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John Beck


Date and Place of Birth: September 10, 1922 San Diego, CA
Date and Place of Death:    March 3, 1945 Iwo Jima
Baseball Experience: College
Position: Pitcher
Rank: Private First Class
Military Unit: F Company, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division, USMC
Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

Ernie Beck and his twin, John, were born on September 10, 1922 in San Diego. Their family settled in San Diego in 1887. Ernie was a catcher and John a pitcher. They played ball together at San Diego High School and San Diego State College (now University). When the war came, Ernie was drafted into the Army in 1942. John knew his number would soon be called, so he joined the Marines. Ernie recalls, "It was the first time we had ever been apart."

John and several other Marines earned their paratrooper "jump wings" at Camp Gillespie in El Cajon, California. The airborne Marines were transferred to Camp Pendleton, but were disbanded in January 1944 when it was decided only the Army would have paratroopers. John Beck was assigned to the 26th Marines of the 5th Marine Division, and shipped out of San Diego for Hawaii in September 1944. He was the best pitcher for the Division posting an 11-2 record. John played against several major leaguers while in Hawaii.

In 1945, he was sent to Saipan in preparation for the invasion of Iwo Jima. Private First Class John Beck was a machine gunner. He landed on Iwo Jima on February 19, and fought on that barren island for 13 days. He was killed in action on March 3. Ernie says he was the best brother anyone could ever ask for. He thinks of his twin every day.

Ernie was a member of 3626th Quartermaster Truck Company that landed at Normandy on D+3. In December 1944, The 3626th transported the 101st Airborne Division to Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. Ernie had driven an officer by jeep to confer with the 101st Airborne Division in Bastogne. They were invited to spend the night, but the officer said, "Let's get out of here." The next day, the Germans surrounded Bastogne and demanded surrender. Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe replied, "Nuts." The 101st held the town until December 26, 1944 when the 4th Armored Division provided reinforcement.

Ernie returned to San Diego State College where he played baseball from 1946 through 1949. He went on to serve four years as head baseball coach at Mission Bay High School and 26 years at Clairemont High School in San Diego. When he retired in 1984, he was the winningest high school baseball coach in San Diego history and the Clairemont High baseball field was named in his honor in 2012.

Thanks to Bill Swank and Ernie Beck for providing the information for this biography.

Date Added: February 12, 2013 Updated: February 24, 2013

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