Grandson of Andersen's architect improves NW field
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- In late 1944, a U.S. Army commander and his troops ventured to Guam for an air strip construction mission, enabling B-29 Superfortress' to launch air raids on mainland Japan. The finished product, North Field --now Northwest Field-- is still in use today.
Almost 60 years later, Army Capt. Jeffrey Beeman, 523rd Engineer Company commander, took charge of construction efforts on the same site his grandfather, Army Col. Herbert Brown, former 854th Aviation Battalion commander, completed before the end of World War II.
"What has made my service all the more special are the similarities between my grandfather and I," Beeman said. "We both served in the Army as engineers, both commanded America's finest, and both have had significant missions that have shaped Guam on the exact same ground that he once turned from jungle to a dual air strip."
The original site construction began in December 1944 with the first runway becoming active Feb. 3, 1945. Construction continued and was complete in April 1945, meaning both air strips were functional, along with aircraft parking, hangars, fuel depots and taxiways.
North field continued to grow throughout the years, eventually becoming Andersen AFB, but the original site has remained an operational portion of the base. To this day, Northwest Field houses an active runway, along with many of the original roads, quarries and infrastructure still used by various squadrons for daily missions and exercises.
"I have tremendous pride in the fact that my grandfather's air strip is still in use today and is of such strategic importance," Beeman said. "To him, evidenced throughout his professional writings, building North Field was without a question his greatest accomplishment."
The 523rd Engineer Company is the first Army engineer battalion to deploy to Guam and recently replaced Navy units that were on regular rotation in the area, which made the opportunity to work on the site of his grandfather's all the more special.
During a nine-day period, Beeman's unit managed to clear approximately 40 acres of jungle to expand the field's perimeter and improve defensive measures. Additionally, the 523rd Engineer Company built a combat road around the entire perimeter to ensure military police could maneuver quickly around the site, all while protecting historic construction.
Beeman's time in service brought him in close proximity to one of his grandfather's legacies and allowed him to reflect on his military career. Both Beeman's grandfather and father served in the U.S. Army, influencing his decision to become an Army officer.
"My father's military experience influenced me to join the military more than anything, but my grandfather was the one who influenced me to become an engineer," Beeman said. "In many cases, one of the great things about the military is the family traditions passed down from generation to generation."