2nd Lt. Thomas C. Begush
Left to right: Thomas Begush; his cousin Elyse, 2nd Lt. John F. Barrett - pilot and 2nd Lt. John P. Scherer - Bombardier
Thomas C. Begush was
born August 15, 1922 in Austria. In December 1928 he came to America with his
parents, John and Mary Begush and his sister, Johanna Begush Gott. They settled
in Windsor, CT and he graduated from high school there in 1940. He became a
citizen in 1932.
We are not sure of
the exact date when he joined the military but we do know he was in training in
November 1943. He was a member of Class 43-J with the United States Army Air
Corps and trained at Bruce Field, Ballinger, TX; Moore Field, Mission, TX; and
Goodfellow Field, San Angelo, TX.
One of the family's
favorite pictures is our dad, Tom Begush, with his cousin, Elyse Knox, and with
two other crew members. We were told that they were in California when the
photo was taken, but do not know if they were there for training or for
personal reasons. Elyse Knox married Tom Harmon and is the mother of Mark
Harmon of NCIS fame.
We know little of
our father's participation in the war. But we do know that he was the co-pilot of
the Toni Gayle when it was shot down on June 26, 1944. The pilot was Gene Frink
and we have been fortunate to talk to Gene and learn more about our dad. Their
target was the Heinkel Aircraft Factory, Schwechat, Austria. The Toni Gayle was
in a flight of 39 aircraft; two planes were lost on this mission and the Toni
Gayle was one of them.
Tom flew 44 missions. He received the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters.
The crew bailed out;
all survived the bail out. Gene Frink was the last to go out the open bomb bay
doors. To our knowledge, all were captured. Tom and Gene were POWs in Stalag
Luft III. While in captivity, Tom was able to communicate somewhat with the
guards because he understood German. Although he only knew German when he came
to America, the family insisted on learning and speaking English so by this
time he was not fluent in German. We never heard him speak German. He did not
speak about the prison except when asked specifically. When we were little, we
asked him about the camp and he said he was hungry and he was bored. But he did
not tell us anything in detail. The camp was liberated in April 1945.
He returned to the
states in June 1945 and married Marie Zaccaro in Windsor Locks, CT in July
1945. He was released from Active Duty on January 3, 1946. In June 1958 he
received an Honorable Discharge from the United States Air Force Reserve as a
For many years he
owned and operated Conrad's Meats & Provisions in West Hartford, CT. He
personally made hot dogs and cold cuts at the market from old family recipes.
He passed away in
May 1980 from pancreatic cancer. He was laid to rest in the Connecticut State
Veterans' Cemetery in Rocky Hill, CT. He is survived by his son, Thomas C.
Begush and daughters: Lisa Gay, Jody Medon, and Robin O'Neill.
Information courtesy of the Begush Family
Link To Crew Picture