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2nd Lt. Thomas C. Begush
722nd Squadron

Left to right: Thomas Begush; his cousin Elyse, 2nd Lt. John F. Barrett - pilot and 2nd Lt. John P. Scherer - Bombardier

P.O.W. Card

Thomas Conrad Begush

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 1LT.

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

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