Branch: U. S. Navy
Rank: Seaman First Class
Status: Lost at sea
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Copley Township
1. The wreck of LST-342 was towed to Florida Island and has become a minor tourist attraction. 2. Vernon Beckman
Vernon Nelson Beckman was born September 1, 1922 in Henry, South Dakota to parents Jacob Garret and Marie Peterson Beckman. The Beckmans were both from Illinois and both had moved to the Fulda, Minnesota area as young adults where they were married in April of 1918. The Beckmans had five children besides Vernon: Dorothy, Theron, Wesley, Una, and Arlene. They lived in South Dakota for a few years before moving to a Copley Township farm a few miles south of Bagley in June, 1934, where Jacob farmed and trucked wood for hire.
Vernon attended Bagley schools until the 8th grade then worked for the WPA forestry doing roadside cleaning. He enlisted in the Navy at Bemidji in April of 1942 along with Jim Walker of Bagley. He was 19 years old.
Only about 6,000 sailors were training at Great Lakes when Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan on December 7, 1941. This grew to 68,000 sailors in six months, Vernon Nelson Beckman among them. From Great Lakes Vernon was sent to duty aboard the USS Titania (AKA-13), an attack cargo ship which was conducting landing exercises out of Norfolk, Virginia to prepare for the Allied invasion of North Africa.
Vernon was next assigned to the USS LST-342, a tank landing ship launched in November of 1942 at the Norfolk Navy Yard. The LST-342 was assigned to the Asia-Pacific Theater and participated in the New Georgia-Rendova-Vangunu occupation in July of 1943.
The LST-342 was struck by a Japanese torpedo off the Solomon Islands on July 18, 1943 from the Japanese submarine Ro-106. The explosion broke the ship in two, with the stern sinking immediately and the bow remaining afloat. Most of those who survived remained aboard the stern and those in the water kept afloat by mean of debris, life jackets, or rafts until they were rescued during the afternoon.
The Beckmans were first informed that their son was missing in action via telegram on July 29. The telegram was a complete shock to them because they had received a letter from their son on July 8th, at which time he was in a hospital recovering from his third attack of malaria.
More than a year later, Jacob and Marie received a letter dated August 9, 1944 from the Secretary of the Navy. He said, “In view of the immediate and subsequent searches made for the personnel after the action, and considering the length of time that has elapsed without any indication that your son survived, I am reluctantly forced to the conclusion that he is deceased. In compliance with Section 5 of Public Law 490, 77th Congress, as amended, his death is presumed to have occurred on July 19, 1944, which is the day following the expiration of twelve months in the missing status. I extend to you my sincere sympathy in your great loss and hope you may find comfort in the knowledge that your son gave his life for his country, upholding the highest traditions of the Navy. The Navy shares in your sense of bereavement and had felt the loss of his service. Sincerely yours, James Forrestal.”
Vernon Beckman is commemorated on the “Missing in Action or Buried at Sea Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines.” He received a Purple Heart posthumously.