Bill Beekman was born in 1946 in Ohio. He entered the U.S. Air Force Academy in June 1964, and graduated with a commission in the U.S. Air Force on June 5, 1968. Lt Beekman next completed Undergraduate Navigator Training and was awarded his navigator wings at Mather AFB, California, in August 1969, followed by F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training from August 1969 to April 1970. His first assignment was as an F-4 Weapons System Operator (WSO) with the 45th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 15th Tactical Fighter Wing at MacDill AFB, Florida, from April 1970 to December 1971, followed by service as an F-4 WSO with the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron at DaNang AB, South Vietnam, from December 1971 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on June 24, 1972. After spending 278 days in captivity, Capt Beekman was released during Operation Homecoming on March 28, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, and then attended Undergraduate Pilot Training, earning his pilot wings at Williams AFB, Arizona, in February 1975. Capt Beekman then served as a C-9 Nightingale pilot with the 11th Aeromedical Airlift Squadron of the 375th Aeromedical Airlift Wing at Scott AFB, Illinois, from February 1975 to May 1978, followed by an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to complete his master's degree from June 1978 to January 1980. Maj Beekman next served as a section chief in the Laser Engineering and Application for Prototype Systems Division with the Air Force Weapons Laboratory at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, from January 1980 to December 1982, and then as a CT-39 Sabreliner and C-21 pilot and detachment Operations Officer with Detachment 2, 1401st Military Airlift Squadron of the 375th Aeromedical Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, from December 1982 to July 1985. Col Beekman's final assignment was as Chief of the Nuclear Branch, Military Deputy for Acquisition in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition in the Pentagon from July 1985 until his retirement from the Air Force on December 6, 1987.
His 1st (of 2) Distinguished Flying Cross w/Valor Citation reads:
Captain William D. Beekman distinguished himself by heroism while participating in aerial flight over Southeast Asia on 24 June 1972. On that date, Captain Beekman attacked a hostile aircraft interceptor and forced the interceptor to disengage an attack on his flight lead. Despite extremely heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire and surface to air missiles, Captain Beekman, with complete disregard for his personal safety, effectively neutralized the attack. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Captain Beekman reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.