German cut loose with his machine gun – ‘I took 16 bullets in my stomach, side, arm & shoulder’
Sgt. Chuck Beaty was leading an advanced patrol of the 7th Infantry Regiment’s 3rd Division. It was part of Gen. George S. Patton’s 7th Army that invaded Sicily in July 1943 during World War II.
“It was Aug. 16, 1943, and ours was the lead patrol headed for Messina,” the old soldier said. “We had come across a dried up creek bed and were headed up a hill. I saw three Germans carrying submachine guns walking across in front of me.
“I dropped them with my M-1 rifle. The first German soldier got up and stood there for a moment about 20 feet away. I emptied a clip of bullets into him, but I couldn’t knock him down,” Beaty recalled. “I was using armor-piercing bullets and they were going right through him.
“He cut loose with his submachine gun. I took 16 bullets through my stomach, side, arm and shoulder according to my doctors,” he said as he pointed toward his gut. “It was just like someone hit you with a baseball bat. That’s what it felt like.”
Beaty pulled back the sleeve of his Banlon shirt to expose his left shoulder and arm. Part of his upper arm looked like some of the muscle had been scooped out.
“All of the muscles are gone back there. What they did was pull part of my arm around so the bullet holes wouldn’t show,” Beaty said.
“After I got shot, I turned my patrol over to another sergeant about 50 feet behind me and told him I was going to try and make it back to the first aid station about a mile and a half away. I had to get there on my own.”
How does one reach help more than a mile away with 16 bullet holes in them?
“There’s a secret about being shot. Once you get shot and before trauma sets in, don’t stop moving,” Beaty said authoritatively. “Once you stop, you can’t get started again.”
Beaty can’t recall how long it took him to make it back to where there was supposed to be medical help available. What he does recall is that when he staggered into the tent, there stood Gen. Omar Bradley, commander of all Allied ground forces in Europe.
“Bradley motioned me over. He wanted to talk to me about conditions at the front. I told him what I knew and what had happened to me,” Beaty said. “He just listened and didn’t say much of anything. Then he told me, ‘We don’t have an aid station here, but I’m going to get a Jeep for you that will take you back behind the lines to the nearest station.'”
He was put in the passenger seat with a driver and off they went to find medical help. Apparently the bleeding from his multiple gunshot wounds stopped.
He eventually got to see a doctor.
“My surgeons were from the Cleveland Clinic, the best in the world. At first they were going to take off my left arm, but I said no and they saved it,” Beaty said.
Years later, after the war, he was working for the Veterans’ Administration at Ashley General Hospital (Greenbrier Hotel) in West Virginia when Gen. Bradley stopped in.
“I said to him, ‘You probably don’t recognize me, but I think you saved my life. When I got shot up you were in a forward outfit in Sicily and you got a Jeep for me that took me back to a first aid station.’ Gen. Bradley said, ‘I don’t remember you at all. But I do remember I was up front too far ahead of where I should have been at times.’ That’s about all he said to me.”
Beaty began his military career on Feb. 9, 1938 after graduating from high school. He grew up in Alamogordo, N.M.
He was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, with the 7th Cavalry, once upon a time Gen. George Custer’s outfit that was wiped out at the Little Big Horn in the 1870s. Later, as a member of Company G, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division, Beaty was sent to China, before U.S. forces became involved in WW II.
“We were to join Col. Claire Chenault and his Flying Tigers in China and serve as part of his ground crew. A second lieutenant and 17 privates (including Beaty) were put ashore at a pier along the Chinese coast and told to find Chenault,” he said. “Two months later we found him, but he didn’t want us. He sent all of us back on a ship to Australia. From there we went back to the States.”
Beaty got back to the United States in time to be part of the Allied invasion of North African in November 1942.
“We made the initial landing at Casablanca, Morocco. My unit went in a few hours before the first wave hit the beaches,” he said. “We were sent in first to try and figure out what the Vichy French (who collaborated with the Germans) were up to.
“It wasn’t pleasant going in,” the former sergeant said. “We lost our company commander in the street fighting in Casablanca. He had his head cut off by a shell.”
After the initial landing, Beaty’s unit was attached to British Gen. Bernard Montgomery’s 8th Army in North Africa. It wasn’t good duty for the Americans.
“After Casablanca we went up toward the Kasserine Pass. I learned how to run at the Kasserine Pass and jump over walls and things like that,” he said. “We were assigned to the British and we knew (Gen. Irwin) Rommel and the Germans were coming at us so we ran.”
After Patton took command of American forces in North Africa, Beaty’s outfit was assigned to Patton’s 7th Army. He was involved in the Battle of Mateur, Tunisia, where Patton lost all his tanks, and the Battle of Hill 609. They also took part in the invasion of Sicily eight months later.
“We made the initial landing in Sicily. Going into the beach our landing craft was sunk and we had a lot of fun with the Germans on the beach,” he said. “We were to go in first and establish a perimeter around the northern side of Agrigento.”
Despite taking a battering from German 88mm artillery barrages, they made it to their objective and held until relieved. From their his 3rd Division hoofed it to Palermo, the island’s major city along it’s northwest coast, fighting all the way. When they got there, they took over for the 45th Division at the “Lemon Grove” outside Palermo.
After that, Beaty and his unit became forward observers for his division as it marched toward Messina at the other end of the island along with the rest of Patton’s 7th Army and took control of Sicily from Axis forces. It was near Messina the former sergeant had his run-in with the three machine-gun-carrying Germans.
After recovering from his war wounds, the former infantryman joined the staff of the Veterans’ Administration. Eventually he became executive director of all VA hospitals in Region 5, which stretches from California north to Oregon and Washington state — overseeing 42 VA hospitals altogether during his 30-year career with the federal government.
He and his wife, Jeanne, moved to Port Charlotte in 1978 after they retired.
Name: Chuck Beaty
Hometown: Alamogordo, NM
Currently: Port Charlotte, Fla.
Entered Service: 9 Feb 1938
Commendations: Purple Heart, Silver Star, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Six Battle Stars for the six major battles he participated in
Battles/Campaigns: North Africa, Sicily and Italy
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2004 and is republished with permission.
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