World War II Veterans Book: Charles Webster Beaird

An Excerpt

Charles Webster Beaird, Jr. was born September 20, 1915.
He died July 11, 1944, killed in service to his country.
Father: Charles Webster Beaird, Sr.
Mother: Lelia (Bryant) Beaird.
Sisters: Inez Quin, Mary Nell Medley.

Charles Webster Beaird

Charles was inducted into the US Army September 10, 1941, at Fort McClellan, Alabama. At the time he was killed in action, he had advanced from the rank of private to the rank of staff sergeant.

On September 10, 1941, three months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and just days before his 26th birthday, Charles Beaird was inducted into the United States Army. He joined thousands of other men who were drafted for their one year enlistment. By mid-December that one year enlistment status would be changed by the government to the “duration of the war” a time period that was unknown to anyone.

After receiving his basic training, Charles was assigned to the 121st Infantry Regiment, which at that time was stationed at Camp Jackson, South Carolina. The 121st was one of the three infantry regiments that formed the 8th Infantry Division which had been activated in 1940. Charles and the 121st Regiment relocated to the Tennessee Maneuver area in early November 1942, for further infantry tactical training. During the next twelve months, the 121st was constantly training its cadre, moving to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Camp Young, California and back to Camp Forest in Tennessee. At that time the US Army declared the Eighth Infantry adequately prepared for combat, and it was ordered to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey in late November 1943. Charles Webster, and his buddies in the 121st Infantry Regiment, boarded a transport ship for the crossing to the European Theater, departing New York harbor December 5, 1943.

The Atlantic crossing took ten days, and upon arrival in England, Beaird’s regiment joined the rest of the units of the 8th Infantry Division in their billets. In preparation for the upcoming invasion of France, additional training in the English countryside was the order of the day. Fifteen to Twenty mile marches with 70 pound packs were weekly events. By this time Charles had advanced to the rank of staff sergeant.

On June 6, 1944, the greatest armada in world history, over 5,000 ships, arrived off the Normandy coast, and at dawn Allied troops assaulted the beaches of Nazi occupied France. The time for the liberation of Europe had arrived. The Allied headquarters had held some divisions in reserve for the planned breakout of the Normandy peninsula, the 8th Infantry Division being among them. By the end of June, after three weeks of constant combat in the bocage – small fields bordered by hedgerows – many of the initial D-Day assault regiments had already suffered 75 percent casualties. The gains on some days could be measured by yards. The Germans were resisting ferociously, and the bocage terrain gave them a decided advantage in their defense.

The 8th Infantry Division was ordered to join the battle, and the 121st crossed the channel to come ashore at Utah Beach July 3. Assigned to General Middleton’s VIII Corps, the Eighth was sent in to relieve the 82nd Airborne Division. Beaird, along with the other soldiers in his regiment, marched approximately 12 miles inland to take up front line positions located between the 79th and 90th infantry divisions. They arrived at the front line, which was situated halfway between la Hays-du-Puits and the Periers, on July 8, 1944. Between July 8 and July 11, the Germans began a series of counterattacks against the newly arrived and untried 8th Division. Charles was killed on July 11, by an explosion – probably from an artillery or mortar round during one of the German counter-attacks.

Medals awarded: Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Purple Heart Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with a Bronze Battle Star (for Normandy), World War II Victory Medal.

Charles Webster Beaird left his hometown of Fort Payne to serve his country. Having made the supreme sacrifice, he is buried among his fallen comrades in the Normandy American Cemetery, Saint Laurence, located at Colleville-sur-Mer, France, in Plot C, Row 27, Grave 24.