BECKHAM, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS, JR., Technical Sergeant, # 20403054, USAAF

 

William A. Beckham Jr. was born 1920 in Georgia to William A. Beckham (1887-1934) and Katherine L. (McAfee) Beckham (1888-1984). Siblings included Lucy K. (Beckham) Solburg (1909-2000), Mary Rosalind (Beckham) Webb (1911-1988), Betty G. Beckham (1914-    ), Dorothy Mae (Beckham) Wells (1921-1997). In 1941 Katherine L. Beckham was living with her daughter, Dorothy and Capt. Charles H. Wells, Greenbelt, Maryland.

 

He enlisted in the USAAF at Fort Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina, on 14 August 1941. He was trained to serve on bombers and was selected to be trained in the operation of the radar on the B-29 Superfortress. On 20 August 1944, a B-29, # 42-6264, “O’Reilly’s Daughter,” of 20th Air Force, 468th Bomb Group, 792nd Bomb Squadron, Khargpur AAF, departed Pengshan, China, on a combat mission to bomb the steel works at Yawata, Japan. Last believed to be near the coast of China at 1930 hours. Likely lost due to mechanical difficulty with # 2 and # 3 engines. Lt.Col. Savoie was 792nd Bomb Squadron Commander. The B-29 crashed in the vicinity of Hu-To-Chen, Kiangao Province, China. Just after leaving the target, the # 2 engine began leaking oil and 50 miles from the coast of China, the # 2 engine ran away and could not be feathered. A fire came out of # 2engine and reached to the tail position was extinguished. The B-29 lost altitude to 12,000 feet and the # 2 propellar went out of control again. The bail out order was given. Everyone in the tail bailed out; no one saw the tail gunner bail out but, it is assumed he did. Up front, the bombardier, Capt. Wedel, the radar operator, TSgt Beckham, bailed out, but the remaining six crewmen stayed to try for land. Just after reaching land, the # 3 engine ran away but was feathered. Fire began in # 2 again, which made it necessary to abandon the aircraft. The remaining crew bailed out at about 7,000 feet. The B-29 crashed about 150 miles North of Shanghai, China, and about 40 miles West of the coast of China. TSgt Beckham is remembered on the memorial at the Manila American Cemetery and Mausoleum, Philippines. He was awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.