Dick Hrebik wrote a biography about Ensign Walter H. Beckham Jr. USNR going to war during World War II. Dick weaves in an intriguing historical perspective as he shares how the war continued to play into Walter’s life until his death on October 4, 2011 at 91 years of age. The part that Walter played in that war still dramatically influences the lives of his surviving family and friends, of which the author is included.
Our country for the most part honors our veterans of World War II. How we have sometimes missed the mark on our love for the veterans in wars since is painful and distressing. Hrebik, a Marine himself, tells the story of an ordinary man who lived extraordinary things as a young Naval officer in the most challenging times and as a loving husband, doting father and talented lawyer
I really loved the first part of the book. On page 30 he writes: “Seeing unthinkable carnage on the decks of their ships, where many of the mangled and blown apart bodies were those of their fellow sailors and Marines, tore at their souls and inflamed their hearts with rage and hate.” The mixture of Walter’s own words and history was brilliant and powerful. I learned much about wars and especially World War II.
The book is very important to military and human history. I even learned how a ship my father sailed on during a horrific tragedy in the Korean War had honorably contributed to the war effort. This book shares with us that “the pilot cannot perform his lofty duties without the faithfulness of boots on the ground, Navajo decoders, cooks, supplies, storekeepers, Seabees, Marines, scientists, and patriotic oneness and families back home."
I suggest that the lessons and insight learned from past wars cannot be understood without wonderful writers like Major Dick Hrebik, USMC Retired. Walter was a wonderful writer too: “We had a gorgeous tropical sunset which struck me with its irony - having seen death and destruction in the afternoon… The relief was short lived, however, as a brilliant full moon arose out of the oceans.”
Reviewed by: Ron Camarda (2014)
When Walter was born in 1920, Japan had invaded Korea and China while the world stood by in disbelieve that Japan would ever attack the United States. By the time Walter entered high school, he knew war was imminent with both Japan and Germany. Having already been admitted to Harvard Law School, instead, Walter stepped forward and said "Take me, I want to serve my country." Walter was a naval officer on the USS PORTLAND, a heavy cruiser assigned to screen several aircraft carriers during 6 major battles starting with Midway. Read Walter's account from his diary, and personal stories of Seabees, Marines, a Navy Corpsman, naval aviators (including Pres Bush 41), survivors of the Bataan Death March, one of the first 31 female pilots in the Army Air Corps, and more. After the war, Walter became a legendary lawyer in Florida, when he convinced the courts to allow admission of demonstrative evidence, which changed the findings in thousands of wrongful death and injury cases; a common practice in every court in the land today. This is yet another story of the men and women of the Greatest Generation that deserves to be told.