Robert Beaubier

Bob Beaubier with his wife Helen and son Ricky in 1945
Bob did not enlist in the Seabees until the Fall of 1943, before which he worked for the Pend Oreille Mines and the US Forest Service, both of which were vital parts of the war industries. What is especially interesting in Bob's story is what it was like to serve in England during the war.

Bob was working up at the Pend Oreille Mines in Metaline Falls when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor, doing a couple different jobs at the mine. He was "chuck tender with a miner, stoke mining and raise mining, drifting and then I ran a muckin machine for awhile." The muckin' machine was nothing but a scraper that scraped the, the uh blasted rock into a chute where it was lowered down to the lower level and, and uh trains come by and picked the picked the rock up outta the chutes and took it up and it was hoisted up to the concentrator at the surface.
While the Pend Oreille Mines paid well, Bob worked for the US Forest Service in the summer, as an alternate ranger at Chatau (between Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry, Idaho), a job he preferred to working underground.
In the Fall of 1943, he and a friend, Hank Diener went into Spokane to volunteer for the Seabees of the Navy. Both were deferred due to their work in the Forest Service, however they like many other young men wanted to "do their part for the war effort."
Yeah we were in, we took boot camp [at Camp Perry, Virginia] and then uh I didn't get a leave after boot camp, but we formed a battalion and took some advanced training, Camp Perry and then they sent us home on leave and we come back from leave and we found the battalion had been broken up, so we were put into a they called a Suspense Draft and we did work details and received additional training, formed another battalion for about two weeks and that dissolved [laughs] back in Suspense finally oh let's see it was along in the spring they shipped us to Davisville, Rhode Island camp...I can't even think of the name of the camp anymore. Well there was Davisville and Port Hueneme in California and uh one in Florida and we went to Davisville, and we were as a battalion and we took additional training in Davisville, we loaded all of our supplies for the 30th Special Battalion into a Victory Ship, they put a warrant officer aboard and it left, and uh about a week after that happened they go and split the battalion in half they took half of headquarters company and two companies, and sent us to Leto[?] Beach, Long Island and the other half of the battalion went to California, Port Hueneme. We went to Leto[?] Beach and was there and took amphibious landing training with a bunch of the regular navy. We were there oh let's see, about I'd guess maybe a month and a half, month, month and a half and we shipped out of Davisville, Rhode Island down at one of the piers in New York aboard a German ship that had been captured in South America and had been turned into a troop ship. It was, oh there was six or eight thousand of us on the ship, all different services. We joined a convoy of over a hundred ships; we shipped out on New York. We spent twenty-three days getting across the North Atlantic. We were from the Azores to Iceland and all over for we had to had a lot of cargo ships, freighters with us and uh there was a, let's see, there was a uh not a battleship, the next one down...
And there was a destroyer or two and several destroyer escorts and, and the weather was rough. We travel about ten knots an hour because that was as fast as the freighters could go and there was depth charges goin off quite frequently. And it was rough that old ship would go up and the nose would come outta the water and then go down and the bow would come out and you'd see the screw and the little destroyer escorts, those guys had to have a cast iron constitution because they went this way also this way at the same time. [moving his hands in an front to back motion and a side to side motion] We landed in uh because of submarine raids we were supposed to land in Southern England but we landed in uh at uh on the Clyde River in Scotland. And they sent us from there to Camp Ivy Bridge out of Plymouth, England.
While Bob was enduring rough seas crossing the Atlantic in June of 1944, the Warrant Officer and the 30th Special Battalion's equipment were washing ashore on the beaches of Normandy, the Warrant Officer to never be heard of again. If it hadn't have been for all of the splits of the battalion, Bob and the rest of headquarters company probably would have been involved in the D-Day Invasion.
Well we were supposed to follow, uh D-Day actually well see I guess D-Day musta happened while we was at sea because when we got we got to Ivy Bridge we had to leave two of our men who had gotten severely poisoned with poison ivy at Davisville. [laugh] When they came to the gate and uh they joined us there while, shortly after we arrived at Ivy Bridge and they asked the, the first thing they asked the guard at the gate was who was left in the outfit because our equipment had went ashore on the beach and our battalion name was stenciled on the equipment and uh they'd gotten a hold of the pieces and as far we don't even know if the, we never saw the warrant officer that went with that equipment we never did know what happened to him, but none of our people were there and so D-Day had taken place.
While in England, Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Bob Beaubier and the rest of headquarters company would serve as a transportation company and would work on the loading docks loading LSTs [Landing Ship, Tank] with items that the invasion forces needed and the items needed in the Pacific after V-E Day. Bob recalled many stories of loading LSTs:
We, we spent a, we spent a lot of time after V-E Day loadin' LSTs [Landing Ship, Tank] with supplies to go to the Pacific. Pull them up, they'd pull 'em up onto a hardstand and drop the door and we were loadin' torpedoes in crates on the crossways on the semi and you'd have to back down this hardstand that always the tide was always out when you did it and them hardstands was just concrete blocks cabled together, you know it'd was just as slick as if it was greased. Well you walked back down the hardstand and they had a little floating kind of a dock there that you backed onto and onto the door of the LST. Well about half of the LSTs they'd welded rails into 'em so they could uh send those Limey goods wagons they're freight cars you know, their freight cars were about oh only about twenty feet long and they put four rows of 'em inside the uh hull of the LST where you'd start backing through that door and of course with those torpedoes you'd have that much room on each side [holding hands about six inches apart] and you'd just get started nicely through the door and tire would hit that fog [?] and the rail and sideways [laughing] you'd go so and you backed out and back in again. They'd turnbuckled a bunch of them after you'd get them loaded, you know you'd turnbuckled the, those LCMs [Landing Craft, Medium] up on the deck of the LSTs, put cribbing in there and uh took, chained 'em to the deck. You know welded eyebolts and chained 'em down and they got caught in a storm off of the Azores and lost a bunch of them because they buckled in two.
Impressions of Wartime England
To Bob, England seemed to be one of the most backward countries he had ever seen, as explained in the following examples of the markets and the working conditions of the dockworkers.
Well it was a very backward, a beat down society, if you were born to a poor class that was your lot in life. I mean as an example, we were loadin cargo ships, this is after Paris had been taken, loadin cargo ships, coastal ships to go take uh, well we took over, relieved a oil battalion, pipeline battalion, and we had a whole big field of oil pipe and they needed that in Paris to repair the water mains and sewers, and we were loading this aboard ship and the stevedores went on strike, the British stevedores. They went on strike, the crane operators, so our warrant officer went down and this one guy was still down there with a crane way up on the end of the dock. [He] Had a big bucket, and he'd dip it in the water, bring it up, set it on the dock, pick it up, and empty the water out back in the ocean. And uh warrant officer went up and asked him to come down and operate a crane. He said, "I can't." Warrant officer's "why not?" "I'm only an apprentice." "How long have you been an apprentice?" "Eleven years."And see the warrant officer he and his dad owned a stevedoring company in Florida and so these pretty neatly their stuff the warrant officer came back up to base and got all the guys that had ever run a crane together and they picked out four or five crane operators and took 'em down and he worked with 'em about two days and we were loadin ships again. And that was, see the English people tallied all the cargo that went aboard the ship, and they got paid by the ton and whenever they made 'til there was a certain amount half of their wages automatically went to the government for taxes, so they quit work for not havin it was in the middle of the day, they just walked off the job, and that was some of the things that happened over there. And uh people uh, the city of Plymouth quite a large city, five boroughs and I would say that probably ninety percent of the people in any one of the five boroughs had never been out of that borough in their lifetime.
And there was absolutely no refrigeration of any kind. The market was uh, if they had meat it hung block-n-tackle in the open air out and the butcher would lower it down and cut some meat off and roll it back up. You know and the bread wasn't wrapped, it came in a little cart, uh brown bread and hard, crusty stuff. The guy'd just lift it up like wood on his arm and carry it in the restaurant you know, no wrapper on it and his jacket woulda stood up anyplace he left it. Fish and chips, if you got 'em, why they were wrapped in newspaper, old newspaper and it was just, it was just a very backward country and...
While in England, Bob was also able to get a pass to London, where while watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace got caught in one of the "Screamin' Mimi" raids, the V-2 rockets launched by the Germans:
And they'd come over makin a lot of racket they'd that's why they called 'em Screamin' Mimi's, they made a lot of racket. And we were watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and one of 'em hit a supermarket not too far from there and killed a bunch of people, but that was one thing about the British people you know, the air raid siren would go off and they didn't pay any attention to it and I asked 'em why and they said, "Well if you paid any attention to it, you'd never get anything done," so they just ignored it.
When asked if he had ever been entertained by the famous USO shows of Bob Hope or Frances Langford and others, he replied, Well he never come near where we were, no the only entertainment we got was listening to Glenn Miller on the radio. That was probably one of the saddest days in England was when he was reported missing. [December 1944]
I was in, I was in Glascow, Scotland on V-E Day. Well it was kinda hectic. They'd had the riot the civilians and sailors had had the riots in Glasgow and they called about twenty of us into Glasgow to go on Shore Patrol duty with the MPs [Military Police] and when V-E Day was declared for about four or five days there was practically no automobile traffic on the streets a bonfire at every intersection and thousands of people goin' up and down, some guy with a bagpipe and he'd have thirty or forty people behind him goin' up and down the street you'd a go along and of course they closed all the pubs and everything and you'd walk by and somebody try to grab part of your uniform and anything. I just happened the outfit that we got teamed up with was a bunch of GIs that had been in France and they'd had the hell shot out of 'em and make a noise like a burp gun and they could be under that davenport before I knew you never seen such a jittery bunch of guys. Well V-J Day we were in Exler, England and there was about, there musta been close to 50,000 sailors and Seabees at Exler and when it came over the radio a short time later, there was nobody left in camp [laugh] the guards didn't even, they, they couldn't stop everybody just piled out.
Bob received his discharge on December 7, 1945 after spending two long years away from his wife and a son he had never met. According to Bob, that was his best moment during the war.


Copyright © 2004 by Kristen Cornelis