Local Lifestyle

Local resident recalls time sailing the seas as a Merchant Mariner, and service as a soldier

by Trish Rudder

Born and raised in Southern Morgan County, Dale Beahn, now 96, recalls the excitement of his early years at sea and as a soldier. At the age of 16, in June of 1945, Beahn was able to join the Merchant Marines.

He said he wanted to do something with his life other than working on the family farm in Morgan County.

Beahn tried to join the other branches of service, but he was too young, they told him. The Merchant Marines mailed him an application to join, and with the signed consent of his parents, Beahn became an excited young mariner.

Morgan County resident Dale Beahn was 16 in 1945 when he joined the Merchant Marines.

During World War II, the Merchant Marines carried supplies and personnel to wherever war provisions and troops were needed around the world. During peacetime, Merchant Marines are an organization of civilian mariners operating civilian and federally-owned vessels.

Beahn attended the United States Maritime Service Training Station at Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, N.Y. that was opened on September 1, 1942 and closed on February 28, 1954.

The station was the largest maritime training station during World War II and was equipped to train 30,000 merchant seamen each year. The site is now occupied by Kingsborough Community College, and has been since the mid-1960s.

Beahn spent six years at sea, and said he loved it. He crossed Atlantic Ocean 32 times aboard a ship that contained food and supplies for the troops occupying Europe after Victory in Europe (VE Day) was declared in May 1945.

He said he has been to 24 countries and loved meeting new and interesting people.

His ship also brought food to the European people. Beahn said his transport went to Mexico to pick up cases and cases of horse meat that were delivered to the starving German people. He said he never ate it, and “I was glad I didn’t have to.”

Beahn said his lasting impression of war-torn Europe was the devastation from the bombing. He was told the bombing was to discourage the Germans to stop supporting the Nazi Regime.

In 1950, Morgan County drafted Beahn out of the Merchant Marines and into the U.S. Army because more soldiers were needed for the war in Korea that began in 1950 and ended in 1953. He received his armored training in Fort Knox, Kentucky as a tank commander.

But Beahn never served in Korea. Instead, he was assigned to a unit in Japan where the war ended between the U.S. in August 1945.

His job was to escort misbehaved soldiers from jail back to their respective units.

“Sometimes I traveled 200 miles to escort one soldier,” he said.

Beahn and his school sweetheart, Helen, were married before he finished his two-year tour of duty.

“My sweetheart,” he said. “She was the prettiest girl on the school bus.”

They resided in Hagerstown where Beahn worked for the railroad and raised their children. One daughter lives in the family home there.

He and Helen live on his family farm in Morgan County.

Beahn added:

“I have sailed on many Merchant ships,

But the finest ship is Friendship.

May your ship sail on fair winds and following seas.”

Looking back on his adventures on land and sea, he said, “I had a beautiful life.”