A few years ago the U.S. Naval Institute left the headquarters building it had occupied since 1939, the year Ned Beach graduated from the Naval Academy. In its place we moved to a newly renovated wing of the old naval hospital. Jack Schiff of Cincinnati, a World War II naval officer, was the generous benefactor who facilitated the modernization of the building. And it was he who unselfishly requested that it be named Beach Hall in honor of two captains named Edward L. Beach, father and son, because they so well personified the mission of the Naval Institute. In their time, both were splendid warriors, and both were popular authors whose writings inspired legions of young Americans to join the naval service. The person who notified Ned Beach of the honor to be bestowed on him and his father was Admiral Chuck Larson, who was then superintendent of the academy and a member of the Naval institute board. When he later reported on his phone call, Admiral Larson said, “It’s the only time I’ve ever known Ned to be speechless.”
Indeed, communication was a hallmark of both Beaches. They were men of strongly held opinions, strongly expressed. They were eager to influence others to their way of thinking. The Naval Institute has published the memoirs of both men, and those books demonstrate how remarkably similar they were. It was as if a single spirit inhabited two bodies, two minds, two hearts. They were men of both physical courage and moral courage, willing to speak up to seniors when they felt the need, and eager to do battle against the enemies of their Navy and their nation. Ned Beach revered his father, read his books, heard his stories, and entered the Navy to emulate his example.
Ned and I became acquainted years ago when I reviewed one of his books and subsequently met him. Before too long, despite the fact that he was far senior, he said, “Call me Ned.” and treated me as a friend. Do you remember his handshake? By its firmness, vigor, and duration, you felt a sense of the man’s sincerity and how energetic he was. I recall a contemporary of his, Julian Burke, who was exec of the submarine DOGFISH when Ned commanded AMBERJACK. He said Ned’s boat was known as Anglejack because Beach brought it soaring up out of the water at such steep angles. Burke’s skipper, Dave Bell, used DOGFISH to develop ideas for incorporation in the next generation of fast attack submarines, and he sent these suggestions in to the type commander, ComSubLant, one at a time. No response from New London. Finally, Bell went to SubLant to learn why DOGFISH had heard nothing. As Burke later explained, “Ned had had about 25 recommendations, which included everything that we had recommended plus about ten more, and he had beat us to the punch by about six months.” Ned was indeed energetic.
It is one thing to be able to fight well; it is another to be able to write well. In addition to being a courageous warrior, Ned-like his father-was a gifted storyteller. He had the observational skills to pick up on the details that many of us see only in passing, the flair with words to describe those observations, and the imagination to make his characters come alive. We can read official reports of submarine patrols, bureaucratic battles, and the advance of technology over the years. Ned made those experiences so real that the reader was transported to the scene of the action. For reasons of security, submariners have long prided themselves on being the silent service. But that obscured their wartime deeds and the character and personality of these men who fought from beneath the sea. Ned pierced that veil of silence to tell legions of readers how it had been. Run Silent. Run Deep is justifiably considered one of the classic novels of World War II. His words put the reader on the bridge and in the control room of a World War II submarine charging in to torpedo an enemy. Ned himself was a charger, always moving forward-aggressive, sometimes impetuous, and remarkably persistent. How fortunate he was to have been married for nearly 60 years to Ingrid, a soul of graciousness and the perfect balance wheel for him.
What made Ned’s books especially appealing-in addition to the realism-were the charm and humor that let readers know that he was all too human himself. He told readers, for example, about the time in 1938 when Orson Welles’s famous radio drama led many people to believe the United States was under attack by Martians. Ned, the ranking midshipman, charged down to the main office in Bancroft Hall to seek action, only to be chagrined when he learned the attack was a figment of Welles’s imagination. Of another event he wrote, “Once I capsized an academy sailboat during a Sunday afternoon sail with two classmates and three pretty girls; they were prettier yet when soaking wet.” And there was the time he went charging through the halls of the old Main Navy building in Washington to reach Captain Hyman Rickover’s office. Ned burst into a ladies’ restroom by mistake, and-for one of the few times in his life-he retreated from a situation.
Ned’s eagerness to right wrongs was demonstrated in his crusade on behalf of Captain Joe Rochefort, an intelligence officer whose deductions led to a crucial victory in the Battle of Midway but who was not suitably recognized for his achievement. Ned was even more involved in a campaign on behalf of Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Short, whom he felt had been made scapegoats for the def eat at Pearl Harbor. These actions and many others demonstrated his great loyalty to the Navy and to the men with whom he had served. A wise destroyer sailor once observed, “Friends may come and go, but shipmates are forever.” Ned is now again with hundreds of his shipmates from so many years ago. We can be confident that they are charging forward-and that Ned is leading them.