Beirne Henry Coffman was born in Galesburg on December 22, 1890 to William and Nellie Coffman. Coffman graduated from Galesburg High School and entered Knox College in the fall of 1916 with the Class of 1920. However, he ended up leaving Knox before his first year was over to enlist in the United States Armed Forces on March 26, 1917. His unit was mobilized at Springfield, Illinois on April 1 of that same year.
Coffman entered ground school for aviation training in Austin, Texas, graduated, and was made a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Service on May 9, 1918. On September 25, his unit embarked to Scotland on the HMS Otranto, but heavy storms caused it to collide with another ship, the HMS Kashmir, on October 6. Coffman was one of the men who perished in the shipwreck. His body was found and buried in Scotland on October 25, 1918.