Weatherford Democrat

October 19, 2012

Navy vet re-lives on board experiences

Sally Sexton
CNHI

PARKER COUNTY — Bronson Beardmore grew up having a tough childhood.

After witnessing the passing of two of his female guardians, Beardmore was placed under the care of another guardian in 1933 at the age of 10.

“He was a very brutal man,” Beardmore said. “He frequently beat me with his fists, clubs and other objects.”

After enduring the abuse, he was placed in two foster homes until his 18th birthday. Throughout it all, he found the will to go on by remembering his family.

Beardmore’s father had lived through the Great Depression, and his strength would leave a lasting impact on his son.

“He lived during the first atomic explosions and the two cities that were obliterated,” Beardmore said. “He lived before TV ever became a reality.”

His father was also involved in the Korean War and was in service during the Vietnam War as well.

After he turned 18, Beardmore joined the United States Navy, where he served for close to six years.

Taking a few years off following his discharge, Beardmore then made the decision to go back into the Armed Forces, this time he joined Air Force, where he served for 16 years followed by two years in active reserve.

The bulk of Beardmore’s Naval career was spent on his ship, the USS Platte, a fleet oiler.

One of his most somber memories comes from an experience aboard the Platte, when a routine fuel job with the Belleau Wood, an aircraft carrier, went completely awry in 1944.

After approaching the Belleau Wood, Beardmore and his fellow sailors were given orders to discontinue fueling and head north at flank speed.

“We didn’t see another ship the rest of the day or next, but early on the third day, we rendezvoused with the Belleau Wood again,” he said.

During fueling, Beardmore saw the carrier’s crew pulling one man after another out of a hole near the starboard’s fantail.

The fire was a result of a Japanese suicide plane, which had been shot down and fallen on the ship’s flight deck, causing fires that set off ammunition on board.

Before the fire could be brought under control, 92 men had either died or gone missing.

“I was spellbound as each was hoisted up,” Beardmore said of the scene. “It is describable, but a description of what I saw would not be acceptable or prudent in today’s world.

“But I can say that I lost count of the dead I saw through the whole war, and let that suffice.”

Beardmore would endure two more runs aboard the Platte, before being reassigned to another ship. Shortly after, he and his crew arrived at Okinawa in 1945, and less than 30 minutes after meeting their escort, were attacked by a Japanese Kamikaze plane. Fortunately, the pilot had missed his intended target, merely bending one of the screws on the fantail and leaving the crew and ship unharmed.

After a stint in Okinawa, Beardmore and his men were sent to Guam for supplies and ship repairs.

On its way back to Japan, Beardmore’s ship came in contact with a typhoon, gusting winds at more than 100 miles per hour and creating havoc on the ship.

“The skipper was as cool as an iceberg, and came up to me and asked me to relieve the man at the wheel,” he said. “I had never been at the wheel of any kind of ship. It was a little scary for me, but I watched the compass and stayed with it.”

After being relieved, Beardmore and the crew continued through the waters, eventually discovering the remnants of a sweeper that had been capsized by the waves.

“We found one man on a life raft holding his drowned friend by his collar,” Beardmore said. “He was completely insane. All the others from his ship had perished.”