Bill Bean was born in Texarkana, Arkanas. When his grandfather, a district judge, learned that Bill Bean was going to be drafted, he decided to join the Air Force. He was trained as a jet engine repair technician and was initially stationed at Dover Air Force Base. Bill Bean subsequently ended up spending two years at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska which he refers to as a type of “vacation.” After the War, Bill Bean benefited from the GI Bill and returned to Texarkana.
Enlisting in the Air Force
Bill Bean enlisted in the Air Force after learning that he would soon be drafted. He explains that he always wanted to be a pilot, so even though he didn't have enough college credit for that, he chose that branch. He is proud of his service.
Stationed at Dover
Bill Bean describes his training experience which included going to Illinois before being sent to Dover, Delaware. He explains how “rural” the base was, but that didn’t bother him. His records were destroyed in a fire, but he believes that he was there until he was activated in spring of 1952.
While serving, Bill Bean received approximately $90 per month as part of the G.I. Bill. He explains that his schooling was covered and this was an additional stipend. With the money, he purchased a GMC pickup truck that he used to explore the surrounding area in Alaska.
Billy Bean: I’m William P. Bean. Interviewer: William?
Billy Bean: Right. Bill Bean, but everybody calls me Bill or I’ve got some other- when I was going to school they called me Billy Paul. Just people called I answered. So it’s-
Interviewer: So tell me when were you born.
Billy Bean: The Thanksgiving Day of November the 27th of 19 and 30. That why I am thankful.
Interviewer: So you are always Thankful?
Billy Bean: Yep
Interviewer: Born in Thanksgiving Day.
Billy Bean: Yep
Interviewer: Where were you born?
Billy Bean: Tux County
Interviewer: Right Here
Billy Bean: Yep
Interviewer: This is your hometown… So tell me about your family when you were growing up. Your parents and your siblings
Billy Bean: Okay I did not have any siblings I was an only child. Interviewer: Only Child?
Billy Bean: Child- Boy, that does wonders. Anyway I grew up. And my grandfather as I got older he was district judge here for 20 years in Buoy and red river county.
Interviewer: Your grandfather? Billy Bean: Yep. Interviewer: Wow.
Billy Bean: Anyway, he lived to be 94 years old. He wanted to live to be 100, but he didn’t quite make it. And he had some land in the- out between the hooks in Larry and so he did farming while he doing the judge- judging and all that and that was quite an experience there and I grew up until I was six years old and I- we moved to town and I had to go to school. So I went to Central School which is no longer down here on seventh and spruce street. And I Got through it did. Then I went to Akins school for two years. We moved to Beverly then back to on Main Street. Then I finished up there. Then I went to BF Pierce Junior high school. Which is no longer up on sixteenth-
Interviewer: What is that name of high school? Billy Bean: BF PierceInterviewer: Could you spell it?
Billy Bean: PI- just a b and a f then a P-I-E-R-C-E
Billy Bean: Pierce
Interviewer: What year did you graduate?
Billy Bean: Now this was from a… Junior high. And I- lemme see- I graduated from high school in 49 so that’s getting closer there, so go back three years. And then
Interviewer: What did you do after the high school? Billy Bean: High school? Well, I went to the University of Arkansas for a year. Interviewer: Yeah, what did you study?
Billy Bean: Well I’s wanting to- my grandfathers wanted me to be a lawyer, which I didn’t which paves the opportunity up. And we looked on some things and he finally decided that he- we kinda agreed on a veterinarian but that didn’t really do it. And I said, “Well how about an agriculture engineer?” And so that’s where we started… Then My folks at that time there were living in Harrison, Arkansas. And my grandfather had an appliance store. We- I was up- I was up there at the time- I was up there and my grandfather called me in August ’50. And said, “You’re coming up on the draft, do you want to do something?” He called from Tux County. I don’t know how he did. I guess they called my grandfather there. Told him I was coming up on the draft. And so He called me up in Harrison, and I just walked up in the post office and said “I want to join of the air force”
Interviewer: Wow. So why, air force?
Billy Bean: Well, I really wanted to be a pilot. But I didn’t have enough college or anything else. So I found an air plane was a pretty good start on it. And I enjoyed the mechanical stuff.
Interviewer: So you enlisted, right?
Billy Bean: Yep.
Interviewer: Before you got drafted, right?
Billy Bean: Yep. There was a lot ‘em here in town with the marine reserves and all they went to uh—that whole unit went there.
Interviewer: So when did you enlist to the air force? Billy Bean: I was enslisted on Sep- no- Let’s see- August the 30th of 19 and 50. Interviewer: So you knew there was Korean War going on? Billy Bean: Yep. Interviewer: What did you think about it? How did you know?
Billy Bean: Well you got radio, television. We told- The folks was on television was up there in Harrison at the time. It was the early infancy of television. And most of ours came out of Springfield, Missouri. Every now and then we could get Tulsa.
Interviewer: Did you know anything about Korea? Did you know where Korea was at the time? Billy Bean: Yep. Interviewer: How did you know? Billy Bean: Well everybody knew where a lot of things are. I mean it was on the news- Interviewer: So you learned about Korea?
Billy Bean: Hmm? Interviewer: You knew about Korea?
Billy Bean: Yep.
Interviewer: Very good. Not many Korean veterans actually knew about Korea.
Billy Bean: Well I didn’t particularly want to go over there so.
Interviewer: So you knew that you were going to be going to Korea more.
Billy Bean: No, I mean that’s if I had stayed at the reserve down here with the marines, I probably would have gone over there. But I didn’t particularly want to- I wanted to be around airplanes- aircraft.
Interviewer: So where did you get the basic training?
Billy Bean: I went to course- I went to Portsmith, Arkansas. That’s where I was formally sworn in to the Air force. And went to Maclan which is down there in San Antonio. And we stayed there about a week and a half. And we were the second flight to get blue uniforms that’s when they changed over. But then we went to Sheppard Air Force Base.
Interviewer: Where? Billy Bean: Sheppard up in Wichita Falls. Interviewer: What did you do there?
Billy Bean: Well, I took basic training there. And that’s where the A and E School was. And so I had applied for it. I made on the test and all… I think I mad 7, 8s and some 9s. And food service I did not do good and clerical I did not do good. I think it was 2s on those. So anyway I stayed up there and went to A and E school.
Interviewer: What School?
Billy Bean: A and E. Aircraft and Engine School. That was the school there. That was where a lot of people went. And after I finished there, they asked me if I wanted to go to Amirilla and be instructor in that one out there that was where they moved it there eventually. I think. I said, “Nope. I want to go to jet engine school.” And so there were three of us who sat out there for about a week and didn’t know
where we were going. Everyone else had done gone. Do that and so went up to Rantoole up in Illinois up there at jet engine school and so- finished with it and they had us head over to Dover, Delaware. Which have you ever been there?
Billy Bean: You don’t see it now. [I] hadn’t been back to it. Back then there were concrete barracks. You had two buck branded stove in there our latrine had one potbellied stove. It was very- what you might call it- rural like which doesn’t bother me one bit in a world. I stayed there they had activated the Pennsylvania International Guard and there was two of us there- were the only two regular air force at the present time. Stayed there until June 1952- I believe. My orders- the paperwork and all when they had a fire up in St. Louis and the archives and most of mine were destroyed. So I got some but I still haven’t found some my wife hid someplace but that’s there. Anyway I went there and I stayed there- when I lived Illinois there- Rantoon, Champange or whatever it is, Illinois. They sent me up there and I got to Dover, and the other one went to Pennsylvania. The other one went to where the president keeps his plans in Washington.
Interviewer: So you are mechanic?
Billy Bean: Yes. Now they call me a technician. I gradated Jet Engine School and right then we were not in the infancy of it but not everyone going through jet engine school. And when I went to Dover up there they had p-51s which was a prop job.
Interviewer: So you are technician? Billy Bean: Pardon? Interviewer: You repair the engines? Jet engines? Billy Bean: Yep. Changed them and everything else Interviewer: Very good.
Billy Bean: So they needed me there in Dover instead of the other two places. But that’s where I was- So I guess it was time I went somewhere. Things were progressing over there in Korea. And one of the clerks there in the office said, “Where do you want to go?” and I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Would you like to go to Korea? Or would you like to go to Alaska?” and I said, “How soon does the boat leave for Alaska?” And really and truly that was about a two years vacation in essence. We had mostly the comforts of home. You had a warm place to sleep at night. We had 500 man barracks there that had boating added in it. And a lot of other things.
Interviewer: In Alaska?
Billy Bean: Yeah, that’s at Anchorage at Elmendorf Air Force Base. We jotted up that way and got up there. One of them at there at Dover he got up there a month before I did. Took five days then went home for thirty days and went out there at Stonem, California. The boat was out there, close at hand. And took us five days to get us up there to Whitey, Alaska. The end of Alaskan Railroad too. And they had a train backed up at the thing or the tunnel or the cover of the thing. Loaded us off of that got on the train and chooo choooed us up to Anchorage. And pulled up- it wasn’t very far off from the barracks there the railroad goes in there. The fellows name was Biscuit. And anyway he was out there waiting on
the train. I had written him I was coming up. And so he helped me get to the barracks helped me find my place. So we progressed from there.
Interviewer: So you have actually never been to Korea? Billy Bean: No that’s what I told them. But Alaska was not a state then either.
Billy Bean: So
Interviewer: So you are Korean War era veteran?
Billy Bean: Yes, I didn’t go like all these other people did.
Interviewer: But you knew about the Korean War?
Billy Bean: Yes
Interviewer: What do you think about the Korean War? Now, Korea was completely destroyed. And now you know that Korea is economically very strong.
Billy Bean: They had a thing- a live program on television I believe it was not too long ago or so. The DMV Zone there and all those things there and the village out in the middle of it there. Can’t remember what the name was. It was about how they had to be very careful about what they did and how it had built up and the area around it and an organization here has gone over there.
Interviewer: Yeah, it’s very beautiful. Isn’t it?
Billy Bean: Pardon?
Interviewer: Korea. It came beautiful out of the war.
Billy Bean: Yes, it’s great over there. A lot of the ones—organization here in town several times they’ve been over there.
Billy Bean: One of them there married a Japanese woman. And I think every year they go for a vacation to Japan and up there.
Interviewer: So do you know many Korean War era veterans?
Billy Bean: We got a bunch of ones that have passed on that they didn’t know about. I’ve got one we have grew up together and gone to school with, and he has passed on.
Interviewer: When were you discharged from the air force? Billy Bean: In June the 24th, 1954 Interviewer: June?
Billy Bean: June. See when you come back from overseas. After you spent your two years up there. Then you come back. You go ahead and get out.
Interviewer: Did you have a GI Bill? Billy Bean: Yes Interviewer: Did you go back to school? Billy Bean: I went to Tux College here. Interviewer: Yes.
Billy Bean: And then that’s where things all came apart. I met my wife. And after that school did not continue.
Billy Bean: Her father was in the office supply and machine business and so I got in to it and spent about 45 years in it. I still liked agriculture and Master Gardeners in Arkansas. We can keep up with it like the foreign grandfather. I like to farm. So I wound up with about 120 acres of it. I bought 60 of it when he passed away. And we have a red river arsenal and Dave Zimmerman out here. Which is right across the road of Highway 82 from the place. About 300 acres over there where DMZ was. And they payed him ten dollars a nickel for it.
Interviewer: Ten dollars?
Billy Bean: Ten dollars a nickel. He had 300 more on Bartlett Creek which was just north of it about a mile over there. Anyway, they did another thing. Anglo Saxon was going to build a paper mill there. Between there was a store that runs off the Teepee railroad that goes down 82 down over there. And they were going to use that to go to the paper mill. The nice thing about it though when he sold that land to him he said his heirs and their heirs would forever and ever hold fishing rights upon that lake. And right out the back of here there used to be Teepee lake out there. And that was a good fishing lake and he had a membership in it and we used to come out there in the afternoons and we made a boat and built a boat. Course my dad was in the CBs and he wasn’t around, so my grandfather was kinda like my father.
Interviewer: What do you think about- Korean War era veterans even though you were not in Korea? How do you feel about it? And do you have a pride in their Korean War era veterans?
Billy Bean: Oh yes! I mean that’s anytime you’re a veteran whether you’re in the Air force, the Marines, the Navy, or whatever- the coast guard. Anybody who served to me needs to be thought about a little bit instead of just a person walking down the street or coming in the door. But they treated me very well.
Interviewer: So you went to with the GI Bill? How much was the GI Bill at the time? Billy Bean: I don’t remember I think we got 90 some odd dollars a month. Interviewer: That’s it? Billy Bean: Huh?
Interviewer: That’s it?
Billy Bean: Yeah.
Interviewer: What does that do with the sum 90 dollars per month?
Billy Bean: Yep. That was pretty good money.
Interviewer: Was it?
Billy Bean: Yeah
Interviewer: So did you pay to the school with that money or school is being payed by the government?
Billy Bean: No, our sustenance or allowance or whatever you want to call it they took care of the school out there.
Interviewer: So they take care of the school and then they gave 90 dollars to you a month? Billy Bean: Yeah it might be a little more or a little less. Interviewer: So with that 90 dollars a month what were you able to do at the time?
Billy Bean: Well, we weren’t quite as fast around here as we are now. Everybody didn’t have a new car. I still revert back to when I lived in Alaska. I believe there were14 or 15 vehicles we drove back from Anchorage to the United States. From Anchorage to Harrison, Arkansas was 4,400 miles and the Arkansas highway, I believe then was 1,800 miles gravel. So-but I had bought a GMC canopy type pick up in anchorage and we used to go out and get a 2 day pass or any time we got something go back up in the mountains or go through the old mines or go explore around or go fishing. I’d say it was kind of a vacation in essence.
Interviewer: What do you want to say to the young children or young generation? American young generation about your service. What do you want to say to them?
Billy Bean: I had one son who told me he had to do something. He was 55 and enlisted in the air force. I think it’d be good if everybody go through basic training. I know marines was a lot harder on them then air force. It is good to enlist in the air force. The pay is much nicer now. I thought about reenlisting one time but I said nah. I could have reenlisted it would have been beneficial for rank and all that. In Anchorage, I was made Staff Sergeant which was not too bad in three years. Then in Woodstock, Kansas at the air force base I got discharged. At this time all the Master Sergeants were getting fat and they weren’t doing things so they had a thing on trying to get them straight. We looked at it. I could’ve gone to work at the GE or Orlando or in Dallas. I said and I found her and we got along fine. We went along fine for 2 years. Finally decided it was time to get married. We wound up with 3 boys and a girl in four years. The first and the last have the same birthday. June the 26th and they are 4 years a part. This has been- I’m here in all these years and it has grown quite a bit in all these years. Like the people say with all the overhead stuff out hear and the roads there and they can’t figure out how to get around them, but they can.
Interviewer: It has been my pleasure to talk to you and listen to your experience and I want to thank you- thank you for your service.
Billy Bean: You are welcome sir.