Boat, Ed continued supporting the U.S. Navy by working on the prototype reactor for the USS Nautilus. Ed also founded the Cadet Ship Sablefish in Groton, as part of the organization Junior Naval Cadets of America, Inc.
With all these noteworthy accomplishments to his credit, Ed remains modest. “I don’t think of myself as a hero,” he said. “It was just something I had to do.”
Ed, we salute you! You truly are one of the Greatest Generation!