World War II vet to be honored in Glenview
Leo A. Loumbas was the first Greek American from Chicago who died in World War II. Saints Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Glenview is holding a memorial for him Oct 14.
Updated: October 28, 2012 6:04AM
Over the years, Leo A. Loumbas has been honored by many as the first Greek American from Chicago killed in World War II.
In Glenview, he will again be remembered Oct. 14 for the 70th anniversary of his death at Saints Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church, 1401 Wagner Road.
Sunday liturgy begins at 9:30 a.m., followed by the memorial service at 10:45 a.m.
A member of Saints Peter and Paul, Angelo Loumbas of Wilmette wrote a short account and answered questions about his uncle’s wartime death, beginning with his involvement in the Battle of Guadalcanal.
“I never knew my uncle, but he is to our family, like every person who died for our country, an American hero who should be remembered,” Angelo Loumbas said.
The battle was a series of fights for control of Guadalcanal and other southern Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, where the Japanese had been transporting troops to Guadalcanal.
They also were planning an offensive against Henderson Airfield on the island, while Leo’s ship, the USS Boise, was one of several charged with stopping the Japanese ships.
Just before midnight on Oct. 11, 1942, during the Battle of Cape Esperance many Japanese ships were either sunk or badly damaged by the Boise, which took the brunt of the Japanese fire because of its position in the convoy.
“Before you knew it we were in the midst of a bunch of [Japanese] ships. . . . There was a heavy smoke screen, and I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I could hear our guns going off, and occasionally shells would hit us,” said one of Leo’s Bowen High School classmates and shipmates who also served on the Boise.
He recalled the events in an interview published shortly after the battle. One of the shells hit the Boise’s magazine room, killing Leo, 24, and many others instantly.
Because of the heroic actions of the captain and crew of the Boise, it later became known as the “One Ship Fleet.”
Soon after, a telegram announcing Leo’s death arrived at the south Chicago home of his parents, Angelo and Bertha Loumbas.
“My grandfather could not read English, so he took the telegram around the neighborhood asking people to read it to him,” Angelo said.
“Understandably, it took him awhile to find someone who was courageous enough to tell him his son would not be coming home.”
“Leo diverted a large portion of his limited military pay to my grandparents to help them pay the rent and feed my father and my aunt, who were still children at the time,” he said.
Angelo said about every 10 years family members commemorate Leo’s death, usually on Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day. ~.