Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Thomas E. Beck died at 2:24 p.m. on December 7, 2021. Part of the Greatest Generation, Thomas E. Beck began his life about a year after the beginning of the Great Depression on November 14, 1929. With most people unemployed and money hard to earn the parents of Thomas E. Beck managed the best they could during the 1930s. Growing up in Miami, Florida Thomas E. Beck went to high school during the Second World War. After earning his GED in 1947, Thomas E. Beck enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserves in the same year. Wanting to be a part of the toughest service Thomas E. Beck transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps in 1948. He completed basic training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and became a rifleman in the 1st Marine Division. By this time most of the veterans of the Second World War had left the USMC and teenager boys like Thomas E. Beck replaced these combat veterans of battles like Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Okinawa.
On June 25, 1950 hundreds of thousand North Korean communists invaded South Korea. The 1st Marine Division mobilized and in that fateful summer in 1950, Thomas E. Beck began training on a troop transport ship going to Korea. By August, 1950, North Korean communists occupied almost all the Korean peninsula and U.S. troops barely held onto a small area known as the Pusan perimeter. It seemed likely that the hundreds of thousands of communists would soon defeat the few thousand American soldiers and marines left. The communist took few prisoners and murdered hundreds of them. The North Korean communists had better tanks, more artillery, and their modern jets outperformed the obsolete American WWII planes. For the American troops defeat was not an option but no one knew how they would be saved.
Like most of the 1st Marine Division Thomas E. Beck had no combat experience. He would have to rely on the military leadership and combat experience of the few veterans left in the 1st Marine Division. Thomas E. Beck practiced beach landing operations for a couple of weeks in August and early September, 1950. To put things in perspective, the U.S. Army's 1st Division trained for months before landing on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. The Americans in the Pusan perimeter could not wait months for rescue.
On September 15, 1950, Thomas E. Beck landed on Inchon beach where they climbed ladders up a sea wall under enemy fire. Nearly two weeks later he took part in the liberation of South Korea's capital Seoul. Taking Inchon and Seoul cut off the supplies to the hundreds of thousands of North Korean communists. American troops in the Pusan perimeter fought back ferociously and the communists retreated. Soon American troops fought out of the Pusan perimeter and linked up with friendly troops in the areas south of Seoul.
After landing at Inchon and the liberation of Seoul, Thomas E. Beck advanced north with the 1st Marine Division to an area around the Chosin Reservoir by November, 1950. The snow accumulated and temperatures fell to 30 degrees below zero. On November 27, 1950, 120,000 Chinese communist troops attacked and surrounded Thomas E. Beck and his fellow Marines in the 1st Marine Division. Greatly outnumbered the 1st Marine Division and surviving U.S. Army soldiers out fought the Chinese and managed to escape by sea. Thomas E. Beck survived one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War and he had become one of the "Chosin Few." During his service in the Korean War, Thomas E. Beck never saw General of the Army Douglas McArthur; but he did see the legendary USMC Colonel Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller who became more famous in the HBO miniseries "The Pacific (2010)." Today South Korea is free because of the courage of American men and women like Private First-Class Thomas E. Beck. He decided to make a career in the Marines. He served in duty stations in the U.S. where he became friends with future American actor Dale Dye, Jr. who served as the technical advisor on "Saving Private Ryan (1998)" and "Band of Brothers (2001)". Mr. Dye played Colonel Robert Sink in "Band of Brothers."
Thomas E. Beck served in the Vietnam War and retired in 1968. He lived in Okinawa, Japan where he married the former Mutsuko Zakimi in 1972. The couple moved to Mansfield, Louisiana in 2002. He died at Willis-Knighton Piermont in Shreveport from complications from a long illness. A quiet, modest man Thomas E. Beck never whined about his service in either the Korean War or the Vietnam War. He expressed gratitude to God for living for so long with his current wife Mutsuko Beck, née Zakimi. He was happy when his children contacted him. Unfortunately, the pandemic and his illness kept relatives from visiting him in 2020 and 2021.
His father, Thomas Beck, his mother Ruth Beck, née Lewis, and his sister, Joann Stoke, née Beck, predeceased Thomas E. Beck. He is survived by his current wife, Mutsuko Beck, née Zakimi, and his children from a previous marriage: Cynthia Stalvey of Jacksonville, Florida; Karen Daniels of Daytona Beach, Florida; Ron Beck of Lucerne, California; and Julie Frank of Jacksonville, Florida. There are numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews who survive Thomas E. Beck too.
The services for Thomas E. Beck will take place at 11 a.m. at Kilpatrick's Rose-Neath Funeral Homes in Mansfield, Louisiana on December 18, 2021. His ashes will be interned later in the Northwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in Keithville, Louisiana.