Editor’s note: Rotary Club of Napa, Sunrise, is hosting the 4th of July parade in downtown Napa again this year. Each Monday before the parade Angela Hoxsey, a Rotarian, will interview one of the club’s veterans.
Napa Sunrise Rotarian Jim Beazley was born in California but grew up in Reno. He joined the Naval Reserves in 1967 and then started active duty in 1968-1969. He served four additional years in the Reserves following active duty.
“I was in my freshman year at the University of Nevada, Reno, and I majored in wine, women and song,” he joked. “My grades reflected that and since it was the hottest time in the Vietnam War, I knew I would be drafted. My father knew someone who was able to get me into the Naval Reserves.”
Beazley’s family was, in his words, “very large into World War II.” His father, who was born in 1906, was too young to serve in World War I and too old to serve in World War II. Beazley had two uncles, however, who did serve in World War II, one a dentist on the Enterprise, which was hit three or four times by kamikazes, and another who flew PBYs, a type of patrol plane that could land on water.
Although he naively requested riverine patrol, which he found out later was extremely dangerous, Beazley was fortunate to be stationed on Guam. “They made us travel in full dress uniform, which at that time was blue wool. We stepped off the plane and it was like stepping into a sauna,” he said. “A rat the size of a cocker spaniel loped across the parade ground and it was like, ‘Welcome to Guam!’”
The officer in charge asked the men, “Who can type?” and Beazley shot his hand up and was given duty in an air-conditioned personnel office. This did not prevent him from seeing some of the horrors of war. B-52s took off daily and buzzed around the island on their way to Vietnam.
One day, Beazley delivered papers to a soldier in the hospital who had been shot in the cheek and the bullet had taken out part of his jaw. “This was before the reconstructive surgery available now,” he said, “But this guy was so happy to be alive and to be out of Vietnam. That really left an impression on me.”
Beazley was often volunteered to serve as an honor guard for the many funerals that took place on Guam. “Guam is a territory of the U.S., and the indigenous people are U.S. citizens; many volunteered for riverine patrol and many came back in boxes,” he said.
Beazley’s girlfriend back home sold his car and used the money to come to Guam. They were married in a Quonset hut and she got a job as a clerk typist, immediately making more money than her soldier husband. When they returned to the States, Beazley went directly back to school and graduated with a degree in journalism. He worked at a Reno newspaper for 10 years before coming to Napa with his second wife and opening the Beazley House in 1981, a bed and breakfast that he sold just last year.
“Looking back on my service. I didn’t know that much when I joined up; so much of what I learned about Vietnam turned me against it,” Beazley reflected. “I lost a lot of friends. Yet I am proud I did my duty as a citizen.”
Concluding the interview, Beazley said, “I was fortunate that I went to a place that was far away from harm and I grew up a lot. As I tell my grandkids, joining the military is a good thing if it doesn’t kill you.”