HONORING PERRY MCPHAIL BEVENS

A foster child, a grade school friend, a Marine, a war hero

Growing up as a foster child, Perry Bevens lived across the alley from us in Burien, Washington,  a suburban city in King County, located just south of Seattle.  We attended Lake Burien Grade School together and were fierce competitors in the classroom (1942-1945).

 

 

That competitive spirit was inspirational, instilling hard work and industriness to the maturation process. We both were rewarded with "A's." Perry's foster mother was a former school teacher who encouraged Perry to achieve in the classroom, and our fourth grade teacher, Miss Armstrong, told my mother about our friendly competition and its academic benefits. (Photo above: Marines house-to-house fighting Seoul, Korea)

Determined to join the Marine Corps one day, Perry recruited a few of his friends to join his battalion at school recess -- myself reluctantly included. Calling us to attention, he marched his Company around the school yard, playing the role of Marine drill sergeant.

(Photo left: Lake Burien Grade School, seventh grade, 1945. Perry top row, second from right; myself, third row up, second from right).

 

"I'll bet your dad makes $500 a month," he once guessed, with a jealous look on his face. Perry had hit the nail on the head, but I kept my mouth shut. That was said sometime during World War II, when families were feeling the economic effects of the Great Depression and now, during the war, further constrained and hobbled by rationing and many shortages.

Our dedication to the service carried on endlessly, from recess to recess, Parry at our side -- while the other boys played migs. "After four we raise our swords...One Two Three Four...Hup Two Three Four...Hup Two Three Four."

For a moment in time -- time being a kaleidoscope of virtual and real events -- we were brave, battle-weary leathernecks, wearing camouflage helmets and cold-weather parkas, carrying M1 carbines with fixed bayonets, trudging through the wintery mountainous terrain of South Korea.  

 

Perry never tired of his love for the military, for there were plenty of war movies playing at both the Den Burien and Highline theaters to nurture his fondness. It was an era of unabashed patriotism and love of country.

Because of its importance to the war effort, the greater Seattle area was particularly noteworthy in this respect -- this being an unique period in its history.

 

Air raid drills, barrage balloons, rationing, and the fake city built on the rooftop to camouflage the production plant at Boeing Aircraft Company all were constant reminders to us children growing up in Seattle area that we were at war and in imminent danger. (The barrage balloon, photo left, is a large balloon tethered with metal cables used to defend against aircraft attack by damaging the aircraft on collision with the cables, or at least making the attacker's approach more difficult.)

The Japanese had invaded the Aleutian Islands, and the U.S. was afraid that with control of the islands the Japanese would launch aerial assaults against U.S. west coast cities, among them Seattle and its Boeing factories.

My dad was an air raid warden in the town of Burien, and he helped sell war bonds at the Den Burien theater. In those days, Burien consisted mostly of just one block of businesses, starting with our house on its western corner on 9th Ave and SW 152nd. Up the block, going east on SW 152nd towards Ambaum Road, were a feed store, grocery store, restaurant, post office, drug store and gas station. The Tradewell Grocery Store was located across the street from the Langness drugstore. The fire station was located a block away from us, behind our house (Photo of Burien, 1940's postcard, looking west towards Seahurst).

 

I  remember people on horseback riding down 152nd to the feed store (See photo above). That's our house to the left of the feed store, with the fire station behind it. Mansfield's PIK.N.PAK is on the right. Perry lived behind Mansfield's off the alley that ran behind the store. Mable Clothier ran the post office. During the war, we all got our shoes repaired with composition, synthetic soles due to the rubber shortage. Photo Source: Flicker.

As kids, we'd go swimming at Angle Lake Park, well aware of the polio scare.

"The end of World War II in Asia occurred on 14 and 15 August 1945, when armed forces of Japan surrendered to the forces of the Allied Powers. The surrender came just over three months after the surrender of the Axis forces in Europe...The Korean War (25 June 1950 27 July 1953) was a war between the Republic of Korea (South Korea), supported by the United Nations, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), at one time supported by China and the Soviet Union." (Wikipedia).

During the Korean War, young men were subject to the military draft at 19 1/2-years of age. Draft eligible men had the choice of serving two years in the Army, three years in the Marines or fours years in the Air Force or Navy, providing they could pass the relevant physical and mental tests, of which only half did. During the Vietnam War, for example, current Vice President Joe Biden got a draft notice but flunked the physical due to asthma, this according to a 1987 Washington Post profile. During the war, Biden took five student deferments and later got classified as ineligible except in case of national emergency for asthma even though his biography emphasizes his ability at sports as a youth.

I enlisted in the Air Force in February 1953. Perry was two years older than I was, the two of us growing up during the Great Depression and World War II. If you've never been classified 1-A for the draft during a shooting war you don't know what you've missed. Young men were required to keep their draft cards with them at all times, and none of us thought of burning them. (Photo above 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, Easy Company).

I lost contact with my grade school friend in high school, and starting my senior year (1950-1951), I saw Perry's obituary in the local paper one day. The news of his death shocked me and seemed to come out of nowhere. Those memories of school-yard drills and class-room competition replayed against the backdrop of Perry's photo in the Highline Times.

True to his wishes, Perry had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950. That year, shortly after his marine battalion landed at Inchon Harbor, he was killed in brutal house-to-house fighting in Seoul, Korea, in what has been called the second battle of Seoul. Reportedly, he died from the effects of multiple fragmentation wounds, most likely hit by some sort of explosive device. (Photo left, Marines landing at Inchon).

His Company (Company D, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division; or 2/5 as it's called) landed at Red Beach,  Inchon Harbor, the beach being 200 yards of sea wall. The next day, Saturday, 16 September 1950, 2/5 led the 5th Marines out of Inchon to Hill 117.

Eventually 2/5 declared Kimpo Airfield secured, this at 1000 hours, 18 September. Kimpo Airfield had the longest runway in Korea (6,000 feet) and was an important strategic position. On 22 September, 2/5 participated in the battle to recapture Seoul, engaging in house-to-house fighting, with every alleyway, every storefront window being a deadly hazard to the Marines recapturing Seoul. Communist sympathizers, snipers, North Korean soldiers disguised as farmers -- or even masquerading as South Korean soldiers -- made 2/5's task difficult and extremely perilous. (See Urban Warfare below)

I am honored to have been Perry's close friend during the early years of his short life and take pride in sharing his memory with others on both Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Appendix: The following information is taken from online sources.

"The Second Battle of Seoul was the battle to recapture Seoul from the North Koreans in late September 1950.

"Before the battle, North Korea had just one understrength division in the city, with the majority of its forces south of the capital. General Douglas MacArthur personally oversaw the 1st Marine Regiment as it fought through North Korean positions on the road to Seoul. Control of Operation Chromite was then given to Major General Edward Almond, the X Corps commander.

"On September 22, the Marines entered Seoul to find it heavily fortified. Casualties mounted as the forces engaged in desperate house-to-house fighting. Anxious to pronounce the conquest of Seoul, Almond declared the city liberated on September 25 despite the fact that Marines were still engaged in house-to-house combat (gunfire and artillery could still be heard in the northern suburbs)." (Wikipedia).

Private First Class Bevens  was Killed in Action in Seoul, South Korea on September 24, 1950. Private First Class Bevens was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal. (Korean War Veterans Memorial Honor Roll)

Reference: Alexander, Joseph, H., Colonel, "Battle of the Barricades. U.S. Marines in the Recapture of Seoul."

Urban Warfare: "The buildings can provide excellent sniping posts while alleys and rubble-filled streets are ideal for planting booby traps. Defenders can move from one part of the city to another undetected using underground tunnels and spring ambushes.

"Meanwhile, the attackers tend to become more exposed than the defender as they must use the open streets more often, unfamiliar with the defenders' secret and hidden routes. During a house to house search the attacker is often also exposed on the streets."

Photo below Frank Noel, Associated Press. "The Marines fought two enemies in downtown Seoul -- those who defended behind the barricades and the snipers seemingly hidden in every other window." Reference Battle of the Barricades above [Alexander].

 

Linde Family, 1947, Maureen, Melanie, O. R., Larry, Richard

Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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