WWI Wall of Honor: James Alexander “Alec” Beaton

James Alexander “Alec” Beaton (1895-1963)

James Alexander “Alec” Beaton was born in Wisconsin, a son of Donald Alexander “Dan” Beaton and Mary Coey. His grandparents had immigrated to Quebec from the Scottish Highlands and from Ulster.

He enlisted in July 1917 in Wisconsin and served in three outfits, Company D of the Sixth Wisconsin National Guard, then Company D and Company E of the 107th Supply Train of the 32nd Infantry Division. He was a truck driver. He was scheduled to leave New York City on the ship SS Tasmania in January 1918, but he and several soldiers were held up for nearly six weeks – and that delay may have saved his life. The Tuscania was struck by a German submarine off Ireland on 5 February 1918, with a loss of 210 of the nearly 2,400 troops and crew aboard. The Royal Navy rescued the other 2,187. It was the only U.S. troop-transport ship that was sunk during WWI.

Alec got to France in March 1918, and he participated in four offenses including Argonne-Meuse where his brother Harry also served. Alec returned to the United States from Brest, France, on 7 May 1919, seven months after the Armistice. He received his honorable discharge on 30 May 1919, at Camp Grant, Illinois.

Alec had a difficult time in civilian life – three marriages, two divorces and one wife and child died in childbirth. He lived in Montana, Idaho and Oregon, working for the U.S. Forest Service, in a dental laboratory and as a bus driver, and suffered from ill health and alcoholism. He died 13 April 1963 at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Portland. He was buried at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland.

The Beaton brothers’ story is told in detail in the autumn 2018 edition of the Minnesota Genealogist.

Great-uncle of Zoe von Ende Lappin