Veteran an eyewitness to history
BLACKFOOT — As a member of the United Nations Military Armistice Commission, Monroe (Monte) Beach of Blackfoot was an eyewitness to history on July 27, 1953.
That was the day the fighting in the Korean War officially ended when Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison of the United States and his counterparts in the North Korean army and Chinese volunteers signed 18 tri-language documents at Panmunjom.
While that sight is stored in his memory banks, another more important one is stored there, too.
"One of the first sights was my son Phil jumping around in his baby bed," Beach said of his return to his Louisiana home.
He was born on Nov. 14, 1921, in Rayville, La., near Monroe. He graduated from high school in 1940, then was drafted into the Army at the start of World War II.
He, his wife Willie Mae and their five children moved to Aberdeen about 1958 where he spent many years working for three different farmers. He and Willie moved to Blackfoot in the 1970s. He then worked for Anderson Lumber for about 15 years.
On Saturday he, members of his family and several friends will gather at Mr. Pizza to celebrate his 90th birthday.
Among the things they will likely talk about are his experiences in World War II and in Korea.
Although he was trained in military administration, he did see combat as his unit, the 15th Cavalry Regiment, moved into Germany.
"The Germans attacked us as we crossed the Rhine River," he recalled, describing ghastly scenes best left to his listeners' imaginations.
"War kind of makes a man of you," he said. "It converts you from being a farm kid. War was disgusting with buildings and people torn up."
He began his military journey in Fort Riley, Kansas, before landing in France about two weeks after D-Day.
"One thing that not everybody did," he recalled, "was I went overseas on the Queen Mary and came back on the Queen Elizabeth."
One day after he left New York Harbor bound from Europe, his first son Delton was born. He didn't learn of Delton's birth until he received a cablegram about three weeks later.
He returned to farming and carpentry when he came back from Europe, but struggled to make a living. So, he rejoined the Army. He spent time as an ROTC instructor at the University of Houston and at Northeast Louisiana State College near his home.
Then he went to Korea with the armistice commission.
Following that experience he again returned to farming. Eventually he and his family moved to Aberdeen, where his sister Betty Wilcox lived. She still lives there.
"My sister lived there and it was a good little town," he recalled.
Delton, Ellen, Phil, Shelton and Stella all graduated from Aberdeen High School while he changed jobs as necessary to keep food on the table. When the Kraft Cheese plant closed, he and Willie Mae moved to Blackfoot. His older sister Fanny Farmer lives here, too.
Monte and Willie Mae were married 31 years before divorcing. He eventually married Nancy Jo Taylor and gained a stepdaughter. They were together 12 years.
He has 18 grandchildren, numerous great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.
For many years he enjoyed participating with the Idaho Old Time Fiddlers. But, he said, many of their members died off and he hasn't played for two or three years.
"I'd like to be remembered for being a good guy, trying to do right and my service to my country," he said.
When he's not with family members (Phil and Shelton live in Blackfoot while Ellen is in Richland, Wash., and Stella is in North Salt Lake, Utah), he enjoys outings with friends. They regularly stop at Stan's Restaurant or Martha's Cafe for coffee.