In Memory of
U.S. Army Air Force Second Lieutenant
Harry W. Bessler
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Minnehaha County
May 19, 1920 - February 17, 1944
Killed in Action over Subiaco, Italy

Memorial Dedication horizontal rule image

Harry “Bill” Bessler was born on May 19, 1920, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Harry and Mabelle Bessler.  Bill worked for his father doing electrical contracting for about one year.

In May of 1939, Harry Bessler enlisted in the army in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, before the Selective Service was implemented. Trained in the Air Corps, Bessler served within the continental United States through December 14, 1943.  Harry Bessler married Ava McDonald in Sacramento, California, in August of 1943.  On December 15, 1943, Bessler was shipped overseas to serve our country in Italy.

Second Lieutenant Bessler was the pilot of a B-24 Liberator bomber and took part in a bombing mission south of Rome.  His plane was damaged during the mission and crashed near Subiaco, Italy, which is approximately thirty miles east of Rome.  On February 17, 1944, Second Lieutenant Harry W. Bessler was reported missing in action.  On May 18, 1945, the Adjutant General officially declared Second Lieutenant Harry W. Bessler dead after he’d been missing in action for over a year.  A portion of the Adjutant General’s letter that was sent to Mrs. Harry Bessler’s wife read as follows:

I regret the necessity for this message but trust that the ending of a long period of
uncertainty may give at least some small measure of consolation.  An appraisal of
the sacrifice made by your husband in the service of his country compels in us
feelings of humility and respect.  May Providence grant a measure of relief from
the anguish and anxiety you have experienced during these many months.

Lt. Bessler’s plane was not found until several years later, and he was still at the controls. Although Lt. Bessler went down with his plane, most of his crew was able to parachute to safety. Second Lieutenant Harry W. Bessler will always be remembered and respected for his courage and the sacrifice that he made for his country.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Brandee J. Soles, Senior, Sioux Falls Christian High School, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, April 5, 2002.  Information for this entry was provided by South Dakota Veterans Bonus Records and by E. Warren Bessler, Louisville, Kentucky, cousin of Harry Bessler.