Last Known Activity|
Gus George Bebas, born on 24 february 1914 in Chicago, Illinois, received his commission as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 26 May 1938.
Bebas attended the Northwestern University School of Engineering, earning a B.S. degree in commerce in 1939. While at Northwestern, Bebas served in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at that institution, and trained on board heavy cruiser USS Wichita (CA-45) between 16 and 30 June 1939. and had a tryout with the Chicago White Sox, briefly pitching for the Hickory Rebels of the Tar Heel League before enlisting in the Navy on January 23, 1940.
Resigns His Commission, Enlists as a Seaman Second
His commission as an ensign terminated under honorable conditions on 22 January 1940, Bebas enlisted the following day as a seaman second class. He completed one stint of elimination flight training at Naval Reserve Aviation Base Glenview between 14 February and 14 March 1940, and a second between 15 Dcember 1940 and 15 January 1941. His enlistment terminated under honorable conditions on 19 February, he both received appointment as an aviation cadet, USNR, and reported for training at Naval Air Station (NAS), Pensacola, Florida, the following day where he pitched for the baseball team.
Undergoes Training as a Naval Aviator
Transferred to Naval Air Station Miami for “further active duty undergoing training” on 4 August, Bebas was appointed a naval aviator (heavier than air) No. 8779, on 5 September. Released from active duty involving training on 25 September, he received promotion to ensign, A-V(N), USNR, the following day. Assigned to the Advanced Carrier Training Group, Atlantic Fleet, on 26 September, Bebas reported to the Curtiss SBC-3-equipped Bombing Squadron (VB) 8, part of the USS Hornet (CV-8) Air Group, two days before Christmas of 1941.
Flying During the Battle of Midway
When Hornet sailed for the Pacific in March 1942, Bebas and his squadron were serving on board, ultimately re-equipping with the Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless as that dive bomber became available in quantity. During the first day of the Battle of Midway, 4 June 1942, Bebas flew with VB-8 in the first strike from Task Force 16, but his squadron did not locate the enemy, flying to Midway Island and thence, after refueling, back to the ship.
Earning the Distinguished Flying Cross
The next afternoon, 5 June, he participated in the search for the damaged Japanese carrier Hiryu, rumored to be nearby. Not finding her (Hiryu had actually sunk long before), Bombing 8 pounced on the destroyer Tanikaze instead. Bebas’s bomb missed that skillfully fought ship, falling only 100 feet from her port quarter. On the afternoon of 6 June, he took part in strikes flown against the heavy cruisers Mogami and Mikuma and their screening destroyers, scoring a damaging near miss on Mogami in the face of heavy antiaircraft fire. This display of “courageous conduct and stern devotion” earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross.
“Blacking Out” During a Practice Dive
Hornet returned to Pearl Harbor following the Battle of Midway, and her air group, shore-based, returned to operational training. While on a routine three-plane bombing flight off Oahu on the morning of 19 July 1942, Bebas pushed over into a dive on a target boat maneuvering off Barber’s Point, and released his practice bomb at 2,000 feet.
Instead of immediately recovering, however, Bebas “entered a relatively steep right turn…” He either blacked-out or could not overcome the heavy stick forces present in the dive, and his SBD-3 (BuNo 4573) crashed into the ocean, killing Bebas and his passenger, Ensign William M. Stevens, D-V(G), USNR.
On May 15, 1943, his mother, Angeline, and his sister, Anne, traveled to Boston to witness the launch of a Navy destroyer escort vessel named in Gus Bebas' honor.
The following month, on June 27, a memorial service was held for Bebas at St Andrew's Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago. "He was a student of whom we all felt proud," eulogized Dr Franklin B Snyder, president of Northwestern University. "He was loved and admired by the students and his friends, one we knew would have a distinguished record. We regret his death but we take a pride in his heroism and his accomplishments. On behalf of the university, I salute him!"
The USS Bebas was based in the Pacific until the cease of hostilities, performing patrol and escort duties and receiving three battle stars.