Mrs. Beach, family, friends of Captain Ned Beach, fellow submariners, Sailors and friends of our great Navy:
I sing of arms and the man
With this immortal opening line, the Roman poet Virgil begins his epic story of the founder of Rome, Aeneas the man on whom Rome’s greatness and virtue were modeled. The man who, to this day, remains the ultimate warrior hero.
Today, in celebrating the life and works of Captain Edward Latimer Beach, Jr., we face the same challenge Virgil faced nearly 2,000 years ago: How to tell a warrior’s tale in a manner worthy of the man and his achievements? How to capture the adventure and challenge? The battles won … and comrades lost? The terrors of the moment in combat? The loves of a lifetime, ashore and afloat?
We are luckier than Virgil, however; and our task is easier, if more poignant. For many of us knew Ned Beach personally. More of us knew of his adventures as a sailor. Best of all, Ned has often been the best teller of his own tale, through works of both fiction and history that will rank among the classics of naval literature.
It is through these tales that we get to see into the heart and soul of a Sailor of the greatest generation. A seasoned combat veteran who served ashore on the staff of the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Omar Bradley; who served as naval aide to President Dwight D. Eisenhower; and who, as such, was present at the creation of our modern world and contributed so much to ensure that that world was peaceful, prosperous, and just.
Commissioned two years before our entry into World War II, Ned Beach spent the entire war on the front patrol lines of the Pacific Submarine Force:
- From a plank-owner on the commissioning crew of the TRIGGER,
- To service as XO under George Street in TIRANTE, where Captain Street’s exploits as CO earned the Medal of Honor, Lieutenant Commander Beach’s service as XO earned the Navy Cross, and the crew’s heroics earned a well-deserved Presidential Unit Citation
- To command of PIPER, whose imminent arrival (as Ned assured me on several occasions) caused the Japanese to give up in despair.
In his 12 war patrols, he served in every position from officer of the deck to commanding officer, always at the front lines of our Nation’s Pacific War and always with a distinction and bravery that we can only marvel at today.
As our nation turned from victory in a war against an axis of evil unparalleled in the history of the world at that time, it soon found itself facing a new and insidious threat from its former Soviet ally. This Cold War of nuclear threat to the homeland and brush fire wars in distant lands taxed our endurance and our technology. We truly found ourselves mired in nuclear gridlock. In all of these areas, Ned Beach found himself on history’s leading edge.
Handpicked by President Eisenhower to serve as his naval aide, then-Commander Beach gained a fascinating insight into national affairs at the highest level. He often described these years as the most exciting and rewarding of his career.
Mounted with the skill, cunning, daring, and planning typical of the wartime submariner he was, his campaign to have Mrs. Eisen-hower sponsor our first nuclear submarine, NAUTILUS, was a diplomatic coup of the first order. (Nearly as spectacular was his success in training the First Lady in her sponsor’s duties. Numerous training sessions with water-filled wine bottles resulted in a flawless christening.)
Having served ashore with distinction, he was again handpicked to command the largest nuclear submarine built to date: the unique two-reactor TRITON. In TRITON, on short notice and in nearly complete secrecy, Ned followed Magellan’s path around the world submerged. Given our nuclear Submarine Force 50-year record of excellence and success, we can lose sight of what an epic achievement this was. But epic it was.
In an era when the sea floor was as unknown as the dark side of the moon, the navigational challenge alone was immense. The technical, the medical, and even the psychological unknowns combined to make the journey truly groundbreaking. As always, when the Navy called on Ned Beach, they made the right call. He brought TRITON around the world and back home again safe and sound, and provided the Soviets with more evidence of our military prowess to weigh in their ongoing Cold War calculus.
In all of these challenges and especially in his five command tours at sea, Ned Beach proved himself the exemplar not only of the capable mariner but also of the caring and devoted captain. His love for his Navy, whose lifeblood literally ran in his veins, and for the Sailors who served in her ships was deep and abiding. It governed all he did and served as the wellspring of the honor, courage, and commitment he displayed-years before those core values became our watchword.
I entered the Navy in the year Ned Beach retired. We never served together. Yet I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to be counted as his friend in the twilight of his life. We shared a Sailor’s love of the sea and the submariner’s intense bond of loyalty and camaraderie.
During my days as Chief of Naval Personnel, I went to Ned for his thoughts and counsel several times. I always got unvarnished advice-and always what was best for the sailor. Ned and I were inducted the same night into a special fraternity: that of honorary master chief petty officers. We both were honored; we both were nearly overwhelmed. We both cried.
As I grew to know Ned Beach personally, the qualities that made him such an outstanding wartime submariner and Cold War commander also shone through in his friendships. The inherent integrity of the man-the wholeness of his commitment and the depth of his passion-are, to me, both his salient virtue and the quality that pervaded his personal as well as his professional life.
For me, the best example of this can be found in Ned’s own words … in the dedication to his capstone book on the Navy and on his career, Salt and Steel. If I may read from that dedication:
There is only one person to whom this story of my life could be dedicated: the lovely 18-year-old girl who became my partner during a hectic period of wartime leave, and has been that ever since, through the good times and the bad, sharing everything. She has been a fantastic Navy wife, supporting me in all my Navy duties, and everything else besides. We have had four children, and she’s as beautiful as ever, inside and out.
There you have Ned Beach, the man in full. Ingrid, thank you for sharing Ned with us. Your gift has blessed us all.
In any memorial service, the imperative is to highlight the enduring contribution. If you seek a monument to Captain Ned Beach, simply look, around:
- To Sailors he cared for, standing the watch, around the world, around the clock, trained to the standards he helped to champion.
- To an officer corps whose ideals he celebrates in novels and histories that tell us who we are, and more importantly, why we serve.
- To a nuclear Submarine Force of unparalleled accomplishment, operated with skill, daring, and efficiency.
- To a United States Navy unchallenged on the oceans, advancing freedom and justice around the world.
His monument is a living, breathing, vital institution-the United States Navy . . . the Shield of the Republic-into whose care he was born and into whose spiritual home he now returns.
Captain Edward Latimer Beach, Jr.: rest your oar. Your journey is safely home. We have the watch. Godspeed, my friend.