Clarence Beavers passes

| December 12, 2017 | 18 Comments

We got the sad news today that the last of the surviving original volunteers for the “Triple Nickels”, the all-black parachute regiment, Clarence Beavers passed at the age of 96. From Stars & Stripes;

His unit, which formed the original core of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion or Triple Nickles, was never as well known as the Tuskegee Airmen or Buffalo Soldiers. Yet the 17-member group played a seminal role in the integration of the military and the development of smoke jumping, a novel firefighting method in which remote forest fires – sparked by Japanese bombs carried by balloons – were fought by men who protected themselves with modified football helmets and willfully landed in trees.


Beavers was the first volunteer of what was known as the test platoon of black paratroopers, a unit that was meant to decide the fate of African Americans in the airborne. In what he later recalled was “extremely rough and extremely personal training,” he and his fellow black soldiers slept two-to-a-bunk in a cramped, unheated hut and ate separately from their white peers in the mess hall. German prisoners of war experienced better conditions at the base, platoon members later said.

Still, 17 of the unit’s 20 original members, successfully earned their wings, becoming the founding members of the all-black 555th.

According to the article, the 555th was sent to the Pacific Northwest in 1945 to work with the National Park Service fighting forest fires started by Japan’s balloon bombs on a secret counter-terrorism mission entitled “Operation Firefly”;

The Triple Nickles responded to about three dozen fire calls and performed more than 1,200 individual jumps, putting out fires started by bombs as well as by lightning or other natural causes. Working with crosscut saws, shovels and a combination digging-cutting tool called a Pulaski, they sought to starve fires using similar methods to those of contemporary smoke jumpers.

Contrary to their training, when they practiced landing in open fields, they avoided the risk of landing in a rock-strewn meadow or prairie and aimed for the trees themselves – wearing a protective helmet that mixed elements of a football helmet and mesh-faced fencing mask to guard against stray branches.

The 2d Ranger Company in the Korean War were recruited from the Triple Nickel when they were disbanded after desegregation and the 2d Ranger Company became the only all-black Ranger company in history. But Mr Beavers, a staff sergeant after the war, left the service and worked for the VA and DoD retiring in 1978 and becoming a volunteer firefighter in Upstate NY.

Category: We Remember

Comments (18)

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  1. Atkron says:

    RIP Sir, you saved millions upon millions of board feet of timber.

    From the son of a Logger, thank you very much.

  2. HMC Ret says:

    Rest in Peace, Brother. Thank you for your service during difficult times.

  3. OWB says:

    RIP, sir. You paved the way for a lot of good soldiers. May you now receive your reward, and peace.

  4. Green Thumb says:


    Rest well, Sir.

  5. Graybeard says:

    These were men who did not wait for others to take care of them. They took care of themselves and overcame all obstacles to prove themselves the equals – or superiors – of any other American.

  6. AW1Ed says:

    Fair winds and following seas, Mr. Beavers.

  7. Sparks says:

    Rest in well deserved peace Sir.

  8. Thunderstixx says:

    I am simply awed by these men that served America at a time when they were looked at as less than human in many cases.
    They fought two distinct wars at the same time, the war against the Axis Powers and the war against racism.
    I’m talking real racism here, the kind that made them eat at different tables than white folks etc…
    Rest easy now Sir. Mission accomplished.

  9. Messkit says:

    It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.


  10. OldManchu says:

    “…and willfully landed in trees.”


  11. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    I’ve read about “The Triple Nickels” as they were called, true Trailblazers in more ways then one.

    Rest In Peace Sir, you’ve earned your place in History and Valhalla.

  12. RGR 4-78 says:

    Rest in Peace.

  13. Deplorable B Woodman says:

    Kaeperdick could not be reached for comment.

  14. NHSparky says:

    Rest easy, sir. You’ve definitely earned it.

  15. Excelsior says:

    What a symbol of real military and American heroism and patriotism. Thank you all for the great comments much appreciated, from a Black USMC vet.

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