A Tennessee Volunteer

By Danny Hudson

Grand nephew of John Beaty, Killed in Action

Co C, 272nd Infantry Regiment 


Private First Class John Beaty, Jr., was killed in action on April 6, 1945, while serving with the 69th Division, 272nd Infantry Regiment.  That is what the cold white marble cross standing in Margraten, Netherlands, indicates to passersby.  The memories of the man have faded along with the gilded photograph that hangs in our hall.  The rakishly angled overseas cap, marauding smile, and icy blue stare are our only reminders of the man who went to war.  

As a child, that was my only connection to my grandmother’s brother – the picture that hangs, regally framed, well above all of the family servicemen’s photos.  It wasn’t until my own photo adorned that wall that I became curious about the man and the soldier. 

John Beaty was born and raised in rural west Tennessee.  As with most of his generation, poverty was a constant.  Life on the farm was a struggle, and strong backs were more important than an education.  Algebra doesn’t grow corn.  John had an inquisitive and mechanical mind, despite his 8th-grade education.  His .22 rifle put many a Sunday meal on the table, and that’s how Uncle Sam found him when war came a calling: strong of body, with a good “shooting eye.”   

John entered service with the 735th MP (Military Police) Battalion and received his initial training at Camp Atterbury, IN.  He left New York harbor December 29, 1943, bound for Liverpool.  John spent most of his time garrisoning southern England.  His unit was slated to go to Normandy around Day 2, but it was decided that they were better used in England given their knowledge of the area.  John’s letters and V-mails indicate that he was living the good life – in the rear with the gear, English girls, and all the things that Sidonia, TN, couldn’t offer.  “Glad I’m not in the infantry” was implied if not spoken.  With the Battle of the Bulge, the letters became concerned and wistful: “Our boys are really catching it.”  John volunteered as an infantry replacement soon thereafter.  He was mustered into the 273rd Regiment and detached to the 272nd.   John was a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) gunner with the 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Company C, under SSG Hrnchar.  During a German counterattack near Scheinstein, John was killed by 88 fire, along with SSG Hrnchar and PFC Aseltine.  A well-written account of this action was authored by Nathan Fullmer, a surviving squad member, and can be found in a 2003 edition of the 69th Bulletin: 

“The next day, April 6, 1945, the 1st Battalion continued its attack, clearing several small towns.  Company C attacked Scheinstein.  Our Squad moved through woods into a clearing and laid down small-arms fire into the woods on the other side of the clearing.  Our two BARs got the German attention.  Although the History Of The 272 Infantry describes the enemy opposition as sniper resistance, the sniper shooting at our Squad was using an 88 (mm gun).  After three rounds, we suffered three dead: Squad Leader S/Sgt John Hrnchar, and both of our BAR men, Pfc Robert Aseltine and Pfc John Beaty.” 

During a recent visit home, I once again perused John’s effects, carefully tucked away in my grandmother’s cedar chest.  I came upon a ring that I had overlooked.  It was a simple copper ring bearing the Army crest, well worn with a patina.  The ring had been cut from John’s hand at grave’s registration and was still burdened with the soil on which he fell.  It struck me as odd.  Infantrymen just don’t wear rings.  They are uncomfortable, catch on things, and can cause noise at the wrong time.  Why would he wear this ring, even until his death?  Its value must have been great to him.  It was.  He shared the burden of a nation.  He chose to relinquish a safe and easy duty in order to put himself in harm’s way to defend that nation better.  His faith and allegiance were not born in elegant words or patriotic posturing.  They were quietly borne on the hands that tilled the earth.  So when you think of the fallen on VE day, please find a small place for this simple farmer.