Every Veteran Has a Story - Joe Bill Beard

Three days before the new year was celebrated in the East Texas
community of Timpson, Shelby County, Joe Bill Beard was born on
Monday, December 29, 1924. He was the sixth of eight children raised
by Elna Baker and Ernest Franklin Beard, Sr. Older brothers included
Arvin Taylor (1911), Carl Hillard (1913), Marvin (1915), Wilburn Thomas
(1917) and Haskel (1919). A younger brother, Ernest Franklin, Jr. (1929)
and sister Verna Jean (1932) completed the family. Like many at that
time, they lived on a farm in rural Shelby County, and having a group of
young boys to help with the chores was no doubt a blessing. The
“Great Depression” of the early 1930s placed additional hardships on
families but the Beards persevered and by the 1940 census only three
of the children remained at home, Ernest, Jr., Verna Jean, and Joe Bill. (1)
Twenty-two days before Joe Bill’s 17th birthday, December 7, 1941, the
The Empire of Japan attacked the US military facilities at Pearl Harbor, Hickam, and Wheeler Fields, Hawaii.
The United States found itself once again fighting a World War but this time on two fronts, Europe and
the Pacific. A year later on his 18th Birthday, December 29, Joe Bill complied with the Selective Service
Act of 1940 and registered for the military draft at Local Board # 1, Center, Shelby County, Texas. His
Registration Card, DSS Form 1 noted the following; Residence, Box 442, Timpson, Texas; Employer,
School; Race, White; Description of Registrant, five-foot, six inches tall, 130 pounds with brown eyes and
hair and a ruddy complexion. (2)
The following year he was called to duty and took the oath of enlistment in Tyler, Smith County, Texas
on December 4, 1943. Joe Bill said goodbye to his family and left home on December 27th, two days before
his nineteenth birthday, and reported to Camp Wolters, Mineral Wells, Texas for shots and military
clothing issues. He and other recruits arrived by train at Camp Fannin, an Infantry Replacement Training
Center located nine miles north of Tyler on January 3, 1944. Here he underwent seventeen weeks of
basic military training learning discipline, dismounted drill, physical training, the firing of various weapons
and tactics, becoming what the Camp Fannin Handbook called “a capable soldier”. (3)
Graduating from basic training in May 1944, Private Joe Bill Beard, service # 38641205 was assigned as a
replacement to Company K, 357th Infantry Regiment of the 90th Infantry Division (“Tough Ombres”). His
Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was 745, Rifleman. Joe Bill and the other replacements destined
for the 357th Infantry were then sent to Fort George G. Meade for two weeks and then on to Camp
Kilmer, New Jersey where they were quartered in preparation for transport to Europe. While here
troops sent personal effects home, received needed shots and supplies before loading onto transport
ships.
On June 15, 1944, Joe Bill and the replacements for the 357th Infantry Regiment departed for England
aboard the 85,000-ton British super-liner, Queen Elizabeth. Also on this very day, the 357th captured

Gourbesville, France after overcoming fierce enemy resistance and in four days of combat suffered a
total of 703 casualties including 133 dead. The regiment Commander, Colonel John W. Sheehy was
among those killed. Thirteen days later, on June 28, Queen Elizabeth reached Liverpool, England where
they disembarked for the trip to France. PFC Beard and the other replacements may have caught up to
their unit in a rest area near the commune of Hauteville, France, or shortly thereafter. On July 5, 1944
the 357th began its advance on Beau Coudray, a small town whose capture was to develop into one of
the toughest engagements in the entire war. Located forward of strategic high ground, it served as an
excellent observation post for the crack German paratroop defenders. By dark, July 7th, the combined
remnants of companies “C” and “K” (Joe Bill’s company) had repulsed a total of 14 counterattacks.
During six bloody days, the 357th Regiment suffered 851 casualties, including 166 dead. (4)
The 90th Division and subordinate units then participated in the Northern France Campaign that began
on July 25 and concluded on September 14 with Belgium and most of France liberated from the
Germans. The Rhineland Campaign began September 15, 1944, and the long-awaited final victory over
Nazi Germany seemed close at hand for the Allies but even so, there was still savage fighting ahead.
Tragically and unknown to Joe Bill at this time, his brother Marvin also serving with the US Army in
France was killed in action on September 16, 1944. In the first part of October 1944 the 357th Regiment was
involved in taking the strategic town of Maizière-Les-Metz and during the 27-day battle suffered 552
casualties including 51 dead. They were relieved on November 1 st for a short period of training and
rehabilitation that was well earned by men who had continually occupied heavily contested front-line
positions for over 60 days. On November 7, 1944, according to Regimental History, they began
the movement to the northeast on a miserably cold night in the pouring rain. The 90th Division had been
selected to establish a bridgehead over the Moselle River, something that was considered a major task
as it was known that the Germans were prepared to defend to the last. During daylight on the 10th the
357th Regiment entered and crossed the swollen river as constant enemy motor and artillery fire had
prevented the construction of a bridge. All supplies that did not include bedrolls and blankets had to be
ferried across and hand-carried to the front and the men spent miserable nights in the open without
even an overcoat. The wooded hills the division attacked were covered by some of the heaviest enemy
mortar and artillery concentrations of the war. Enemy entrenchments dug in on the slopes of the steep
wooded hills were overrun by the Americans and the defenders annihilated in hand to hand combat.
Rifles and hand grenades were the weapons used in this fight. By the 17th the Regiment had broken
through the entire enemy defensive line and in two days were at the Nied River in the vicinity of
Brecklange, France where they were ordered to stop. The crossing of the Moselle River by the 90th
Division brought the personal commendation of the Third Army Commander, General George S. Patton,
Jr. and was described by him “as a feat of military arms unsurpassed”. (4)
It was during this savage fighting on Armistice Day [Veterans Day], November 11, 1944, that PFC Joe Bill
Beard was wounded by shell fragments that fractured his left tibia [shinbone]. He was admitted to the
110th Evacuation Hospital in Luxembourg was about 60 miles away. Released November 17, Joe Bill
arrived at the 108th General Hospital, APO 877, Paris, France three days later. His mother Elna received a
telegram on the 22nd advising her that “Joe Bill was wounded in action and she would be advised as
reports of condition are received”. Released on the 25th he was then sent to the 63 rd General Hospital,
APO 63, Cirencester, England where he remained until January 13, 1945. The Stark General Hospital in
Charleston, South Carolina received him on February 4 and three days later he was admitted to the
Harmon General Hospital in Longview, Texas to begin rehabilitation. (5) His homecoming was bittersweet
as brother Haskell was reported missing in action on January 8 and later confirmed to be a prisoner of
war in Germany.

Joe Bill’s comrades of the 357th Regiment fought on through the Battle of
the Bulge and the Rhineland Campaign to wars end when Victory in
Europe was declared, May 8, 1945. In the end, his regiment suffered 953
killed in action and 5,078 wounded in action during 335 days of combat. (4)
Family records show that Joe Bill was home on furlough in Garrison, Texas

when he heard the news that Nazi Germany had surrendered. On May 24, 1945, after eighteen months
of service to his country, Private First Class Joe Bill Beard was honorably discharged and given a
Certificate of Disability for wounds received in action. For this service, he was awarded the Purple Heart,
Army Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European African Middle Eastern Campaign
Medal with three bronze service stars (three campaigns) and the World War II Victory Medal. Also
awarded the coveted Combat Infantryman Badge and Rifle Sharpshooter Badge. (6) Newspaper accounts
refer to him as being previously wounded in action but confirmation by military records could not be
found. May 1945 was a month of joy for the Beard household as they also welcomed home son Haskel
who had been a German POW for seven months.
Returning to the Timpson area Joe Bill like many did whatever he could to make a living, at first working
his father’s farm along with buying and selling livestock. On August 4, 1947, he married Gearldean
Curbow, the widow of his late brother Marvin. Gearldean at the time had three children, Tommy Lynn,
Shirley and Barbara. She and Joe Bill had eight more children; Jerry Don, Perry Lee, Ronny, Donny,
Randy, Terry, Rebecca, and Sandra.
Daughter Becky Beard Palmer told me “I remember him logging pulpwood and at some point, we had a
cafe in Timpson and also a bait shop/store on Lake Timpson. He bought a dump truck while at the lake
and later bought a dozer that he operated. We moved from the lake to Houston in 1963 (kids in the bed
of the dump truck) and he went into the construction business. He first worked for Beard & Martin
Trucking & later he worked for his other brother’s company Carl Beard Trucking which later became
B.W. Beard Trucking. Daddy retired as Supervisor of Operations from B.W. Beard Trucking & Excavating
in 1980”.
Joe Bill Beard passed on Thursday, August 14, 2001, at the age of 76. Services were held at the Taylor
Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Travis Lunsford officiating. Burial followed in the Cold Springs Cemetery,
Garrison, Texas where many other family members rest. He was a member of the Nacogdoches
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post [3893], the American Legion, and a lifetime member of the Disabled
American Veterans.
He was preceded in death by; sons, Tommy L. Beard and Jerry Beard; grandsons, Joe Marvin Beard and
Harlan Culpepper; three infant grandchildren; brothers Marvin, Arvin, Carl, Wilburn, and Haskell Beard
and one infant sister. He was survived by; his wife Gearldean Curbow Beard of Timpson; sons, Ronny
Beard of Fort Worth, Texas, Donny Beard of Magnolia, Texas, Terry Beard of Cypress, Texas, Perry Beard
of Eunice, Louisiana and Randy Beard of Dayton, Texas; daughters Shirley Cottongin of Kirbyville, Texas,
Barbara West of Timpson, Rebecca Palmer of Tyler and Sandra Beard of Houston; brother E. F. “Red”
Beard of Livingston, Texas; sister Jean parker of Tenaha, Texas; twenty-two grandchildren and thirteen
great-grandchildren. (7)
We owe Joe Bill Beard and all World War II Veterans a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid as they
truly saved the world. “It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced”…Tom
Brokaw, American Journalist. The day is done, God is nigh.
Epilogue: From the family in remembrance of Joe Bill:
Daughter Barbara “ I remember when Micheal & I were living in Nacogdoches and it was Christmas time.
We were so broke that we could not travel to Houston to be with the family so Momma, Daddy & kids
stopped by our house. After everyone left, I found a $20 bill that Daddy had left. That was his way of
helping us out”.
The family felt Joe Bill was a very generous man with a sense of humor and quick wit. Daughter Sandra
stated, “an example of his sense of humor showed when he signed some of his letters home from the
war with ‘Love, G. I. Joe’”.

Daughter Becky’s favorite example of his humor was a letter he wrote to his younger brother E. F. “I
keep me a little house dug just so deep & when I hear them 88s coming, just one jump and I never miss.
You know how a frog hits the water when you get close. Well, that’s just the way I look when I hear an
88”.