Beck, Marvin D.

Marvin Beck was born May 10, 1949 in Opelika, Alabama. His family moved to Huntsville in 1951 and Marvin graduated from Huntsville High in 1967. After two years at Auburn University, Marvin enlisted in the Army's Warrant Officer flight program. After earning his basic wings, Warrant Officer Beck attended and graduated from the advanced helicopter school for attack helicopter (Cobra). WO Beck was then assigned to Vietnam in October 1970, first serving as the gunner (front seat) and then became the flight commander, logging over 1100 hours. WO Beck was shot down once in Vietnam and twice in Laos during the Laotian incursion, earning him the Purple Heart on two occasions. On 24 March 1971, Warrant Officer Beck was serving as aircraft commander of an AH-1G Cobra gunship and lead pilot for his light fire team. While screening for the withdrawal of the First ARVN Marines, the command and control pilot for Warrant Officer Beck's team sighted a column of North Vietnamese tanks less than a mile behind the ARVNs. Realizing that tanks could wreak havoc with the lightly equipped Marines, Warrant Officer Beck immediately attacked the column. Courageously flying through the tremendous volume of fire available to such a column, he made pass after pass, often breaking at dangerous low altitudes, in an attempt to block the road with damaged vehicles until airstrikes could be called in. His first run totally destroyed one tank, causing it to burn for 15 minutes. Subsequent runs by he and his team mate resulted in two tanks heavily damaged and five enemy soldiers killed. Airstikes tallied an additional 13 tanks destroyed and numerous enemy soldiers killed. Warrant Officer Beck's fierce attack had stopped the column long enough for the fighter bombers to arrive and complete the destruction. His personal bravery was responsible, in large part, for the successful withdrawal of the First ARVN Marines from Laos. Warrant Officer Beck's heroism resulted in the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the nation's highest award for heroism while participating in aerial flight.