It has been about a year since the world lost Ned Beach. Certainly, he was a well-known and highly decorated submarine veteran, successful author and submarine advocate; however, to me he was more. To me he was the ultimate skipper-submarine hero, cool under pressure, educated, polished, naval history authority, a true gentleman and in some way perhaps a surrogate father. Indeed, no one influenced my life more in those early years than Ned.
From the time r first read Run Silent, Run Deep as a high school student, I knew what r wanted to do in life. As fate (and BUPERS) would have it, three years later I was serving under him as a commissioning crew member of TRITON. I recall now how surprised I was to find him so friendly and genuine when I was introduced to him upon my arrival on board in October of 1958. This was particularly evident having come from a submarine where I had qualified and spent seven months on board, and never met or spoke to the skipper.
It was clear that Ned had far more confidence in me as a young Seaman than I had in myself, as he gave me advice and direction for my career. Even after an abortive attempt at the Naval Academy Prep School (that darn math) he still had confidence in me and tried to get me into the Naval Academy through football. To ensure I had the proper atmosphere in which to study, he invited me to use his stateroom on the barge at night. Upon leaving the Navy for college in 196 I, Ned wished me good luck, told me to study hard and enjoy college, and stay in touch, and that we did for the next 42 years through letters, phone calls, reunions, and visits to his home in Georgetown. Ned was truly surprised when we had a chance meeting while I was attending Officer Candidate School and he visited as a guest lecturer. Shortly thereafter I was the surprised one (and so was OCS) when I received TAD orders in the middle of my OCS training to join him at the National Boy Scout Convention in Chicago. Ned was to give the keynote speech and he asked me to
make a few concurrent remarks. Clearly, Ned had been at work behind the scenes as he engineered this most unusual assignment for an officer candidate under instruction.
Later in my career after I had chosen a wonderful mate, I had to take her back to meet Ned and Ingrid almost as a show and tell, proud that I too had found a California girl–and one that reminded me of beautiful Ingrid. Ned took time out of his busy day to tour us around the Capitol, introducing us and taking us to lunch at the U.S. Senate Dining Room. When my daughter was born, I again had to proudly show her off to Ned and Ingrid. Ned quickly demonstrated his fatherly experience and his ease with small children as he quickly won her over to his side. At TRITON reunions Ned could always be found with a stack of books, tirelessly and unselfishly signing autographs when he wasn’t chatting with old shipmates or whirling around the dance floor with Ingrid. At one reunion he showed up with dolphin tie clasps that he had laboriously made for all crew members.
His last letter to me in October lamented the fact that he had hoped to make the upcoming Triton reunion, “but it was not to be.” The eulogies at Ned’s memorial service in January at the Naval Academy by Admiral Bowman, Jim Hay, and Mr. Stilwell were fitting, poignant, and well deserved, deeply touching all of us there, but for my family and me, his loss was even more personal.