RADM John K Beling

October 29, 1919November 5, 2010

John K. Beling, Rear Admiral USN (Retired)

John K. Beling, Rear Admiral USN (Retired) died Friday, November 5, 2010 in Reston, VA from consequences of pneumonia. The son of Aelian Arnold and Mabel Jackson Beling, he was born in New York City October 29, 1919 and raised in Harrington Park, New Jersey. He resided in Arlington, VA for more than 40 years.

RADM Beling's naval career spanned 32 years and included service in World War II and the Vietnam War. He is perhaps best known and admired for his duty as Commanding Officer of the aircraft carrier USS FORRESTAL from May 1966 to September 1967. During combat operations off the coast of Vietnam in July 1967, an uncontrolled fire broke out on the flight deck. The fire and subsequent explosions killed 134 men and seriously injured many others. His critical decisions during the disaster and calm assurance of the crew are credited with helping to bring the ship to safe harbor.

He attended Stevens Institute of Technology, earning the degree of Mechanical Engineer in 1941. With the onset of World War II, he entered the Naval Reserve as an Ensign aviation specialist. He resigned his commission in July 1942 to start flight training as a Seaman Second Class. In January 1943, he received his wings and was again commissioned an Ensign. He joined the Pacific Fleet as a carrier-based dive bomber pilot with Bombing Squadron ONE. During the Marianas Campaign his Curtis Helldiver was hit by ground fire over the island of Yap. Badly burned, he parachuted onto the enemy-held island, paddled his raft across the coral reef through breaking waves and reached open sea. Spotted by a seaplane from the cruiser Biloxi, he was rescued under fire. After hospitalization he returned to carrier aviation as a fighter pilot.

After the war, he undertook postgraduate training in aeronautical engineering and in physics, receiving the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Physics from M.I.T. in 1951. Thereafter, his naval career was divided about equally between operational assignments and research, development, test and evaluation. Highlights of technical duty were a tour in the Office of Naval Research, London, which included research at Harwell, a major British nuclear facility, three years in Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, California, duty in Air Development Squadron FIVE in the Mojave Desert, and two tours in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations involving weapons development. On the operational side he served in various ships and aviation squadrons, commanding USS FORRESTAL, USS ALSTEDE and three attack squadrons. His final assignment was as Commander, Iceland Defense Force, a post of interesting military and diplomatic responsibilities during the Cold War. In addition to campaign medals covering service from World War II to Vietnam, he received the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart Medal, Air Medal with two Gold Stars, Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, and Commanders Cross with Star of the Order of the Icelandic Falcon.

After retiring from the Navy in 1973 he directed the Net Technical Assessment Office, which was responsible to the Secretary of Defense for comparing and contrasting U.S. and Soviet weapons systems and programs. In 1977 he joined TRW in McLean, VA as a Strategic Analyst, directing studies until 1985. In retirement he pursued an amateur interest in farming, maintaining a small property in Rockingham County, VA, which he visited frequently with his wife and an ever-growing collection of dogs. He also served as a Director of the USS FORRESTAL Museum, an organization devoted to preserving the ship, which was decommissioned in 1993, as a museum.

He is survived by his wife of sixty years, Evelyn O’Brien Beling of Reston, VA, three children, James J. Beling of Arlington, VA, Nancy A. Gallagher of Sterling, VA and Peter A. Beling of Charlottesville, VA, daughter-in-law Margaret T. Beling, son-in-law Edward F. Gallagher and seven grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his parents Aelian and Mabel Beling, brother Charles A. Beling, and grandson Samuel J. Beling.

Burial with full military honors will be at the Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 9:00 a.m. A reception at the Fort Meyer Officers’ Club will follow. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be sent to: USS FORRESTAL Memorial Fund, PO Box 225, Fort Loramie, OH 45845. Funeral arrangements managed by the Arlington Funeral Home. Contact them at


  • Funeral Service Wednesday, February 9, 2011
  • Interment Wednesday, February 9, 2011

RADM John K Beling

have a memory or condolence to add?

David H Coe

December 11, 2015

It was an Honor to serve under Captain John K. Beling aboard the USS Forrestal. He was and remains to this day, the greatest example of Leadership I have ever experienced.

Barry E Magee

June 1, 2014

I just recently learned of the death of Rear Admiral Beling. To Mrs. Beling and family, I offer my sincere condolences. I had the honor and privilege of serving as Admiral Beling's Flag Writer at Keflavik, Iceland along with Captain Paul D. Roman (Chief Staff) and LCDR Steele Gladston (Aide). Admiral Beling was a true gentleman, a leader among leaders and one of the finest Admirals in the US Navy I had the pleasure of working for. I am proud to say that he was not only my Boss, Admiral Beling became my friend. I had the pleasure of having lunch with the Admiral in his Quarters following his change of command ceremony in Iceland with quiet conversation. It is a memory I will remember for the rest of my life. MACS BARRY E. MAGEE, USN (ret.) Rest in peace, Sir.

April 3, 2011


AL DICKERT (Counselor and Spl Agnt DIA

March 22, 2011

Dear Beling Family,
Admiral Beling was a man amoung men, He taught me how to be a leader, his example of integrity and courage is one that I will never forget, and always admire. I just played the Audio of Captain Belings prayer for those of us aboard the USS Forrestal to my 15 year old grandson as an example of faith and courage under fire.
I salute you Admiral Beling, you will not be forgotten, you will be fondly remembered.

God Bless you and your family.

David H. Coe
USS Forestal CVA 59 64-68

John Ritchie

March 14, 2011

I served under Capt Beling during our west-pac deployment,his leadership was 4.0 he gave us a sense,that everything was going to be alright. may the Lord Jesus give his family peace.JohnRitchie v-4 div 1966-1969

Elaine Bourgeois

January 22, 2011

Admiral Beling presented my husband, Dennis Bourgeois, The Second Navy Achievment Medal while we were stationed in Iceland. We are saddened by his passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Mary Corbitt

December 8, 2010

I had the honor of serving as Admiral Beling's secretary when he served as Commander, Iceland Defense Force. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Mary Z. Corbitt
Department of Defense Civilian, Retired

Forrest Rogers

November 29, 2010

It was my privilege to serve Adm. Beling and his family in Iceland. The Admiral was a mentor and example. I have never forgotten the kindness shown me by the Beling family. Our thoughts and Prayers are with you all.

Sgt. F.E. Rogers, Marine Detachment

November 21, 2010

God bless Capt. Beling.

Philip M. Meyer
QM3 N Division
USS Forrestal (July 29, 1967)

Charley Rogers

November 21, 2010

He was more than a Hero...
Resr in Peace, Admiral
Charley Rogers, VAW-123