Paul W. Beck

Paul W. Beck

Infobox Military Person
name= Paul Ward Beck
lived= birth date|1876|12|01death date and age|1922|04|04|1876|12|01
placeofbirth=Fort McKavett, Texas, U.S.A.
placeofdeath=Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.A.

allegiance=flagcountry|United States
branch=United States Army
U.S. Army Air Service
rank= Lieutenant colonel
commands= Commandant, Henry Post Field, Fort Sill, Oklahoma
battles=Philippine Insurrection
World War I

Paul Ward Beck (1 December 1876 - 4 April 1922) was an officer in the United States Army, an aviation pioneer, and one of the first military pilots. Although a career Infantry officer, Beck twice was part of the first air services of the U.S. Army, first as nominal head of the flying section of the Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps in 1911-12, then as part of the Air Service in 1920-1922. He is generally credited as being the first military officer to advocate a separate aviation air arm.

Beck, the son of a cavalry officer, developed an interest in aviation while detached to temporary service with the U.S. Army Signal Corps at Benecia, California, in 1908, attending several aviation meets. He was one of four students in the first class of U.S. Army and U.S. Navy pilot trainees taught by Glen Curtiss beginning 17 January 1911, and after his promotion to captain in March, commanded the privisional aero company at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, until 1 May 1912, when he returned to the Infantry as required by Army regulation.

Following service in World War I, Beck returned to flying, becoming part of the newly established Air Service in 1920 and promoted to lieutenant colonel. Beck was made commandant of Henry Post Field at Lawton, Oklahoma, and while in that position was killed by a gunshot to the head during an evening with friends. The shooting was a disputed mystery, with friends, colleagues and an Army investigating board suspecting that Beck was murdered for being caught "in flagrante delicto" with the wife of a friend following an evening of drinking. However the shooter, a well-known judge on the Oklahoma Supreme Court, contended that the shooting was an accident during an act of self-defense after Beck had allegedly tried to sexually assault the shooter's wife in their home. The judge was exonerated by a coroner's jury of wrong-doing in the shooting.

Biography and military career

Beck was born to William Henry Beck and Rachel Wyatt Elizabeth Tongate Beck on 1 December 1876 at Fort McKavett, Texas, a frontier outpost of the U.S. Army. His father, an American Civil War cavalryman, was a first lieutenant in the Regular Army and a troop officer with the 10th Cavalry Regiment. Willam H. Beck later became lieutenant colonel of the 8th Cavalry and a brigadier general before his death in 1911.

Paul Beck was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 5th Infantry on 1 September 1899, then promoted to first lieutenant on 25 July 1902 while serving with the 5th Infantry at Vigan, Luzon. He subsequently attended three service branch courses, graduating from the Infantry School, the Cavalry School in 1905, and the Signal Corps School in 1906. On 4 February 1907 he was assigned to the Signal Corps on detached service and stationed at Benicia Barracks, California. On 11 March 1911, while on service with the Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps, Beck was promoted to captain.

Captain Beck was recalled to the Infantry on 1 May 1912 and promoted to brevet major on 5 August 1917. He was promoted to brevet lieutenant colonel on 5 August 1918. On 28 August 1919 his rank of Major, Infantry, was made permanent, and he rose to his final grade of lieutenant colonel on 20 July 1920.

After the passage of the National Defense Act of 1920 made it a combatant arm, Beck transferred on 9 August from the Infantry to the Air Service. Beck took additional pilot training at Carlstrom Field, Florida between 30 September 1920 and 31 March 1921 before becoming commandant of Henry B. Post Airfield at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, on 14 April, 1921.

Unsourced information indicates that Beck married Ruth Evelyn Everett of Lyons, Nebraska, in April 1898, and that they had a son, Paul Ward Beck, Jr., born 27 February 1897. Mrs. Beck, a graduate of the Fremont Normal School in Fremont, Nebraska, (a teacher's college), was at the time a noted author of short stories and works on American Indians. Paul Beck Jr also became an Army officer.

Pioneer aviator

Beck's homicide


* [ Paul W. Beck, Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Army, Arlington National Cemetery website]

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