Birthday: May 09, 1924
Birthplace: Antigo, Wisconsin
Family: Murray and Anna Beattie
Occupation: University of WI - Milwaukee B.S., Marquette M.E.
Branch: U.S. Army
Unit: Signal Corps, Static Staff #5
Post: Military Government, Bremen Enclave
Just coming out of high school, Jim Beattie had to go to work because he didn't have enough money for college. Being the fourth of four brothers, he waited to be drafted. He remained at home to take care of his parents, because his father was disabled. Mr. Beattie entered the military in 1943 and went overseas in 1944.
"I was trained to be a replacement for infantry men at Fort McClellan in Alabama. At the end of my training they called me out along with eight or ten other fellows and they said `You're not going over seas.' Which was very pleasing to us. Not all of us wanted to go over and fight. They said we were going to go into army specialized training program. They called it ASTP. We were supposed to go to Auburn University and be trained for when the war ends so that we would be prepared to help demilitarize Germany. Well I sat around for six or eight weeks and nothing happened. They sent me to another camp to train other soldiers, so I trained other soldiers for about six months and then they sent me over seas in 1944. When I got to England, I sat around there for three months and that was my life in the military. We would have nothing to do! We would walk around every morning picking up scraps of paper and stuff like that. You wonder, `what an I doing here?' After three months they sent me to Paris to work in the Signal Corps offices.
"Paris was nice, very nice. It wasn't bombed, well there were parts, but mostly Paris was intact. It was like living a high-class civilian life; our quarters were in a university in suburban Paris. We ate in a restaurant that was staffed by French waitresses and cooks. While I was in Paris, the Battle of the Bulge was going on. They became concerned about needing more soldiers, so they sent me to be trained again for front line duty, but that didn't pan out. While I was waiting to go to the frontthat was in April of '45 and the war was coming to a closeI was moved up to Roermond, Holland.
One day they pulled me out of my unit and put me into what was known as the Static Staff Number Fiveit was supposedly secret. My mother told me after I got home that they did an investigation. a check-up to see, I guess, whether I was trustworthy. They went to the school and asked the principal and they asked some of the townspeople about me. I don't know why, because what we did was nothing. We were in Western Germany, and there were about 60 of us in this unit called Static Staff. As the war was ending we kept moving further into Germany and finally went into Bremen. They had divided Germany up amongst England, France, and the United States into sections that each country was supposed to demilitarize and bring about order. I was in what they called the Bremen Enclave. There were three of us in one Signal Corps Unit. There was a major, and a sergeant and myself, I was a corporal. We were to look for communication equipment. Particularly they thought Germans had this device for seeing at night, which was developed later and used in the Vietnam War. But we didn't know what this device was or where to look for it. We would go into barns and places like that where Germans had stored equipment and look to see what we could find. But after about, I wouldn't say more than about six weeks, it sort of just faded out. We didn't find anything; we didn't know what we were looking for. In other words so then we spent several months doing nothing. We'd get in our cars; we had German cars that we had confiscated, we'd fill it up with beer and then go out to the lake to spend the day. The Germans never bothered us."
At the end of the war Mr. Beattie worked in the military courts. "I was nineteen, twenty years old so I had no experience. I was assigned to the military court. There were lawyers who were in the service, they were the judges, and I scheduled the cases and took care of the evidence and things like that. Theoretically I was supposed to do that; actually we had German people who knew how to run the courts. They ran it; I just put my name on the schedules.
There were a lot of court cases right at the end of the war; they were called DP's-displaced persons. Most of the displaced persons were in our area were Polish. And they got into a lot of trouble because they were angry with the Germans and they were vengeful. So we had one case where a group of Polish people took about fifteen or twenty Germans put them in the basement and shot them all. It was a hard case because you felt sorry for the Polish and yet you had to arrest them or hold them responsible for killing them. Mostly it was Polish and French displaced persons who were getting in trouble with the German law. That made it very difficult . you know, they were our allies and yet we had to prosecute them. One of our biggest cases involved American officers and other soldiers. Somehow they set up a black market with a whole trainload of food, materials, everything! They put this on the black market and got caught. We had a big case prosecuting them."
Almost 50 years after the war Mr. Beattie returned to Bremen. "In 1989 my wife and I went back to Bremen and I went into the room that I worked in 50 years ago. It was quite emotional. I could picture all this in my mind and when I got there it was just the way I remembered. Now when we went back, the streets and, the buildings were all rebuilt. I couldn't believe that they could rebuild like they did."
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104