Oral History Interview with
US Army Criminal Investigation Detachment Agent during WWII. Member of the US Amry unit that was assigned to guard the President at Celilienhof during the Potsdam Conference
Richard R. Beckman
July 5, 1991
by Niel M. Johnson
[|Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened September, 1994
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page |Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
Richard R. Beckman
July 5, 1991
by Niel M. Johnson
Mr. Beckman discusses his family history and his World War II experiences. Other topics mentioned by Mr. Beckman include Germany; the Potsdam Conference; the draft; Scotland Yard; the FBI; Normandy; Cecilienhof Castle; Mein Kampf; the Big Three; Italy; Stalin; the Augusta; and the atomic bomb.
Names mentioned include Carl Morisse, Marvin Krans, Frank Cannon, Melton Kroll, Felix Frankfurter, Lee Farrell, Willie Wagner, Bill Wallons, Johnny Fitzpatrick, Harold Wilson, Edwin Pauley, James F. Byrnes and John Osterholt.
JOHNSON: Mr. Beckman, I guess they call you Dick usually, is that right?
BECKMAN: That's correct.
JOHNSON: I would like to have some background. Would you give us the names of your parents, and the names of your brothers and sisters?
BECKMAN: My name is Richard R. Beckman. I was born on July 7, 1915, to Stephen Joseph Beckman and Bertha Jennie Gronefeldt, who both were born in Burlington, Iowa. Besides myself, they had two other children, my sister Alice, who is 2-1/2 years older than I am, and my sister Mary Cambron. All three of us children were born in Burlington, and my sister Mary Cambron died and is buried in Peoria, Illinois.
JOHNSON: So you had the two sisters. There were just the three of you then.
JOHNSON: Just to quickly go back even farther, did you have an immigrant grandparent, or grandparents?
BECKMAN: Yes, I have been able to trace my grandparents' background, on my father's side, back to Germany. In the book that Rosemary, my wife, and I assembled strictly for our family, it shows the home where my grandmother was born in Bad Eberg in Germany, and then right next to it in the book is the home where my grandfather was born in Westkirchen in Westphalia, Germany.
JOHNSON: Were they both born in Westphalia?
BECKMAN: Yes. My mother's father, I know little about him except that he was born in Germany and worked for the railroad. He was a clerk in the freight house. He had a lung congestion of some kind, and he died when my mother was only five years old.
My grandmother was one of the Lee family, and they were among the first settlers of Burlington.
JOHNSON: Your mother's mother. So there are three German grandparents and one American.
BECKMAN: I think as far as being a full-blooded German, I'm the closest that it can be. I don't think I have anything else but German blood in me.
JOHNSON: Just to jump ahead then. In your exploits through Germany in 1944-45, did you happen to be in the area where your ancestors came from?
BECKMAN: I didn't know where my ancestors really came from at that time. I knew a little bit more about my grandmother Eversman. I didn't know where my grandfather came from. It's sort of a long story, but I thought Prussia was way in the northeast part of Germany. I didn't realize it went up to the Rhine. A few years ago I was reading about the British troops going into Prussia, and I said, "Monty never got way up there." And then I got maps out and found that Prussia went back to the Rhine River.
JOHNSON: Expanded westward, yes, over the centuries.
BECKMAN: It's amazing. In our book -- called "Marriage, War and Its Aftermath."
JOHNSON: We need to put that on the record. This is your family history.
BECKMAN: That we wrote for our family.
JOHNSON: Rosemary and Dick Beckman are the authors, it says. It was printed in 1988, right?
JOHNSON: Well, there's a lot of good information in there, so we don't want to repeat necessarily what's already in print. Apparently, it didn't bother you especially that you were at war with the homeland of your ancestors.
BECKMAN: Let's go back further than this. It didn't bother my father in the First World War. I have a medal that he was given by the Treasury Department for his effort to sell Liberty Bonds during the First World War. So, no, my family didn't speak German at home; we were perhaps as much of a Yankee family as any family could be.
JOHNSON: How about your education? What schools did you attend?
BECKMAN: I started out in St. John's Catholic grade school and attended St. Paul's Catholic High School in Burlington, Iowa. I then went to Burlington Junior College for two years. By the way, I graduated from high school in 1932, in the heart of the Depression. My father was an attorney, and a good attorney, and a very popular attorney. Every bank in the city of Burlington failed. Nobody had any money, and so if my father's clients got some money, they'd first pay the rent and then they'd pay the grocery bill and then they'd pay the coal bill. Then, if they had any money left, they'd pay the coal bill. Then, if they had any money left, they'd pay the doctor bill, and by the time they got down to the lawyer there wasn't anything. So my father got more eggs and cheese than anybody could eat.
So, therefore, when I went to the University of Iowa, I had three jobs. I ran the public cafeteria in the University of Iowa Hospital and for that job I got paid $18 a month and my meals.
I was also a proctor in the Quadrangle, an 800-man dormitory at the University of Iowa. At that time the Quadrangle was divided off into eight sections. I had 120 men in my section. I was the only step between
those students and the Dean of Men. I was their counselor; I was the fellow who passed out the pink slips; if they were sick I was the fellow who took them in the hospital; I was the person who contacted their parents. And for that I got my room and $18 a month.
Then in addition to that, I had a blind student who lived in the Quadrangle in my section, and he was in two of my classes. I got paid $10 a month for reading to him for each class, or $20. Now, I was never more wealthy in my life than I was at that time. I had my meals furnished, and I had my room furnished. If a man worked in a factory he got $15 a week. So, I got two $18's plus a $20 monthly.
JOHNSON: Yes, that's doing well. You went to Junior College in Burlington and graduate there in '34...
BECKMAN: And then I went to Iowa [State University of Iowa] for four more years. The first year I was in liberal arts, and then I took a combined liberal arts and law degree in which, if you had finished all your qualifications for the BA or BS degree before you were a senior, then the first year in law school would also count as your last year as an undergraduate.
JOHNSON: So you started law school in '35. It was a three year program?
JOHNSON: After one year of the liberal arts study at the University of Iowa then there were three years of law school, and you got your law degree in 1938.
BECKMAN: June 15, 1938.
JOHNSON: Was your father a solo lawyer?
BECKMAN: No, he practiced with a man by the name of Ben Poor. The law firm was named Poor and Beckman.
JOHNSON: Was he poor?
BECKMAN: No, he was more wealthy than my father. By the way, his father was also an attorney, and it was Poor and Poor.
JOHNSON: Did your father read law in the law office or did he have a law degree from one of the universities?
BECKMAN: My dad got his law degree in 1901 from the University of Iowa. My father was one of the very few people who ever got a law degree who did not attend one
day of high school.
JOHNSON: He had the aptitude apparently. He stayed with the law.
BECKMAN: He read a lot of law. Before he went to law school, he sold shoes at what was recognized as the best shoe store in Burlington. He sold shoes before he went to law school, and he sold shoes during the entire time he was in law school. In the book that Rosemary and I wrote -- I'm talking about "Marriage, War and Its Aftermath" -- there's a picture of my father in his room with his roommate after he had finished the property examination in law school.
There's sort of an interesting thing about my father. He wanted to go to law school for many years. My grandfather, who was born in Germany, was a wagon maker. He came to America, and he first stopped at St. Louis. He worked in a dairy farm. Then he came up to Illinois, at Oquawka. Oquawka is eight miles up the river on the Illinois side from Burlington.
Now, the railroad as it was being built was coming out of Chicago down to Knoxville, and the plan was that at Knoxville it was to meet the Peoria and Oquawka railroads that were running east and west. So, my
grandfather decided that if he was to be a wagon maker, the place to build his wagon factory was in Oquawka, Illinois. My grandfather built the wagon factory so that when the immigrants came to the end of the railroad line and to the Mississippi River, they would buy one of grandpa's wagons and head west.
Well, the reason our family isn't as wealthy as the Studebakers is that the wagon factory was built in the wrong place. The railroad, instead of going to Oquawka, went eight miles down the river and crossed the river at Burlington, Iowa. So anyway, my grandfather sat high and dry in Oquawka, Illinois. As part of the research on that book, I've got a picture of the first house my grandfather bought in Oquawka, and I've got a picture of the second house he owned, which was also in Oquawka. Then when he went broke, he went to Burlington and became superintendent of the car shops of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railroad, which later became part of the Rock Island. Its tracks were used by the Milleapolis-St. Louis Zephyr Rocket, which ran between the two cities overnight, a fast line. But now, the Rock Island has gone broke and the tracks have been torn up.
JOHNSON: So that wasn't the CF&Q, that wasn't the Chicago,
Burlington and Quincy?
BECKMAN: The CB&Q from St. Louis stopped at Burlington, and the Rock Island took the Zephyr Rocket north out of there.
JOHNSON: So your grandfather really worked for the Rock Island.
BECKMAN: Evidently, somewhere along the line, my grandfather was taken good by a lawyer. As a result, he would not permit my father to go to law school. So when my grandfather died, my grandmother insisted that this was now the time for my father to go to law school. He took the entrance exams, and they admitted him to law school. The sad part about it is that my grandmother, who was the motivating force to get my father to go to law school, died about one month before he graduated.
JOHNSON: But she got him through most of his training, and that was good.
Well, that's interesting, how your family got into the profession of law. I guess we need to go from there, from 1938. You went into practice with your father then for the next several years, until...
BECKMAN: Until April 9th 1943.
JOHNSON: When you were called into the Army.
BECKMAN: Now, let me go back on this. Just as soon as Pearl Harbor happened, I was ripe for the plucking by one of the services. So, I got lined up for a commission in the Navy. I flunked the physical. Then I tried for the FBI, and the FBI turned me down because I had flunked the Navy physical.
To make things more complicated, Rosemary, my fiancée, was the secretary for the Draft Appeal Board.
JOHNSON: Before you were married.
JOHNSON: And her name?
BECKMAN: Rosemary Delaney. The appeal board covered the southeast one-fourth of the State of Iowa. At that time, Burlington had two local draft boards, one for the farmers and one for the city of Burlington. Those offices were also in one big room in the courthouse in Burlington. If I had been pragmatic or anything like that, I would have stayed out of that room. But I was much in love with Rosemary, and so I'd drop in every
day. Anyway, I was called up in a routine call, and I flunked the physical and got a 4-F classification, which should have been a permanent rejection.
JOHNSON: That would have been 1942.
BECKMAN: Or before that. It was during that period when the draft boards were nipping for anything, as they were required to send fifty men on each monthly call to Des Moines for possible induction into service. The local board had a policy that when they started getting close to the bottom of the barrel, they didn't want to take legitimate fathers into service unless they absolutely had to. Now, by legitimate fathers I mean ones who had children prior to the draft. The board would get these men jobs in defense industry and so forth and like that. There were about six of us who were 4-F and who were pretty active in town. So, we no more than came home with our 4-Fs, and immediately we were reclassified into 1-A. We went through the process, and within 45 days we were again back to Fort Dodge in Des Moines, going through the induction center again.
I went through that induction center eight times. On the seventh time I came home with a 4-F, and they
said I had a hole in my lung. Well, that was the first time I knew that I had something like that. I mean I had hernias in places I didn't know one could have a hernia. I had a heart condition -- you just name it, the Army said I had it. Anyway, this hole in my lung really scared me, because my mother's father died from lung congestion.
Since I had worked at the University of Iowa hospital in Iowa City, I knew the place pretty well. At the time Dr. Smith was head of internal medicine. I made an appointment with him and asked Rosemary to go up with me.
JOHNSON: What was the date of your marriage?
BECKMAN: October 16, '43.
JOHNSON: Yes, so this was...
BECKMAN: The night before my appointment with Dr. Smith -- I lived at home at that time -- my folks had Rosemary over for dinner. My dad got Rosemary aside and said, "If you can get a chance, Rosemary, ask Dr. Smith if he thinks that Dick should smoke as much as he does." I smoked a pipe and cigars. Anyway, we went up to Dr. Smith, and Rosemary sat in the halls of the hospital
for the day. I came out and I said, "Dr. Smith's going to see us very soon." So we walked into Dr. Smith's office. Dr. Smith was looking over my file and explained that it wasn't a hole, it was a lot of scar tissue on the lung. He didn't think the Army would ever take me because I was susceptible to colds, and other things. At this stage of the game, when he was talking about the lungs, little reserved Rosemary speaks up and said, "Doctor, do you think that with this condition that Dick should smoke as much as he does?" Silence filled that room. I don't think it was more than five seconds, but it seemed like five hours. Finally, Dr. Smith looked Rosemary eye-to-eye and said, "Are you going to be that kind of wife?"
Anyway, finally, on the eighth time up to the induction center at Fort Dodge, I was taken into the Army.
JOHNSON: But you were still smoking.
BECKMAN: Oh, yes. There's a sketch in there in the book which I think is the killer of all killers. Rosemary was concerned about my health in Belgium, and I had a pipe in my mouth.
JOHNSON: But you weren't smoking cigarettes.
BECKMAN: I did not smoke cigarettes; pipe and cigars.
JOHNSON: Well, now, how did you meet Rosemary?
BECKMAN: Oh, a client of mine, a wealthy client of mine, was a very good friend of Rosemary's family. And there was another quite well-to-do family that had rented the Streckfus excursion boat that used to tramp up and down the river with the Dixieland bands. They had rented the boat for one trip out of Burlington. May McGannon, this client of mine, fixed it up that Rosemary and I got an invitation on the excursion boat JS, and that's the first date.
JOHNSON: I take it that your family was rather devout Roman Catholic.
BECKMAN: Very definitely.
JOHNSON: And how about her family?
BECKMAN: My daughters, who went to St. Mary's of Notre Dame, were the fourth generation, from great-grandmother to grandmother to mother to daughter, to graduate from St. Mary's of Notre Dame. Her two brothers attended Notre Dame University. Now, I'm the only outlaw of the bunch.
JOHNSON: But you didn't belong to the same parish though?
BECKMAN: No. You understand I belonged to the Germany parish and they went to the "Shanty" Irish church [laughs].
JOHNSON: You were a very prolific letter writer, I think we can say that, and in your letter and in your autobiographical essay, "An Accounting of Time," you give a pretty comprehensive story of your military service overseas, from the beginning of '44 to the end of the war. Your story also includes the Potsdam conference, in 1945, that we want to focus on. [The writings and letters of Richard Beckman have been filed in the Truman Library's Miscellaneous Historical Documents Collection, item No. 468 (2 folders).]
You don't get into much detail about the training. You mention training that you had, such as in England with Scotland Yard and with the Customs Service. Of course, you had special training in the Army. What was the date that you entered the Army?
BECKMAN: In April.
JOHNSON: April of '43.
BECKMAN: Just around Easter.
JOHNSON: And you were married in October of that year. Then it was only about a month after that, that you were sent overseas.
BECKMAN: Let me just give you a little bit about this training. What happened is, I was sent to an MP [Military Police] basic training battalion in Fort Custer. I finished the first increment of 17 weeks, see. When the 17 weeks were over, they would take the men and send them to the different schools or different combat outfits. In that increment they sent everybody out except me. I was held back. So then they started the next increment and there I was back again in basic training. "To the right flank," "to the rear march," and all this stuff. I thought, "My God, this is like flunking kindergarten."
One day I was told to get a class A uniform and to report to camp headquarters. I went in as a private, and I was politely treated. I was treated just like I was when I came into the Truman Library today. Now, that was not the normal way a private was treated in basic training, by a long shot. At headquarters I was told, "The colonel will see you very shortly." I was called into the office and snapped a salute at the
colonel and he said, "Have a chair." Then he started talking to me and asking me a lot of questions and so forth. The interview must have lasted perhaps half an hour, right in there. He said, "Report back to your unit." So I did, but I was still during that week back in basic training.
I received a call and was told, "You are to report to the Provost Marshall, General School." I was as green about that school as one could be. Well, the Army had bought the FBI school -- by that I don't mean they closed up the FBI school in Washington, D.C. -- but they sent to Camp Custer the instructors, the equipment, and everything else. There were 150 soldiers from all over, and they were divided off into sections of fifteen men. There were ten sections with fifteen men in each. We went through what was called Provost Marshall, General School. And they told us very soon when we started training, "There are presently fifteen men in each section, but by the time you graduate there will be only ten of you in each section graduating." What they would do and how they determined which ones were going to be in and which ones were going to be out was that every week they passed out "rat lists". On the rat list you received
were the names of your section's fifteen men. Every week you were required to rate all fifteen men from one to fifteen.
JOHNSON: Rated on that list?
BECKMAN: Yes. One, two, three, four, five, six... When the whole thing ended up, it was like a golf score. The fellows who had the ten lowest number of points overall were the ones who graduated and turned out to be in that unit. If you turned out to be the eleventh lowest, you were out. When we found out we were going to graduate, we knew at that time that they were going to somehow adjust our pay. They were gong to give us per diem and petty expense money. Now, it was generally thought, by rumors, that we were going to work in port towns in the United States. So this looked like a beautiful time for us to get married. Good pay, per diem, plus petty expense.
Rosemary is from a good Catholic Irish family -- and they had a lot of maiden aunts, cousins, and so forth -- so the wedding was set for October 16. About the 13th of October a general directive came out that stated "No person in this command will be leaving the post on the weekend of October 16th, as every man in the command
will on that day go through the infiltration course." That is where they have soldiers crawl under barbed wire, and in the mud, with machine guns going over their heads and bombs exploding all around -- that sort of thing.
Well, during basic training, and through the FBI training, we'd been through the infiltration course a number of times. About that time, an invitation to our wedding was sent to me by Rosemary. I had called home and I said, "I don't think I'm going to be able to get home for our wedding." By that time all the maiden aunts were already in Burlington, and we were going to be married by Archbishop Bergan, the Archbishop of Omaha, who was Rosemary's cousin.
Anyway, having the invitation, I took it to the commanding officer and told him I'd like to invite him to a wedding. Well, on Friday, about noon, I was given a pass and was able to get on the train, and I got to Chicago, Gate 22. In the book there's picture of Gate 22, and mobs of people all over trying to get somewhere. I went to the conductor and I said, "I've got to get on that train, I'm going to get married in the morning." He said, "I haven't got any seats. The only thing we can do is put you in the vestibule
between the cars." That was the section where you went up into the car and then you had this corrugated doorway between the cars. Well, that's where I had to ride if I was to be married.
The temperature, which was beautiful when I left, turned out to be way below freezing. Frozen, I got into Burlington after midnight. The husband of a secretary for my father was in the dry-cleaning business. After midnight he took my uniform and cleaned it. I was married in a private's uniform. I didn't attend the rehearsal dinner, or the rehearsal. My brother-in-law, Dick Delaney, picked me up the morning of the wedding. I said, "What am I supposed to do?" He said, "Dick, I'll try to tell you what I think you're supposed to be doing, but if I make a mistake, both of us will." So, anyway, Rosemary and I got married, with all of the pomp and circumstance.
JOHNSON: So now, you are married.
BECKMAN: All right. Carl Morisse was my close friend -- he has now retired as vice president of Traveler's Insurance Company at Hartford. We were very, very close friends. Carl said, "Now, Dick don't worry. I'll get you the room at Post Tavern." The Post Tavern
was the best hotel in Battle Creek at that time. He said, "The room will be there -- I'll make certain."
Anyway, as you can count, the trains at that time during the war ran late. So, on the night of our honeymoon we get into Battle Creek close to one o'clock, and we got into a taxi to take us to the Post Tavern. I got there and there was no room at the inn. When we didn't show up by 12 o'clock, they let it go. Now, just as a sideline to this, at Christmas time when they read the Good Book and talk about Joseph with Mary and child knocking at the inn and the innkeeper says, "We have no room," I know just exactly how Joseph felt. But we weren't with child. But anyway, I know just exactly how he felt.
The taxicab driver took us around everyplace where there was a place that might have a room, and we couldn't find any. Finally, he says, "You seem like nice people. I think I can get you a room." Well, Rosemary and I spent the first night of our married life in the taxicab driver's living room, on a foldout cot. There were so many soldiers living in his house, it was just like Grand Central Station. So, as I always say to Rosemary, "I don't know what most people do on the first night of their honeymoon, but we
JOHNSON: That's some experience all right.
So now it's back into uniform?
BECKMAN: This is getting so long, I'm concerned.
JOHNSON: We need to get you from your training at Fort Custer...
BECKMAN: After we knew we were the ones to graduate, we were sent home for civilian clothes. And this was cause for great celebration. Rosemary's brother had stuck three bottles of champagne in my suitcase when I left home on the night of our wedding. So we gathered all our close friends to the Hart Hotel, where one of the wives had a room. We really blew the champagne that night to celebrate because we were going home to get our civilian clothes.
JOHNSON: Now, this is after you had finished your training at the FBI academy.
BECKMAN: And married. Then they changed our uniforms. We had uniforms very similar to the war correspondents. So, after this, if I talk about uniforms, I'm talking about a war correspondent's class A and combat uniform.
But we also had fatigues and everything else. Yesterday, at the 4th of July celebration here in the Truman Library, I saw some ladies with the VFW pin, which had the letters cut out of brass. Well, the pins we wore on our shoulders were similar but had the letters CID.
JOHNSON: CID. What was the difference between what you were doing and what the Provost Marshals were doing?
BECKMAN: I did not know this at that time, but I can give you a little bit of the background on that. The military services found out that if, for example, somebody in the Navy committed a very serious felony, in the area that was policed by the Army, the Military Police would turn this Navy person over to the Navy command and nothing ever happened. I mean, any Navy man has got a perfect right to knock the hell out of any soldier they want to and nobody is going to stop them; so something had to be done. They needed a group that was not to be bound by the distinction of services or rank. We did not show any rank because if a person did someone could always outrank you. You got to a certain point, as I did in one of those cases, where with no rank protection you had better just take it
easy and not go too far when dealing with a two-star general.
So, that's why our group was organized.
JOHNSON: The CID stood for Criminal Investigation Detachment?
BECKMAN: Yes. The reason we did not use FBI was that we were operating in England, and if we told anybody that we were from the FBI, including most men from Scotland Yard and anybody from the constabularies or anything like that, they would have no idea what the world the FBI was, but they sure as heck knew what CID meant.
JOHNSON: Well, I guess that during the war, the FBI was in foreign countries weren't they?
BECKMAN: I never ran into any of them. That's why the name CID was adopted.
JOHNSON: And as far as rank is concerned.
BECKMAN: As far as the Army records show, after being made an agent I still remained a private.
JOHNSON: But you still carried the designation agent.
JOHNSON: Not special agent, just agent.
JOHNSON: Is that how you identified yourself, when you were assigned orders and so on, as agent?
BECKMAN: Yes. And if you notice there, in our book, at one point I took a furlough in Switzerland and the orders came down and they said, "Agent Richard R. Beckman," and my serial number was 1737. Now, you'll never believe how I and all the rest of the agents got our serial numbers.
We got to England, and somebody had had a whole bunch of metal badges made up. I can remember they were in a box. We were told, "Go and pick out the badge with the number you want." The reason I picked out 1737 was that, I was born on July 7, 7/7 -- now 1915 didn't fit -- so I thought seven must be my luck number. The number with the most 7s I could find was 1737, and so, believe it or not, that is how we received our serial numbers. My number even went on my Potsdam pass. Noticing the number, a person in the Army or Navy would often say, "My golly, I didn't realize you'd been in the Army that long to get a low number like
JOHNSON: Were these mainly lawyers that were recruited into the CID?
BECKMAN: Yes. Everyone was a lawyer, except three of them.
JOHNSON: In your unit?
BECKMAN: Our unit, that's right.
JOHNSON: You're talking about ten people?
BECKMAN: Yes, seven lawyers. There were two men who were with the different state police. Marvin Krans was with the Michigan State Police, and Frank Cannon was with the Pennsylvania State Police. John Osterholt was a special agent for the Internal Revenue Service. I think they are the ones who do the dangerous work and pack a gun.
JOHNSON: I notice these names; Milton Kroll had been a lawyer.
BECKMAN: Milt was a Harvard graduate. He was one of the men that Felix Frankfurter took out of Harvard with him to Washington, and these young Harvard men were called the "brain trusters," the New Deal Brain Trusters. He
was the counsel for the Securities and Exchange Commission, when he was drafted.
[Here Johnson and Beckman are looking over one of Beckman's wartime sketches on page 168 of the book.]
And right below that -- you're looking at the sketch I had -- the man with the shirt and the socks. That's Carl Morisse and he graduated from Washington University in St. Louis. He went with the Hartford Insurance Company and was their regional in-house attorney for workman's comp. when he was drafted.
JOHNSON: So none of the others were out of the Burlington area?
BECKMAN: No, I think there were only two of us from Iowa. See, you take 100 men and just on a population basis not too many can come from any one state.
JOHNSON: There's Lee Farrell.
BECKMAN: I beg your pardon; Lee wasn't an attorney, but Lee's one of the most interesting persons that you ever met. He was an FBI agent, up in South Dakota, and his principal job turned out to be to arrest the young homesick soldiers who went AWOL. He had qualms of conscience so he resigned from the FBI, and the next
day he was drafted. Then he found himself back in the FBI school; if you notice, we called him "Flip."
BECKMAN: Now, Flip didn't get the nickname because he's flippy. What happened was that when we were going through FBI training, when you were on the firing line with a revolver, when you shot your rounds, you flipped out the barrel. In the interim, they found out that if you did that, that the cylinder didn't quite line up with the barrel, and it would spit lead. So I could remember this instructor from the FBI on the firing line, and he said, "If I see anybody flip out that barrel, your name is going to be mud, and I'm going to tell everybody around them what a person you are and so forth and so on." Old "Flip" goes out to the firing line and shoots her off and out comes the barrel. So, that's how he got his name as Flip. He's deceased now. He became one of the most respected authors of a textbook on farmer's income taxation, and that book is used by the extension services of most of the farm states in the United States. It's been updated -- it's annually updated. He was the original author of that book. He was an outstanding person.
JOHNSON: Willie Wagner, was that Wilbur Wagner?
JOHNSON: And Ben Wallons.
BECKMAN: Yes. Now, Bennie is a Boston lawyer.
JOHNSON: Did you train with the .38 caliber or...
BECKMAN: When you were in the CID in England, you had a .38 OP, Official Police, short snub, and we had that until we went into the invasion of Normandy, which comes later.
JOHNSON: You were in England for several months there, it looks like from about January to June.
JOHNSON: Almost six months, before D-Day. You were doing some investigations. I'm trying to remember this one statement that was in Time magazine, in the May 1st, 1944, issue.
BECKMAN: Just before D-Day.
JOHNSON: And that concerned...
BECKMAN: May I tell you the story, and then pick it up. I was in Southampton and I had a call from Eisenhower's Provost Marshal General for the theatre, and he said, "Dick, I don't quite understand this but the British Government is really ticked off. Some American passed a $100 note on the Bank of England, and this is the first time that they have ever had an unsecured loss that appears on their record. So, I want you to investigate it." I said, "Why not investigate that out of London? That's where the Bank of London is." He said, "Dick, I don't know a thing about it, but they must have a duplicate record place someplace down in your area."
So, I went out there, and I found out that they had a branch bank -- a big one -- in Bournemouth, England. That's down along the Southampton area.
JOHNSON: Down by the Channel?
BECKMAN: Not quite the Channel, but almost. Well, anyway, so I flashed my credentials and went from one clerk to another clerk to another clerk and finally I got the chief clerk. Then I got to the director, and that was the most formal room I'd ever been in in my life up to that time. If you wanted to take a picture of an
English old-time, elegant office, this was it. So anyway, I introduced myself and he says, "Oh, yes." So then he rang the bell for his clerk to come in and he said, "This American gentleman is investigating this $100 note that we got, and would you bring it in?" I was there and, Lord, I couldn't believe it; here comes this clerk sort of stiffly dressed, with a silver tray, and on the silver tray was a 3 x 11 envelope. So, he held out the tray and I picked off the envelope. I pulled out the note. I thought, "How in the world did the Bank of England ever get ahold of this." It was a $100 Confederate note!
Then I went through the process of interviewing the person who had taken the note, and he said, "Well, your bloke came in and he wanted to know if we could convert his American money into English currency." He told him, "Well, we don't normally do this, but because we are allies we lean over backwards," and so forth. So the U.S. soldier got out his American money and he counted out a hundred -- one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven -- he got to eleven and handed it over to the clerk and the clerk counted one, two three, four .... The clerk made out the conversion chits as we'd call them, and the American signed his
name as Sergeant Charlie Charles Williams. I was given the Charlie Charles Williams chits and everything else related to the transaction. I tried to get a description of the soldier. At that time, most units had removed their insignias -- unit insignias, so therefore it was impossible to tell what unit the guy came from. The director gave me his estimate of how many stones the fellow weighed and so forth. I had one million men who could match that description.
I left the bank and called the Provost Marshal. I said, "What in the world kind of report am I going to make on this; I haven't got one lead in the world." He says, "Dick, I don't care how you type it up; use big margins, big headers, and big footers and fill up pages, but just make the report impressive."
I returned to Southampton, where I had a real good friend, whom I refer to in our book, by the name of Johnny Fitzpatrick. He was the chief of the Scotland Yard Southern District, which was stationed in Southampton. I went to see Johnny, to see if he would have a beer with me at the pub before I went home. He said, "Say, we picked up one of your blokes, and I've got him in the jail. Why don't you just go back and talk to him." You understand at that time, the only
thing he could demand from the prisoner was name, rank and serial number.
I got to this fellow in his cell, and he was obnoxious as hell. I just handed him a piece of paper, and I said, "Sign your name, rank and serial number." he signed it. I took the paper with his signature, and I looked at that thing. Then I got out from my briefcase my Sergeant Charles Charlie Williams signature. I said, "That was surely a fast one you pulled on the Bank of England." I got the guy 57 miles away.
JOHNSON: How much later was that after the note had been passed originally?
BECKMAN: Well, it had to get to the Bank of England and then over to the Chancellor of the Exchequer through the chain of command and down to me. I could easily see where that could take a week. But I had the culprit two days after I got the assignment. No one could believe it. I said, "It's just scientific criminal investigation."
JOHNSON: What did they do with him then?
BECKMAN: I don't know.
JOHNSON: Probably sent him on to Normandy to help fight the Germans. Fend him off on the Germans.
Now, you had a camera, it appears, almost throughout your whole military career. When did you get the camera?
BECKMAN: Oh, I brought that from home to basic training. That camera, you know, is in your file.
JOHNSON: In the collection.
BECKMAN: A chip is broken out of the back of it, but that's the camera that I used all during the war.
JOHNSON: But you were not authorized to have a camera while you are in basic training, were you?
BECKMAN: Oh, yes.
JOHNSON: You could have your own personal camera?
BECKMAN: I could have it all the way up until we went on the invasion of Normandy.
JOHNSON: You had that on your person all this time, this camera?
BECKMAN: The whole time. Well, I had it in my duffle bag
or whatever it might be, but yes.
Now, I was in civilian clothes during the entire time that we lived in England. I lived with the English people; we could have lived in a hotel or anyplace. I lived with a very fine English couple down at Southampton; their address was 36 Harborough, Southampton. Believe it or not, their last name was German. Anyway, they sort of treated me like their son and took me right into the family and everything else.
JOHNSON: Did you have regular working hours? Did you report for duty at a certain time?
JOHNSON: You were on your own as to what hours you would be working and you were just expected to work on a case and get it solved and spend whatever time you felt was necessary?
JOHNSON: You were given a good deal of independence then. Wasn't that a very unusual situation?
BECKMAN: While we were in England, they considered us an Army outfit; the Army never considered anything
"quasi." But we didn't have such things as a morning report. I'm not certain who took care of the morning reports, like sick call, but I never saw them. We were on our own.
Another thing we had was what was called permanent travel orders. They were printed forms, bound like a tablet. If we wanted to take a train from Southampton to Bournemouth, we'd go to the railroad s