Flt O Walter E Bevan, Jr

Flt O Walter E Bevan, Jr

Birth
Death 3 Sep 1943 (aged 22)
Burial Florence, Città Metropolitana di Firenze, Toscana, Italy
Plot Tablets of the Missing
Memorial ID 56362357 · View Source
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‘Wet Jewels in an Autumn Sun' recalls the sacrifices of veterans

Daily Local News, West Chester, Chester County, Pa
Published: Friday, November 11, 2011

By DONALD WAMBOLD
For Journal Register News Service

It was a cold winter day at West Chester High School. In the busy hallway, Betty, a junior, was chatting with a girlfriend at her locker between classes.

Walt, a senior, walked up and stopped. He had smiled and often said ‘hi' as they passed but rarely stopped to talk.

This time, he greeted her and asked Betty if she would like to go ice skating on that weekend. Her mind was a whirlwind of elated surprise -- I don't know how to ice skate she thought, I don't even have a pair of skates ... I can borrow a pair from one of my friends ... but I can't say no to Walt, he might never ask me again -- he is a dreamboat and a great guy ... and class vice president ... I've got to remain cool ...

Betty tried to contain her surprise, and said yes. As Walt continued down the hall and around the corner, Betty and her girlfriends shrieked with excitement.

On Walt and Betty Love's first date at Sharpless Lake (today called North Hills just north of West Chester, Pa.), Betty struggled while Walt patiently helped her skate. She stood aside, and was amazed as she watched Walt perform spins, jumps, and skating backwards. It was just the first date of a long and loving relationship cumulating in an engagement.

Walter Elwood Bevan Jr. was born on Feb. 10, 1921 to Walter and Ernestine Bevan, who lived at 109 Goshen Heights, just outside of West Chester. Walter Jr. was one of four children: Roberta, Jean, Walter Jr., and Shirley. The family later moved to a home at 402 N. Darlington St.

Walt served as the class vice president his senior year at high school. He also was on the track team, as well being involved with school plays and art exhibits. Known for his winning smile, he was voted most bashful, graduating in 1938. The Yearbook records: "Walter's flashing smile and keen wit have made him many true friends."

Walt was not only athletic, he also was a talented artist. He loved drawing and painting both comics and real life. He was good friends with Tommy Bostelle, who became a famous West Chester artist. Walter also admired Walt Disney and his work.

Walter obtained employment with Lasko's Metal Products on West Gay Street, West Chester, and continued dating Betty Love. They enjoyed traveling into Philadelphia to the Earle and Fox Theaters which offered a Big Band Dance followed by a movie.

After the events of Pearl Harbor, Walter enlisted in the Army Air Corps on Dec. 26, 1941. He had a fascination with flying since his youth so he chose the Army Air Corps. He received his flight training at Turner Field in Georgia.

During his training, Walt wrote to Betty that he met another pilot in training from Chester County, Pa - Tommy Baum from Phoenixville, Pa. Although in different squadrons, they became fast friends, and enjoyed fishing together. (Thomas Baum was KIA on December 5, 1943; his story and photos are found on our Hall Of Heroes website, http://dsf.chesco.org/heroes/Baum/baum.htm .)
Betty volunteered as an Air Warden spending hours on top of the F&M building (Farmers and Mechanic Building was the tallest building in our town.) She searched the sky identifying and reporting aircraft. (She still had the aircraft recognition books from the war, in 2010.)

Walter was sent overseas flying B-24 Liberators from North Africa, with the 376th Bomb Group Heavy, 512th Bomb Squadron in the 9th Air Force. He participated in missions over Rome, Greece and Romania, possibly the first dreaded Ploesti Oil Fields. Walter received wounds from flying glass during one of these missions.

Sept. 3, 1943, nearing his 50th mission mark for which he would return to the States on furlough, Walter's plane was lost in a mission over the Adriatic Sea. His plane went down off the coast of Italy.

Lieutenant Eugene L. Beville, the pilot of Walt's B-24, (Walt was the co-pilot), wrote that they were attacked by a strong force of German ME-109 fighters. The aircraft was severely damaged and lost two engines. Eugene issued the order for the crew to bail out. He and Walt stayed at the controls to help keep the aircraft level as the crew jumped.

(B-24's were excellent aircraft, but physically taxing to fly; often taking both pilot and co-pilot to handle the duo controls.) After the others bailed, Walt insisted Eugene go first. Just after the pilot bailed out, the aircraft flipped over on its wing.

Betty's first clue was a letter to Walt mysteriously returned as undeliverable. Then his parents received an unusual phone call notification on a Sunday afternoon, before they received the dreaded telegram.

Flight Officer Walter E. Bevan received the Air Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster. He is honored on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery in Via Cassia, Italy

Betty wrote to Walt on Valentines Day, 1940, in which she reminded him that he once said she would be the first to forget him. She continues writing in the second person "and now I am afraid it is he who has forgotten me, as if I could forget". She signed "yours for better or for worse, Betty." Betty never forgot her fiancé. Walt's Betty passed on May 6, 2010.

Jean, the last sister, passed away in 2002. She composed a very poignant seven-page poem in memory of her brother. Betty shared this treasure with us before her death. Wet Jewels in an Autumn Sun is unpublished, and posted on our website. In it she describes the sudden phone call that Sunday afternoon, her love and memories of her brother, and the last time they were together.

I never really said goodbye to him.

At pale mauve dawn he came into my room.

I feigned deep sleep so not to say goodbye.

My traitor eyes allowed a tear to fall;

He bent and kissed it where it wet my cheek.

He smiled his gentle smile and turned away.

She also wrote about the devastation to the family by Walt's Death.

The parents died in guilt, too soon.

The sisters had a craze to live,

Made hasty choices for much grief.

The youngest sang her mournful songs.

Two died, and only I am left.

Does death destroy all dreams? Oh, no.

I seek him yet in every place —In children's chins, in eyes, profiles,

In shoulders bent toward a task.

Jean concludes:

The ashes of the innocents

Have settled over all the earth.

The guns still boom and youth still dies

(Donald Wambold is a West Chester resident and member of the West Chester Men's Service Club.)

See also: http://dsf.chesco.org/heroes/bevan/bevan.htm

at the Chester County Hall of Heroes.

Gravesite Details Entered the service from Pennsylvania.

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  • Maintained by: Dan Oh
  • Originally Created by: CWGC/ABMC
  • Added: 7 Aug 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 56362357
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Flt O Walter E Bevan, Jr (10 Feb 1921–3 Sep 1943), Find A Grave Memorial no. 56362357, citing Florence American Cemetery and Memorial, Florence, Città Metropolitana di Firenze, Toscana, Italy ; Maintained by Dan Oh (contributor 46803017) .