Honoring our Heroes
May 1, 2020 | View PDF
Eugene Thomas Beasley: Age 95
Eugene Thomas Beasley is a WWII veteran who served as a signal man in the U. S. Navy aboard the USS North Carolina (BB-55) in the Pacific Theater. On September 15, 1942, he received severe injuries to both eyes when a Japanese torpedo struck the ship causing blindness in one eye. Beasley volunteered for military service and served three years, four months and 21 days from June 17, 1941, until December 4, 1944, when he was honorably discharged because of his injuries.
Beasley was born June 7, 1924, in Montgomery, AL, to his parents, Thomas and Nora Bell Beasley, He was reared in Walker and Montgomery Counties, and during his teenage years, he worked in various jobs as a newspaper carrier and a dishwasher at wholesale companies and at the Jeff Davis Hotel in Montgomery.
Volunteering for military service, Beasley completed Basic Training at Norfolk, VA, and was among the first crew assigned to serve on the USS North Carolina which was the first fast battleship of its kind having been commissioned April 9, 1941. It carried a crew of 2,379 including 444 commissioned officers, 100 U. S. Marines, and other enlisted crew members. The ship with a speed of 28 knots measured 728 ft. nine inches carrying armaments, 9 x 16 in. (406 mm)/45 caliber Mark 6 guns, 20 x 5 in. (127 mm) 38 caliber dual purpose guns, 16 x 1.1 in. (28 mm) anti-aircraft guns and 18 x .50 caliber machine guns.
Beasley sailed through the Panama Canal to the Pacific where the North Carolina was used to strengthen the Allied forces during the Guadalcanal Campaign. He took part in the in Battle of the Eastern Solomons near Papua New Guinea in the Coral Sea where the ship screened aircraft carriers and shot down several Japanese aircraft. The ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine but was not seriously damaged apart from the shock of the blast that disabled the forward turret. Five sailors lost their lives along with many injuries including Beasley. The ship returned to Pearl Harbor for repairs returning to the campaign to screen carriers across the central Pacific. Beasley was hospitalized for treatment to his eye injuries at Honolulu and on the mainland and was discharged at the rank of Seaman Petty Officer 2nd Class.
Returning to Montgomery, AL, after discharge, Beasley worked in maintenance for the Hollywood Candy Co., the Sunday Dinner Co., the William and Allen Refrigeration Co. and lastly the Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Field Exchanges for 18 years retiring in 1986. He then assisted his wife in operating a day-care for children in their house in Millbrook, AL. Beasley and his wife, Vivian, have been married 68 years, and they had two daughters, one son, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
He has been a member of the VFW for many years. Beasley reflects upon his WWII military service, “I feel like I did my duty. I was young, and I enjoyed it.
Harold Inge Bryars (8/28/1922—8/10/2019)
Volunteering, Bryars served over three years in the U. S. Army during WWII enlisting July 23, 1942, at Ft. McClellan, AL. He experienced combat in the Bismarck Archipelago, China, New Guinea, the Northern Solomon Islands, the South Philippine Islands, Luzon and the Western Pacific Theater. His Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was radio mechanic. He received the Asian-
Pacific Campaign Medal, the Philippine Liberation Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. He was discharged at Camp Shelby, MS, October 28, 1945.
Bryars was born in Mobile, AL, to his parents, James Arthur Bryars Jr. and Irene Munnerlyn Bryars. He was reared in Stockton, AL, and graduated from Baldwin County High School. After discharge from military service, Bryars started his own family business, Hubbard Landing, in Stockton and was engaged in farming on his family’s property working with this until 90 years of age in 2013. Bryars was also involved with politics serving as the Baldwin County, AL, Treasurer for four years and the Baldwin County Commissioner for 16 years.
Bryars and his wife, Evelyn Nelson Bryars, were married 67 years before she passed, and they had two sons, three grandsons and three great-grandsons. He enjoyed hunting and spending time with his grandchildren.
Bryars was very active in the Stockton United Methodist Church where he served as a lay leader and lay speaker. He was a member of the Masons for over 50 years, and he had many friendships.
Bryars expressed happiness in having served his country. This was always a special part of his life and memories. In fact, he attended reunions with his Army buddies in the USA and in Australia.
Frances Hailey Foster (1/26/1925-3/25/2020)
Frances Hailey Foster served 14 months and 10 days in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), the women’s branch of the U.S. Naval Reserves during WWII. She was proud to have come from a military family in which her father and brother had served. Her future husband, brother-in-law, both of her sons, her son-in-law, and one grandson served in active duty in every branch except the US Coast Guard. Foster continued the tradition and set an example later for members of her family.
Foster was born January 26, 1925, in Roxboro, North Carolina, to her parents, John Smithson Hailey Jr. and Cleopatra Baucom Hailey. Her father owned Hailey and Bumpass, a road construction company, that paved the first runway at Maxwell Field in Montgomery, AL. Although she spent many summers with her mother and two siblings near Reform, AL, Lakeland, FL, and other sites where her father’s construction project was located, she was reared in Montgomery, AL, and graduated from Sidney Lanier High School there.
Foster volunteered for military service at the age of 20 and enlisted in the U. S. Navy March 27, 1945, in Montgomery. Her Basic Training was completed at the US Navy Training Station at Pelham Bay Park’s Rodman’s Neck at Bronx, NY, followed by assignment for duty at the Receiving Station, at Charleston, SC. Foster reached the rank of Specialist 3rd Class before she was discharged June 6, 1945.
After discharge, Foster attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn University) and remained loyal to it. She was employed at Sears Roebuck for a short time during the 1970s and also in administration in the emergency room at Baptist Hospital from 1985-1990. She and her husband, Richard C. Foster Jr., were married 18 years before he passed, and they had four children, six grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
Foster enjoyed wood crafts, crocheting afghans, driving her convertible with the top down while wearing her sunglasses and a visor, studying genealogy and participating in the Francis Marion Chapter of DAR. At age 90, she decided to quit driving and donated her convertible to a veterans’ charitable organization. She was keenly interested in college baseball and attended the annual NCAA Division II Playoffs in Montgomery and kept up with the College World Series. She was an active member of First Baptist Church of Montgomery where she helped in the preparation for mailing the Beacon, the church’s weekly newsletter, and driving the church’s van on Sundays to transport home-bound members for worship service.
Foster’s military service meant much to her, and she was happy to talk about it with others. She enjoyed the honor of driving visiting generals at the Naval bases in New York City and Charleston during WWII. Foster traveled to Washington, D.C. on the last Honor Flight for WWII veterans where she visited the WWII Memorial at the age of 84.
Alex George, Jr: Age 100
Alex George Jr is a 100 year-old WWII U.S. Army veteran whose Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was in transportation loading ships for embarkation from the port at New Orleans to the troops in combat in the liberation of Europe, and later he served with the Military Police. George joined the United States Army in June 28, 1944, reported to Ft. Benning, GA, and served as a Private First Class (PFC), a rank that he maintained for the duration of the War. He received an award for sharp shooting. Although he remained in New Orleans and did not serve in Europe, he was part of the Red Ball Express which was an enormous truck convoy system created in 1944 to supply Allied forces moving quickly through Europe after breaking out from the D-Day beaches in Normandy. Upon demobilization in December,1945, George was stationed at Jackson Barracks, New Orleans, LA, where he was assigned to the 361st Quartermaster Battalion, whose function was to supply items needed by all Army troops, most notably, food and clothing. The Quartermaster Corps was more than a supply force; it provided many services, such as bath and laundry facilities necessary to the health and comfort of the troops. After WWII ended, George was discharged honorably December 5, 1945, in New Orleans, LA.
George Jr. was born July 24, 1919, to his parents, Alex and Willie Lee George, in Martins Station, AL, and he was the fifth child of ten siblings. George was educated in the public school system attending Martins Station Elementary School, Blackman Bend Alabama High School and Boligee Training High School in Greene County, AL from which he graduated in 1937. As a young boy, he was a member of the 4H Club.
After completing his military service, George worked on a farm as a sharecropper at Marion Junction, AL, and then in construction with the Miller Lumber Company, Swift Oil Mills, Vanderbilt Road Construction and the Dallas County Commission of Labor building bridges. His last employment was with American Candy Factory in Selma, AL, retiring in 1978.
George was married twice to Mary Dickerson George and then to Adline Allen George. He has 22 children and a multitude of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. George has had memberships in the Masonic Lodge and the American Legion. George has been active in service to his community at Beloit, AL, where he helped with the establishment of the
Beloit Volunteer Fire Department of which he served as President. He is a member of the Azion Baptist Missionary Baptist Church in Martins Station, AL.
When questioned about his life, George smiles and says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) He concludes about his military service saying, “I felt all right while I was in service, but it was a bad war because all of the soldiers were new and didn’t have the equipment for protection.”
Jessie Raymond Castleberry
Raymond Castleberry (9/19/1923-4/13/2018) served in the United States Navy for four years during WWII in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) as an aircraft gunner. On Jan. 13, 1942, German U-boat attacks officially started against merchant ships along the Eastern Seaboard of North America. From then until early August, Nazi U-boats dominated the waters off the East Coast sinking fuel tankers and cargo ships with impunity and often within sight of shore. In less than seven months, U-boat attacks would destroy 22 percent of the tanker fleet and sink 233 ships in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The U-boats killed 5,000 seamen and passengers, more than twice the number of people who perished at Pearl Harbor. The Atlantic Ocean was a major sea battle area, the “Battle of the Atlantic,” and when Germany declared war on the U.S., the East Coast of the United States offered easy pickings for German submarines or U-boats. Several ships were torpedoed within sight of East Coast cities such as New York and Boston. Once convoys and air cover were introduced in the Atlantic, sinking numbers were reduced and the U-boats shifted to attack shipping in the Gulf of Mexico.
This hazardous duty using low-flying surveillance was done predominantly at night because the WWII-vintage diesel submarines had to surface during the night to recharge their spent batteries. Castleberry’s aircraft encountered these submarine nighttime operations with searchlights, flares and radar systems. Some of the Airship K-74s were shot down in gun duels with German submarines off the eastern coast of North America; however, 13 German submarines were sunk by American Naval submarine patrol aircraft. Castleberry narrowly escaped losing his own life when one of the anti-submarine aircraft crashed after another person had asked to go on a flight instead of Castleberry that night. After completing boot camp at the Naval Station at Norfolk, VA, he was stationed at Naval ports at Newfoundland, Rhode Island and Florida. Castleberry recalled his service in the Navy during WWII as an “adventure.”
Castleberry was born in Sylvester, GA, in a rural community where his family resided on a farm during the Great Depression. In fact, he never had a pair of shoes until he was nine years old. When WWII broke out, he was drafted at the age of 17. After his discharge from the Navy at the end of the War, he worked 32 years as a very dedicated salesman for the Kellogg Company, a multi-national food-manufacturing company. He met his wife, Nina, who was working at a shipyard at Savannah, GA, and they were married for 65 years. Castleberry always provided for his family well. They had three children,12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. After retirement, they traveled throughout the United States in a mobile-home for 20 years in addition to living at Miami, FL, Prattville, AL and Montgomery, AL. Castleberry was a professional pool player at Miami and Orlando, FL. He enjoyed listening to jazz and old swing music.
Peter Ashburner Land: Age 83
Col. Peter Ashburner Land served in the United States Air Force for 24 years receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross. His heroism was displayed by his record of piloting the OV Bronco twin engine turbo prop on 137 missions in Vietnam escaping enemy fire. His other awards and decorations include: Legion of Merit with one Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with Two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with One Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, with Two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Combat Readiness Medal, National
Defense Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with Two Bronze Star Clusters, Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon with One Silver Oak Leaf Cluster, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, with One Bronze Star, RVN Gallantry Cross Unit Award, with Palm device and brass ribbon border and RVN Campaign Medal with Scroll device.
Land was born in Wilmington, NC, to his parents, William and Martha Land September 14, 1936, where during his high school years, he began studying leadership, team building and motivation excelling in leadership by serving as the Freshman Class President and the Commander of the JROTC. He also served as Student Body President and Teen Ager of the Year. Land first learned leadership skills from his grandfather who was the city manager of several cities in the US. Using a full Presidential scholarship, Land graduated with a degree in political science from the Citadel in 1958 with recognition as the Distinguished AFROTC Graduate. While there, he received the Marion S. Lewis Tennis Award (Most Valuable Player) and the Outstanding Cadet AF ROTC Summer Camp Award, served as a company commander and earned a private pilot’s license. Land continued his education by graduating from the Air Force Staff College, the Forward Air Control OV-10 School, the Air War College and the Army Parachute School.
In 1958, Land entered the U.S. Air Force beginning service at Bartow AB in Winter Haven, FL, training to pilot the T28, followed by pilot training in the single engine jet T-33 at Craig AFB in Selma, AL. After training was completed, he served at Harlingen AFB, TX, flying the T-29 for three years. His overseas accompanied tour was at Rein-Main AB in Frankfurt, Germany, for three years flying air-medical evacuations (SAMs) all over Europe followed by beginning his troubleshooting service. He brought the wing training section from unsatisfactory to the Best Program in Europe in one year. Land returned to the Citadel to serve as a professor of air science for three years, to Travis AFB, CA, for one year and to the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, VA, for education in planning and leading at the organizational level.
Land went to Vietnam for one year as a pilot and as a troubleshooter. He worked in team building as the Air Operations Officer at Da Nang Air Base in Vietnam. He was assigned to fly combat missions over Laos where he once crash landed his plane after a gear malfunction yet saving the plane for flying again the next day. Returning to the United States, he went to the Citadel as a staff officer working with the AFROTC. He was at Scott AFB, IL twice, first as the OTE for the C9 and then as the Base Commander. He went to Maxwell AFB, AL, twice. While there, Land created and organized the Leadership Manager Development Center and later served as the Vice Commandant of the Air War College retiring in 1982.
Not only was Land a superior pilot as evidenced by his amassing of over 12,000 accident-free pilot hours in 27 different types of aircraft, he also was a talented motivator of people to solve problems in working situations. He
received the FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for 50 years of safe and proficient flying. His Cadet Field Jacket is on permanent display in the Citadel Museum, and it was the first jacket to display every authorized honor and award. At Scott AFB, IL, he was selected as the Outstanding Acquisition Officer in America because of his problem-solving leadership in the successful delivery of a new plane ahead of schedule and below budget. He used his leadership skills, namely, to teach others to do the job, get it right and not take the credit. Everywhere he went, he became a troubleshooter based on the theory of leadership teamwork; this included Germany, Russia and other countries all over the world. Since retirement from military service, in 1982, Land created Peter A. Land Associates, a company involved in leadership and team-building for over 100,000 people in 12 countries for over 30 years.
Not only has he been an effective leader in the military, but also he has authored three books: Managing to Get the Job Done, How to Build a Winning Team (And Having Fun Doing It) and his third book, How to Delegate Effectively Without Losing Control. Land also co-authored the book, Mission Possible, a publication meant for anyone wanting to grow and to succeed.
Land and his wife, Liz have been married 60 years, and they have two children and four grandchildren. After living at 20 different addresses, the Lands remained in Montgomery after his military retirement. He has been actively serving others in the Montgomery community receiving the Paul Harris Fellow Award four times from the Montgomery Rotary Club and belonging to the Montgomery Association of Military Officers and several pilots’ groups. They are involved in active Christian ministry through their membership in the First United Methodist Church in Montgomery where they help with ushering on Sundays and help grieving people through the Joseph Ministry. They engage in a daily program of exercise at the YMCA and travel to visit with their family.
Land’s conclusions about his military service are, “Being in the military gave me an opportunity to make organizations better. The things that I taught worked everywhere.” Land has always been focused on being ready, willing and able to lead and serve the world around him. This Air Force veteran deserves the highest honors and acknowledgements of merit for his service to his country.