Bevan, Walter E
Walter graduated from West Chester High School in 1938. He served as the class vice president in his senior year. Walter, known for his winning smile, was voted most bashful.
Walter, called Walt by his friends, was very athletic and was also a talented artist. He loved drawing and painting both comics and real life. He had a close friendship with Tommy Bostelle, who was a famed West Chester artist.
Walter was employed at Lasko Metal Products, but after the events of Pearl Harbor, he quit his job and enlisted in the Army Air Corps the day after Christmas in 1941. He had a fascination with flying since his youth so he chose the Air Corps.
During flight training at Turner Field in Georgia, Walter met hero Thomas Baum. They became close friends even though they were assigned to different squadrons. They spent a lot of their off-time together fishing and hiking in the area around Augusta, Georgia. See photos below of Bevan and Baum fishing.
The pilot of the aircraft, Lieutenant Eugene L. Beville, who was captured after bailing out, wrote the following letter dated March 18, 1945:
Walter’s parents were notified that he was missing in action. The War Department changed his designation to killed In action in September, 1944. Walter is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing In Action or Buried at Sea at the Florence American Cemetery.
I had hoped to hear some encouraging news about the fellows on the crew when I returned to the states, but I found only disappointment… While a prisoner, I checked all available sources for information, but found nothing in regard to any of them...
We had been attacked by a strong force of German fighters - Messerschmitt 109’s – off the Italian coast, near Pescara, on the Adriatic Sea. We were crippled early in the flight, but fought on for approximately fifteen minutes with just one engine knocked out...
At that time we realized that we could never make it back – or even to the coast, as we knew the ship would be entirely out of control and over on her back in a very short time. I gave the signal to abandon the ship, which was acknowledged by everyone. Walt waited until the others on the flight deck had cleared then waved to me and bailed out. Several minutes after I had given the order to abandon, the plane began to roll over on one wingtip, going over on her back, so I jumped. I had remained at the controls as long as possible in order to give everyone time to clear as it sometimes takes the tail gunner some time to get out of his position.
I have never known a finer group of fellows than the boys of the crew. We often mentioned how lucky we were to be together. Considering the way in which the crews are thrown together, it was miraculous that each man of our crew should be so expert at his particular duty, cooperative with all of the others, and that all of us could be such fine and close friends as well as working mates. We four officers, in particular, were very close. Everything we did after first meeting was done together. The only time we were ever separated was on our final leave before going overseas. We all thought so much of Walt – he was such a splendid fellow in every respect.
Flight Officer Walter Bevan’s official date of death was listed as September 4, 1943 - the day after his plane was lost. In three months of combat missions, Walter received the Air Medal, Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. His bomber was credited with shooting down six enemy planes.
Later on in life, Walter's sister, Jeanne, wrote a the deeply moving poem entitled Wet Jewels in the Autumn Sun about the day the family received news of the loss of Walter's plane.
Ploestri Oil Fields
Adolf Hitler was obsessed with the war economy, liquid fuel in particular. The petroleum wells and refineries at Ploesti, Romania, which supplied approximately one third of all the Nazis' fuel oil, became more than just a military target - it became a way to strike at Hitler himself.
On August 1, 1943, 177 B-24 Liberators took off from their base in North Africa. Their target was Hitler's largest oil refinery in Ploestri. It was a low level attack, bombs released below 1,000 feet. The attempt was a disaster for both sides. The refinery was almost completely destroyed, but only 33 of the 177 planes returned to their base in condition to fly again. Of the 1,720 men who flew that day, 540 were lost.
The refinery was soon repaired, but never to operate again at full capacity. It would be targeted a dozen more times before war's end. Within six months, the amount of oil that Germany was taking from Romania was cut by eighty percent.