Navy Author's Bio Pages
Captian Edward L. Beach Jr. U.S.N. (dec)
from "Naval History and Heritage Command"
30 June 1867 – 20 December 1943
(June 30, 1867 – December 20, 1943) was a United States Navy officer and author. He served in three of the United States’ wars, ranging from the Spanish–American War up through World War I. He was the father of the future Captain Edward L. Beach Jr. who commanded the nuclear-powered submarine USS Triton during her 1960 submerged circumnavigation and wrote the 1955 best-selling novel “Run Silent, Run Deep”. Edward Latimer Beach Sr. was born in Toledo, Ohio on June 30, 1867, the son of Joseph Lane Beach and Laura Colton (Osborn) Beach. His father was a Lieutenant in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War.
Beach was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy from the State of Minnesota in 1884, and graduated in June 1888 as a Passed Midshipman.
Passed Midshipman Beach reported for duty on board the wooden steam sloop of war Richmond. After completing sea duty and further training, he was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy on July 1, 1890 and then assigned to engineering duties aboard the cruiser Philadelphia (C-4). His subsequent seagoing assignments included the armored cruiser New York (ACR-2) and the training ship Essex, plus engineering-related shore duty.
Spanish-American War and Phillippine-American War
Beach participated in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish–American War, where he served on board the cruiser Baltimore (C-3) He subsequently participated in the ensuing war with the Philippines. During that time he was in command of a squad of men that intercepted a Filipino boat carrying the wife of Filipino leader Emilio Aguinaldo. Upon realizing whom the captive was, Beach released Mrs. Aguinaldo in a gesture of Victorian gentlemanly manners. Several months later, Beach was in command of another squad of Blue Jackets searching ashore for the enemy when he was separated from his men and captured by Filipinos. When Emilio Aguinaldo learned the name of the captured naval officer he ordered Beach released, but not before the two met. They remained lifelong friends, corresponding on a regular basis.
In 1899, as the Navy combined its line and engineer officer ranking systems, Beach became a lieutenant. He was subsequently promoted to lieutenant commander in 1905, commander in 1910, and captain in 1914.
United States Naval Academy
In tours between duties at sea, Commander Beach taught English at the Naval Academy in the early 1900s (decade), spending his spare time writing novels for young adults.
Vera Cruz Occupation
In 1913, now a Commander, Beach’s first command was the collier Vestal (AS-4) which assigned to support American forces ashore during the United States occupation of Veracruz, Mexico in 1914.
By 1915, Captain Beach was in command of the armored cruiser USS Washington (ACR-11), participating in peacekeeping missions in Haiti. While his ship was in Haiti, it served as flagship for Rear Admiral William H. Caperton, USN, who utilized Beach as his go-between in negotiating a treaty with Haiti on behalf of the United States in 1915.
When Washington was due for a Navy Yard refit, Beach command was shifted to the armored cruiser Tennessee (ACR-10). While commanding Tennessee, Beach took United States Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo and a party of dignitaries on a tour of several South American nations. Upon returning to the United States, Tennessee was renamed the Memphis so that the state’s name could be given to a new battleship, USS Tennessee (BB-43), then under construction.
The wreck of the Memphis
Memphis was at anchor .5 nmi (0.58 mi; 0.93 km) off a rocky beach in 45 ft (14 m) of water in the harbor of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic on the afternoon of 29 August 1916 with two of her 16 boilers operating in case she needed to get underway; the gunboat USS Castine also was anchored in the harbor. Shortly after 12:00, Memphis began to roll heavily and Captain Beach observed an unexpected heavy swell developing. Memphis and Castine both made preparations to leave the harbor and began to raise steam; Memphis expected to be able to get underway at about 16:35.
Conditions in the harbor had deteriorated badly by 15:45, when Memphis sighted an approaching 75 ft (23 m) wave of yellow water stretching along the entire horizon. By 16:00, the wave was closer, had turned ochre in color, and had reached about 100 ft (30 m) in height; at the same time, Memphis was rolling 45°, so heavily that large amounts of water cascaded into the ship via her gun ports and water even was entering the ship via ventilators 50 ft (15 m) above the waterline. By 16:25, water began to enter the ship via her funnels, 70 ft (21 m) above the waterline, putting out the fires in her boilers and preventing her from raising enough steam to get underway. She began to strike the rocky harbor bottom at 16:40, damaging her propellers just as she was raising enough steam to begin moving, and her engines lost steam pressure. At about this time, the giant wave Memphis had seen approaching over the past hour arrived; she rolled into a deep trough and was struck immediately by three very large waves in rapid succession, the highest of them estimated by the crew to have been 70 ft (21 m) in height, completely swamping her except for her highest points, and washing crewmen overboard. The waves rolled her heavily, caused her to strike the harbor bottom, then pushed her to the beach .5 nmi (0.58 mi; 0.93 km) away. By 17:00, she had been driven under cliffs along the coast of the harbor and was resting on the harbor bottom. She was battered into a complete wreck in 90 minutes. Castine, meanwhile, managed to reach safer waters by getting underway and putting to sea through the large waves, although damaged by them and at times in danger of capsizing. Memphis’s casualties, including a boatload of her sailors returning from shore leave in a motor launch and caught in the harbor by the huge waves, numbered 43 men dead or missing and 204 badly injured.
A court martial found Beach guilty of “not having enough steam available to get under way on short notice”, with the huge waves at the time being considered a byproduct of weather and therefore predictable. In light of the circumstances, however, Beach’s punishment was limited to being moved back 20 places on the seniority list, a sentence that was further reduced to five places by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels when evidence was presented that the waves were a tsunami generated by an underwater earthquake, and not freak wind-driven waves generated by a hurricane.
In his detailed 1966 account of the incident, “The Wreck of the Memphis“, Captain Beach’s son, Edward L. Beach Jr., ascribed her loss to an unexpected tsunami exceeding 100 ft (30 m) in height, as Daniels had been told, and this explanation has been carried forward by most sources discussing her loss. More recent research, however, has called this explanation into question. No record of any seismic event in the Caribbean on 29 August 1916 that could have triggered a tsunami has been found, and the rate of advance of the large wave Memphis reported — about an hour to cross the distance from the horizon to the ship — matches that of a wind-generated ocean wave (possibly a rogue wave); a tsunami, in contrast, would have covered the distance in only a few minutes. The periods of the three large waves that struck Memphis also are characteristic of large wind-generated waves rather than tsunamis.
A likely source for such large, wind-generated waves in Santo Domingo Harbor on 29 August 1916 does exist, in that three hurricanes active in the Caribbean between 12 August and 2 September 1916 passed westward just to the south. Waves generated from these storms could well have combined to create a set of large waves like those that struck and wrecked Memphis. Such a circumstance appears to explain the loss of the ship better than the tsunami theory. Oceanographer Dr. George Pararas-Carayammis in particular published an extensively detailed rebuttal demonstrating that a tsunami could not have caused the foundering of Memphis, but that the last of the three hurricanes, a category 2 hurricane, likely did, creating a 59-foot (18-meter) wave that reached a breaker height of 90 feet (27.4 meters) as it approached Memphis. This swamped the cruiser, ill-advisedly anchored in only 55 feet (16.8 meters) of water, and would have done so even had the ship been at full maneuvering power. Pararas-Carayammis concluded that had Memphis been anchored in 100 to 120 feet (30 to 37 meters) of water, she would have ridden out the swells, including the killer wave.
World War I
When the United States entered World War I (1914–1918) in April 1917, Beach was assigned to command the Navy Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island. In November 1918 he was named as commanding officer of battleship USS New York, which was the flagship of the American battleship squadron attached to the British Home Fleet. As commanding officer of New York, he welcomed King George V of Britain aboard and was present for the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet just after the end of the war.
Beach’s last command was the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on San Francisco Bay, where he oversaw the construction of the battleship California (BB-44). Captain Beach retired from the U.S Navy in September 1921 after a 37-year career.
During his lifetime, Beach published thirteen novels, all written for young adults. Twelve of the novels constitute volumes in four-book series, all written in the tradition of the Horatio Alger stories—hard work and honesty will lead to success. Beach’s novels, which were highly popular when they were first printed in the years of 1907 to 1922, were instrumental in planting the seeds for naval careers in the minds of many of the men who served as naval officers during World War II. His autobiography, “From Annapolis to Scapa Flow”: the Autobiography of Edward L. Beach Sr. was published in 2003, having been edited by his son Edward L. Beach Jr., who was also a career naval officer and author.
n 1895, Beach married Lucie Adelaide Quin of New York, but they had no children. She died in 1915 of breast cancer. In 1917, Beach was married for the second time to Marie Justine Alice Fouché (1888-1970), a Haitian-Dominican woman of French ancestry. She is the daughter of Elisabeth Marguerite Cora Geffrard (1866-1900) and Joseph Philippe Fouché (1859-1899). Her maternal grandmother is Rosa Amelia Heureaux (1830-1901), a close relative of Dominican presidents Ulises “Lillis” Heureaux (1845-1899), Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina (1891-1961), and Joaquin Antonio Balaguer Ricardo (1906-2002). Beach and his second wife had three children: Edward L. Beach Jr., John Blair Beach, and Alice Laura Beach.
In 1921, Beach joined the faculty of Stanford University as professor of military and naval history. He also served later as City Clerk and Assessor for the City of Palo Alto, California. Beach died at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, Oakland, California, on 20 December 1943, and is interred at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California. His second wife Alice Fouché is buried next to him.
Spanish Campaign Medal
Philippine Campaign Medal
Mexican Service Medal
Haitian Campaign Medal
Dominican Campaign Medal
World War I Victory Medal
1. “Admiral Caperton in Haiti”. Naval Historical Foundation. Retrieved 2007-08-12.
2. For a description of the loss of Memphis, see Smith, pp. 67–70.
3. Beach, The Wreck of the Memphis.
4. See, for example, Gardiner, Robert, ed., Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905, New York: Mayflower Books, Inc., 1979, ISBN 0-8317-0302-4, p. 149, for another citation of the 100-foot tsunami explanation.
5. For a discussion of the lack of evidence for a tsunami and the more compelling evidence for freak wind-generated waves having wrecked Memphis, see Smith, pp. 68–69.
6. For a discussion of the lack of evidence for a tsunami and the more compelling evidence for freak wind-generated waves having wrecked Memphis, see Smith, pp. 68–69.
7. “The Loss of the USS Memphis on 29 August 1916 – Was a Tsunami Responsible? Analysis of a Naval Disaster” by Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis
8. heinonline.org 4 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 520 (1935–1936) Annotations of Opinions of the Attorney General of the United States