In Memory of
Navy Chief Radioman
Gerald Edgar Bekke
Castlewood, South Dakota
Hamlin County
May 25, 1922  -- October 7, 1944
Killed in Action in the Philippine Sea aboard the submarine Seawolf

Gerald Edgar Bekke

Gerald Edgar Bekke was born in Hayti, SD on May 25, 1922. His parents, Henry and Othilda Bekke gave birth to him and his two sisters named Eva and Harriet. As a child living on a farm, Gerald enjoyed hunting, trapping, and living the farm boy life. He graduated from Castlewood High School in Castlewood, SD in 1939. He went immediately into the Navy in 1940, just after high school. Gerald married Loretta Rowe on February 29, 1944 in Texas. They bore no children and Loretta died many years later from an illness.

Mr. Bekke trained in San Diego, CA and spent four years in the Pacific. He was stationed at the Philippine Islands and had become the chief radioman six months before the USS Seawolf sunk. An additional engagement Gerald participated in was Pearl Harbor.  The submarine, The Seawolf, in which the sailor served, was in the Philippine Sea, where both friendly and enemy ships operated. The last communication with the ship was on October 3, 1944, just 11 months before Japan signed the official statement of surrender, ending WW II. There were no official or unconfirmed reports that anyone on the Seawolf survived.

Secretary of Navy Forrestal wrote the following to Bekke’s parents, Henry and Othilda, to show remorse for the loss of their son.

Your son, Gerald Edgar Bekke, chief radioman, United States Navy, has been carried on the official records of the Navy Department in the status of missing in action as of 6 October 1944. He was aboard the USS Seawolf when that vessel was reported overdue from patrol and presumed to be  lost.

The Seawolf was one of four submarines engaged in special missions consisting of landing supplies and personnel, as well as evacuating personnel. On 21 September 1944 she departed from Zrisbane, Australia, on a special mission in the vicinity of the Philippine Islands. The last communication with the vessel was on 3 October 1944 when she was in an area where both enemy and friendly ships were operating.

After holding the status of Missing in Action, Bekke’s family received official notice of his death on October 7, 1945.  The family held a memorial service at Grace Lutheran Church in Watertown, SD, and a memorial maker was placed at the Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, SD.  He received both the Purple Heart and the Gold Star for his duty to the United States Navy.

Gerald had two sisters named Eva and Harriet. Eva married Howard Ching and they currently live in Watertown, SD. Harriet married A.W. Ching, cousin to Howard, and they currently live in Bellingham, WA.

 Gerald Edgar Bekke headstone

This information was respectfully submitted by Jennifer Chase, seventh grade, Mickelson Middle School, Brookings, SD, May 2002.  Information for this entry was provided by Eva Ching, Watertown, SD, sister of Gerald Bekke.