Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

September 12, 2012

Smith: A conversation with Bill Beard

Pat Smith
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Last week, I had a most excellent conversation with Bill Beard.

You may know Bill. His parents were William A. and Pearl McKelvey Beard and the family lived in Sandcreek and Marion townships. His mother taught school at Mapleton, Rodney and Forest Hill schools and was the Letts Postmaster for several years.

Bill went to school at Degenhart in Marion Township and graduated from Sandcreek High School in 1943.

He showed me two bottles made of very thick glass and with an even thicker lip around the top.

Bill and his son found the old bottles when they tore down a house some years ago. I estimate the bottles to be about 132-years-old and they haven't a chip on them. The words ÒW.L. Hasbrouck Chemist Greensburg, IndianaÓ are in raised glass letters on the bottles.

William L. Hasbrouck was Òa dispensing pharmacist and practicing physician.Ó He was born in Utica, N.Y. in 1816 and graduated with high honors from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.

He entered the Union Army in 1861 and was an assistant surgeon until Dec. 27, 1865. He then settled in Cincinnati but came to Decatur County in 1873. His store was on the south side of the square was 20 x 90 feet and there he could prepare Òpharmaceutical compounds of every description.Ó He was on the judicial committee of the Presbytery of Whitewater, as an elder, in 1888 the year that the Synod of Indiana met in Rushville.

Although most of us would like every veteran's story recorded, we respect that some just can't talk about their experiences in war. Bill did not tell me of his experiences, possibly, in part, because one of his much loved brothers was killed only a few weeks after Bill graduated from high school and just as he was entering the service.

His brother, Lowell W. Beard, was a Tec 4-Sgt in the U.S. Army, 71st Field Artillery, 45th Infantry Division. He was an artillery spotter when he was killed July 25, 1943 in Sicily, during one of the largest combined operations in the war.

The invasion of Sicily began July 9, 1943 and lasted until Aug. 17. Nearly 24,000 Allied men were casualties, 29,000 enemy casualties plus 140,000 captured during what was called Operation Husky.

Lowell W. Beard wasn't there to see the victory that served as a base for the eventual invasion of Italy. He is one of those Americans who gave everything for the freedom we enjoy today.

Bill did tell about a project that the pastor of the Letts United Methodist Church did during World War II.

There had not been many female pastors before women could even cast their vote at the polls.

Miss Gladys March was an exception. She served the Letts Methodist Church from 1920 through most of 1924 and was asked to return after World War II began. She served from 1942 until the war was over and for a while afterward, leaving in 1946.

While she was pastor of the church, she kept the parishioners up on what the sons and daughters were doing that were serving in the Armed Forces. She printed the role that each person was playing while serving in the war and I've seen a copy of what she printed.

Bill served with the 22nd corps of the 1256 Combat Engineers Battalion, Ninth Army. I saw pictures that friends sent of Bill and the 600 men in his battalion rebuilding a bridge over the Rhine River. That was just south of Wesel, Germany. The rebuilding of the bridge was essential and was quite an achievement even by today's standards.

Wesel had been heavily bombed in Allied air raids and the town was devastated. To make matters worse, the bridges across the Rhine and Lippe rivers were blown up by the Germans to keep the Americans and Allied forces from advancing.

It was essential that the Ninth Army and British 2nd get across and in those days the word impossible didn't work.

The high level bridges were 30 feet above the water, made of wooden piling with steel cross bracing. It was 641 foot long, had two lanes, and 70 ton capacity. The river below plus the current made it dangerous for any man that fell.

The 600 men of the 1256 Combat Engineers worked eight-hour shifts, 24 hours a day for 10 days. At the end of the 10 days the bridge was tested and held which made advancement possible.

Next week I look forward to sharing with you a trip made 160 years ago when a relative of Bill's drove an ox team to Oregon from Westport with the Robbins family.