On Dec. 4, 2017, Trooper Clarence H. Beavers, one of the first African American paratroopers who also served as a smokejumper during World War Two, passed away at age 96. Funeral services were held Dec. 11 in his hometown of Huntington, New York.
Mr. Beavers made history as one of the original 17 test platoon members of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion known as the Triple Nickles. After achieving combat readiness, the segregated Army did not allow the unit to fight in Europe in 1945 and instead sent the Triple Nickles to work on the secret mission “Operation Firefly.” They were tasked with protecting Western forests and populations from wildfires the Japanese were attempting to start using incendiary bombs suspended from balloons and floated toward the Pacific Northwest forests.
In 1945 both smokejumping and airborne combat units were in their infancy and quite perilous duty. It is a testament to the skills and bravery of Mr. Beavers and the Triple Nickles that they trained and were willing to do both. In the summer of that year, members of the battalion fought 36 fires and made over 1,200 parachute jumps. During a time of war and an era of segregation, Mr. Beavers volunteered to serve his country with courage, dignity and valor.
The Forest Service honored Mr. Beavers and fellow test platoon members First Sergeant Walter Morris and Lieutenant Roger Walden during a March 2010 Forest Service ceremony at national headquarters in Washington, D.C. In 2013, both Morris and Walden passed away, leaving Beavers as the only remaining member from the original test platoon.
Mr. Beavers is a part of several group photos that are proudly displayed in the Triple Nickles Conference Room at the agency’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Our agency will always remember him for his bravery, sacrifice and service to the American people and wildand firefighting.
We salute Trooper Clarence H. Beavers and honor him on taking his last jump in life…Airborne, all the way!