Private First Class Richard Norris Bean

Private First Class Richard Norris Bean was born in Princeton, West Virginia on the 6th of August 1919.  Richard was the third son of Arthur and Rosie Bean.  The Bean family grew to seven boys and one girl.  His family first moved to Montgomery County, Va, near the home of his paternal grandmother, and then on to Manassas.  By 1940, he was renting a room from a Pullman Conductor, Otis Frederick and his wife Ann of Manassas while working as a laborer on a farm.  He enlisted in the Army on the 4th of September 1941 in Christiansburg, Virginia near his Grandmother’s house, and was assigned to Company C, 3rd Battalion, Camp Wheeler in Macon, Georgia for a 13-week basic and advanced training course.  Upon completion of his training, he was assigned to Company I, 3rd Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment (Appleknockers), 27th Infantry (Orion) Division at Fort McClellan, Georgia, and moved with it when the Division was transferred to Fort Ord near Monterey, California on the 16th of December 1941.

Formal orders alerting the Division for overseas duty were received on the 1st of February 1942.  The first elements of the 27th Infantry Division boarded ships bound for Hawaii on the 27th of February, the first Infantry Division to leave the states following Pearl Harbor.  On the 10th of March, the rest of the Division embarked on trains that carried them to San Francisco.  When they arrived in San Francisco, they were sent to the San Francisco Cow Palace for staging.  The 3rd Battalion of the 105th arrived in Hawaii on the 17th of March.
The Division remained in Hawaii for a number of months assigned to beach defense near Hilo, Hawaii, during which time it was triangularized, with the 108th Infantry regiment being reassigned to the 40th Division.  A Division that has been triangularized has been given three infantry regiments instead of the four of a square Division.  This final reorganization dismantled the brigade structure and again dropped the Division’s strength to 14,000 men.  Following the reorganization, the 27th Division was shifted to Oahu, where it would relieve the 25th Infantry Division, which was slated to join U.S forces fighting in Guadalcanal.  Private Bean was promoted to Private First Class in April of 1942.  Private Bean spent five weeks in the hospital from the 6th of June to the 10th of July 1942, recovering from appendicitis.

In September 1943, Private Bean was transferred to Company D, 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment.    On the 10th of November of 1943, the 27th embarked on its first combat assignment, Operation GALVANIC, the capture of the coral atolls of Tarawa, and Makin in the Gilbert Islands.   The 105th Infantry Regiment’s 3rd Battalion was attached to the 165th Infantry Regiment (Fighting 69th) for the operation.  Its mission was to land on Butaritari Island, the principal island of the Makin Atoll, on the 20th of November 1943, and on the 24th of November, they left the atoll for Hawaii, where they arrived on the 2nd of December.  Units from the 27th Division also occupied the Majuro atoll on the 1st of February 1944 and successfully assaulted Eniwetok Island on the 19th of February of the same year. 

The division began preparations for Operation FORAGER, the invasion of the Marianas, on the 15th of March.  This would be the first time all elements of the Regiment would see combat as a unit.  The Regiment left Hawaii on May 31st aboard the USS CAVALIER.  On D-day plus 1, the 16th of June 1944, elements of the Division landed at night on Saipan to support the Second and Fourth Marine Divisions.  The 105th landed on Yellow Beach 3 the morning of the 17th.  A beachhead was established, and Aslito Airfield was captured on the 18th of June.  The 105th Regiment was initially responsible for clearing the hilly and well fortified southern point of Saipan, which was later found to have been held by over 1,200 Japanese defenders.  Following this, the Regiment joined the rest of the 27th Division and the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions for what would be an extremely bloody assault on Mount Tapotchau, the island’s key defensive position.  The nicknames given by the Americans to the features of the battle, "Hell’s Pocket", "Purple Heart Ridge" and "Death Valley", indicate the severity of the fighting.  The Japanese used the many caves in the volcanic landscape to delay the attackers, by hiding during the day and attacking at night.  The Americans gradually developed tactics for clearing the caves by using flamethrower teams supported by artillery and machine guns.  Fighting continued throughout June.  Saipan was the first time the 27th Division’s regiments fought together as a full Division.

By the 6th of July, US forces held 60% of Saipan and had killed 12,000 Japanese defenders.  Intelligence believed most Japanese were dead; however, 5,000 Japanese remained alive.  By the early morning of July 7th, the Japanese were ready to attack.  They knew they had no hope of succeeding, but simply felt it was better to die in action than in a cave.  At 0400, forty-five thousand Japanese soldiers stuck the frontline 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th in a “Banzai” charge.  By 0445, overwhelmed by the number of attackers, fighting devolved into hand-to-hand combat.  The forward positions of the 105th were overrun, and the remaining survivors were forced to fall back.  A rifleman from the 105th Infantry described the scene, “Our weapons opened up, our mortars and machine guns fired continually.  No longer do they fire in bursts of three or five.  Belt after belt of ammunition goes through that gun, the gunner swinging the barrel left and right.  Even though Jap bodies built up in front of us, they still charged us, running over their comrades’ fallen bodies.  The mortar tubes became so hot from the rapid fire, as did the machine gun barrels, that they could no longer be used.  Although each (attack) had taken its toll, still they came in droves.”  By 0800, a new defensive perimeter was set up in and around Tanapag.  For the next four hours, the remaining able-bodied troops fought a holding action.  By the end of the attack, American forces had suffered almost 1,000 killed and wounded, and over 4,000 Japanese had been killed.
Private First Class Bean was last seen in his fighting position and was presumed killed in action during the battle for Saipan early on the 7th of July 1944 repelling the Japanese charge.  His body was not recovered, and he was listed as Missing in Action.  Private Bean was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and Good Conduct Medal.  Private Bean’s name is on the Tablets of the Missing, Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii.

In August 2013, a group from Japan, searching for missing Japanese soldiers, located Private Bean’s remains and his Dog Tag.  The U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command confirmed the identity of the remains on the 13th of August 2014, and they were turned over to his family for burial.  Private First Class Richard Bean was buried at Quantico National Cemetery in October 2014 and his artifacts were donated to the Freedom Museum in May 2015.

27th Infantry Division                                                105th Infantry Regiment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *