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Honor & Remember: Cape Coral resident to be featured on PBS

By Staff | May 22, 2015

One of Cape Coral’s World War II veterans will be featured on PBS this Sunday as a lead-in to the National Memorial Day Concert, which is aired live from Washington D.C.

Harry Beeman was one of five veterans selected for the special from among more than 100 veterans from all over the country.

He said someone in Texas provided Rosie Emery, WGCU Public Media Curious Kids Ambassador, with his contact information.

“Harry I could listen to your stories for two days,” Beeman recalled Emery telling him after the interview.

Emery and her film crew spent about an hour and 40 minutes at Beeman’s house earlier this year to interview him for the special.

“It was very easy,” he said of the interview. “She is very good at what she does.”

The PBS special, which will be aired at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 24, is a 30-minute production portraying the life of five veterans from the Southwest Florida region. Each of the veterans acted in a different role while serving in the military.

Emery said she wanted to include Beeman because he is a remarkable man.

“We wanted to have someone on camera that was able to remember and recount their experience. These people are the last witnesses to what happened in World War II,” she said. “We were lucky to find Harry because he had a lot of clear memories of what happened and he loved his ship. He was a young man who wanted to go and defend his country and his world and freedom.”

Emery said for these veterans to give their personal accounts of World War II was very moving.

“It will show respect for veterans,” Beeman said of the special.

He shared that he does not like to be called a hero for serving because the true heroes are the Marines.

“I saw the Marines in action for four years,” Beeman said. “There is no man in the world like the United States Marines. (They are the) bravest people on the face of the earth. Those guys think they are Superman.”

Memorial Day is a day that Beeman spends reflecting on all the men at the end of the war that never made it home.

“I never in my wildest dreams never expected to come home,” he said. “I thought I would die and be buried at sea.”

As he remembers those men, Beeman said he feels sorry that schools are not teaching youngsters anything at all about veterans and how they are responsible for all the freedoms everyone enjoys.

“Without veterans fighting in the wars, we wouldn’t have a free country,” he said.

At the age of 19, Beeman joined the Navy after hearing about the war while at the movies with a group of friends. He recalled sitting in a little theater at 1 or 2 in the afternoon with four of his buddies when the lights got turned on and the movie was shut off.

“I thought all you folks would want to know the United States is now at war,” Beeman remembers someone telling the crowd that Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. “Everyone in the movie got up and walked out including us.”

Beeman walked two blocks south of the movie theater with his friends to where their cars were parked.

“I said, I’m going to see how quick my dad would let me join the Navy,” he said

Out of those friends who went to the movies with Beeman in Indianapolis, he is the only one still living. He said not one of the guys were killed in the war because they joined almost two years later.

Beeman spent four years onboard the USS Ellet as a gunner’s mate where he received the nickname “Little Dead Eye.”

One of the memories he shared was when the Navy went into the Battle of Midway with 28 ships that were all old and overdue for maintenance. He said the Japanese came straight from Japan with 88 ships that were in better shape with their oldest ship being less than 6 years old.

“We beat them in two and a half days,” Beeman said.

He said all of their American torpedos had faulty igniters, which is why they lost so many of their sister ships. Fourteen of his sister ships were sunk.

“There were two of us left afloat on our ship,” Beeman said.

Beeman is a member of the Cape Coral Veterans of Foreign War post 8463. Since becoming a member of the post’s Honor Guard 11 years ago, he has participated in more than 1,200 services where they have shown their final respect to veterans.

Beeman said a military funeral for a spouse or son is free when an individual shares with the funeral home or VFW that they served.

For more information about Beeman, visit www.harrybeeman.com.