WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service of Robert “Bob” Beaty in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series highlighting the military service of Arkansans, as Beaty celebrates his 100th birthday.
Beaty was born on September 29, 1923 and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. He grew up in a busy home with seven brothers and one sister. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 2, 1941, following in the footsteps of three of his brothers who were also serving in the military. Beaty said he chose the Navy so he could travel.
He rode on a train from Kansas City to Great Lakes, Illinois for basic training where he stayed for three weeks before additional training at the naval armory in Toledo, Ohio. It was there he learned morse code and flag signaling. “For visual training,” he said. “Learning how to visually communicate between ships.” While at the naval armory, Beaty contracted scarlet fever and was quarantined on a hospital ship for three weeks.
He completed his training in Chicago and said the Navy let him choose whether he wanted to be stationed on the West Coast or the East Coast. He selected the West Coast so he could see his family on the way to his duty station, Treasure Island, San Francisco.
Although he had never been so far from home, Beaty said the ocean and Navy life suited him well. “I just liked the ocean,” he said about his adjustment to the new environment.
His first trip was as a signalman on the U.S.S. Calmar which carried mostly Coast Guard personnel and three total Navy members. “It was a Merchant Marine ship,” he said. “They were hauling war supplies to different parts of the world.”
The Calmar took him all over the world, from Australia to New York. He was at sea and in foreign ports for months at a time, but in between assignments would take 30 days of leave to see his family.
Beaty said the ships he was assigned to usually traveled without military escort, even though they might be carrying weapons or bombs. “I never really thought about it, traveling with 6,000 tons of explosives,” he recounted.
Beaty said at one point he joined the crew of a modern ship that delivered supplies to locations including New Caledonia, an island in the South Pacific.
On that trip the ship ran aground on a submerged reef and the crew was forced to abandon ship. Within a few days a battleship arrived to pull it off of the reef, but the crew had to stay on the island until another ship could pick them up. The journey finally ended in San Francisco where he was assigned to yet another ship transporting unrefined salt to Australia, Egypt and Sudan.
Beaty said he really enjoyed visiting different countries, finding unique souvenirs and eating the local foods. He recalled one stop when a shipmate wanted to find ivory. While they never found any, they traded a pocket knife for a different luxury. An islander “stopped at a banana tree, cut us off a bunch of bananas and told us ‘Take these back to the ship, sprinkle a little salt at the end where you cut ’em off and it’ll ripen faster.’ And I didn’t have anything to give him, so I gave the boy my pocket knife.”
Beaty maintains traveling was the best part of his service. He was discharged on October 30, 1945, and went home to Kansas City. He was married the following July to his wife Rosie, who had been his pen pal during the war.
After his service, Beaty used the GI Bill to study chemistry at the University of Missouri in Kansas City for two years. He recalls the university being very crowded with other veterans taking advantage of their education benefits as well. From there, he used his chemistry knowledge to work for several different companies throughout his career, including one doing contract work for the Atomic Energy Commission.
Looking back on his service, Beaty says he was so young at the time that he didn’t fully appreciate the opportunities he had, but he believes military service is good for most young people because it “will help them grow up.”
Today, Beaty calls Bella Vista home.
“Robert Beaty served his county honorably. I am proud to be recognizing him on his 100th birthday for his selfless dedication. Preserving his memories of service for future generations to learn about his sacrifice is a great way to honor him,” Boozman said.
This week, Boozman submitted Beaty’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.