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First Name: Duane

Last Name: Beeson

Birthplace: Boise, ID, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Willard

Date of Birth: 06 July 1921

Date of Death: 13 February 1947

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Years Served: 1942 - 1947
Duane Willard Beeson

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Duane Willard Beeson
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Air Forces

Duane Willard Beeson was born on 6 July 1921 in Boise, ID. At Boise High School he joined the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program as platoon bugler. Although slight in stature in high school, he was a member of a boxing club and played high school football. By the spring of 1939, Beeson planned to study law at the University of California.

Beeson planned to join the U.S. Army Air Corps as a pilot, but because he had not completed the required two years of college, he decided to join the Royal Canadian Air Force, which had no such entry qualifications.

Beeson joined the Royal Canadian Air Force on 23 June 1941 in Vancouver and trained at Prince Albert and Yorkton, Saskatchewan. By 26 February 1942, Beeson had 201 hours of flight time and had successfully completed the training curriculum with a rating of "A good average pilot and is slightly overconfident. No outstanding faults." Beeson was posted to Bournemouth, England and started conversion to the Hawker Hurricane. On 5 September 1942 Beeson was posted to Number 71 Squadron at Debden, Essex.

At that time, the U.S. Army Air Forces were arriving in England for operations over Europe. The RAF Eagle Squadrons were being absorbed into the Eighth Air Force, and Beeson was among those who resigned their RCAF commissions and transferred to the USAAF. The newly-formed 4th Fighter Group continued to fly its RAF-issued Supermarine Spitfires until it received the P-47 Thunderbolts in early 1943.

Beeson flew his first combat mission with his new unit, the 334th Fighter Squadron. In November, Beeson flew a test flight to fire his guns and flew unauthorized over the French coast, attacking German road transport and damaging his aircraft.

In January 1943, Beeson was training on the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. On 8 May, Beeson engaged a group of German fighters and shot down a Messerschmidtt Bf-109 (also called Me-109). On 26 June during an escort mission over Dieppe he spotted two Bf-109s, one with a P-47 on his tail. Beeson shot down one Bf-109 into the sea, using just 400 rounds of ammunition. A month later Beeson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in recognition of 37 combat missions and two victories.

On 2 July, the 4th Fighter Group became the first fighter group to penetrate German airspace. Over the Netherlands, the group engaged a flight of Bf-109s, attacking a formation of B-17s. Beeson and his wingman dove from 21,000 feet into the enemy formation and Beeson shot down another Bf-109. In September, after 65 combat missions, he was awarded the Silver Star. On 8 October Beeson shot down two more Bf-109s over the Netherlands. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Donald Blakeslee, appointed Beeson the Group's Gunnery Officer.

On 29 January 1944, CPT Beeson was flying his P-51 Fighter Airplane in aerial combat against German forces in the European Theater of Operations. CPT Beeson shot down two enemy aircraft that day, a Bf-109 and a Focke-Wulf Fw-190. His valor and flying skills in aerial combat earned him the U.S. Army Air Forces second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

One day later, CPT Beeson claimed his tenth enemy aircraft. By February 1944, the Eighth Air Force launched a series of large-scale raids to prompt the Luftwaffe into a battle of attrition and create air superiority over Europe. Operation Pointblank was aimed at the destruction of the Luftwaffe through air combat, the strafing of German airfields, and the bombing of aircraft factories.

The big raids were dubbed "Big Week." The 4th Fighter Group's P-47s were equipped with two drop tanks that doubled their combat range. Blakeslee was able to get top priority for the new P-51 Mustangs, promising "I'll have them operational in 24 hours." When the group flew its first missions on 25 February, the pilots had less than one hour and ten minutes' flight time in the new fighter. During the week, Beeson was awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster to his Distinguished Flying Cross and promoted to Captain. With 80 combat missions completed, he was made Commanding Officer of B Flight at the age of 22.

On 28 February, Beeson got his new P-51B. He and crew chief Willard Wahl named the aircraft simply "Bee." In his first mission across the English Channel, he strafed a Junkers Ju-88 on the ground. On 23 March, Beeson downed two more Bf-109s, making him the Army Air Forces' most successful ace. It was Beeson's 93rd combat mission and he had 17 claims.

He got two more kills, but on 5 April he was brought down by German fire from the ground and captured. In a prisoner-of-war camp, Beeson passed the time boxing, reading, and studying. The camp was liberated by Soviet forces on 29 April 1945. It took Beeson nearly a month to make it back to Debden. While a prisoner of war, Beeson had been promoted to Major and had received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with five Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Air Medal, most of which were presented to his parents at Gowen Field, near Boise, ID.

He returned to Boise in June 1945 and made every effort to get reassigned to the Pacific Theatre, but the Pacific War soon ended. Beeson was reassigned to Sarasota, FL, where he met his future wife, Tracy Waters. They married in Baltimore, MD, in January 1946.

Soon afterward, Beeson became violently ill. Doctors diagnosed a brain tumor and Beeson was told that he needed to go to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC, for an operation. Sadly, as the plane that was carrying him was landing at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, he died at the age of 26.

Beeson had intended to remain in the service of his country with the new branch, the U.S. Air Force. He had already been issued a commission as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force.

During his brief military service, Beeson scored 22.08 victories, including 17.3 air-to-air kills, 12 of which were scored in the P-47C/D Thunderbolt, and 5.3 of which were scored in the P-51-B Mustang. Beeson was one of ten U.S. Army Air Forces pilots who became an ace in two different types of fighter aircraft.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star Medal
Distinguished Flying Cross with Silver Oak Leaf Cluster
Purple Heart
Air Medal with Silver Oak Leaf Cluster
Presidential Unit Citation
POW Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
WWII Victory Medal
Army Air Forces Pilot Badge

He also earned several Allied citations.

Distinguished Service Cross Citation (Synopsis)

Captain (Air Corps) Duane W. Beeson (ASN: 0-885184), United States Army Air Forces, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a P-51 Fighter Airplane in the 334th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, EIGHTH Air Force, in aerial combat against enemy forces on 29 January 1944, in the European Theater of Operations. On this date Captain Beeson shot down two enemy aircraft. Captain Beeson's unquestionable valor in aerial combat is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 8th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.

General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Strategic Forces in Europe, General Orders No. 24 (1944)


In November 1993, the city of Boise, ID, honored her native son by naming the Duane W. Beeson Air Terminal Building after Idaho's top WW II Ace. His memorabilia is on display in the terminal.

Congressional Gold Medal

The Congressional Gold Medal, created by the U.S. Mint, is the highest civilian honor Congress can give on behalf of the American people. On 20 May 2015, leaders from the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate presented the Congressional Gold Medal to the American Fighter Aces Association at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Emancipation Hall.

More than 60,000 American fighter pilots engaged in aerial combat during World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Of those pilots, only 1,447 earned the title of fighter “Ace” by downing at least five enemy aircraft. Lieutenant Colonel Duane Willard Beeson was one of them, having been credited with 17.3 aircraft shot down in aerial combat. At the time of the presentation of the Medal, only 75 of those Aces remained alive.

Death and Burial

Lieutenant Colonel Duane Willard Beeson died on 13 February 1947. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 2236   Created by: MHOH




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