Leo Loumbas was the first Greek-American killed in World War II (WWII) from the city of Chicago.
His death is memorialized, especially by the Greek-American community, in his home city of Chicago, where services have been held in his honor at St. Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Church.
Leo A. Loumbas was a 24-year old Apprentice Seaman, United States Navy, aboard the U.S.S. Boise, a ship under the command of another Chicago native named Edward J. “Mike” Moran.
Loumbas served in the South Pacific during WWII, where conditions were brutal and the fighting was relentless.
On October 12, 1942, Leo and 106 of his fellow sailors were killed during the Battle of Cape Esperance off Guadalcanal in the South Pacific when a Japanese torpedo struck and pierced the ship’s hull into the magazine room below the forward gun turrets.
His final resting place is unknown.
The first Greek-American from Chicago to die in WWII
Weeks after Leo’s death, his father—a Greek immigrant who could not read or write English—received a telegram at his south Chicago home on Escanaba Avenue notifying him of his son’s tragic death in the South Pacific.
He walked around his neighborhood asking numerous people to read him the telegram, before he found someone who had the courage and strength to give him the devastating news of his son’s passing.
The telegram’s first sentence read: “The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your son Leo Angelo Loumbas apprentice seaman was killed in action in the performance of his duty and in the service of his country.”
“Americans have so many heroes, many the sons and daughters of immigrants like my uncle, who over our country’s history have served America and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” said Angelo J. Loumbas, Leo’s nephew.
The story of George Dilboy, first Greek-American killed in WWI
Greek-American soldiers have a long history serving their country on the battlefield.
It was in 1918 that George Dilboy, the first Greek-American killed in WWI died on a battlefield near Belleau, France after fighting so courageously that he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, America’s highest medal for bravery.
Born in Alachata, in Western Anatolia, in 1896, Dilboy’s Greek name was Γεώργιος Διλβόης, which was Americanized when his family emigrated to the United States.
The official citation of Dilboy’s Congressional Medal for Bravery reads: “Private Dilboy, accompanying his platoon leader to reconnoiter the ground beyond, was suddenly fired upon an enemy machine gun, rushed forward with his bayonet fixed through a wheat field toward the gun emplacement.”
Dilboy fell “within twenty-five yards of the gun, with his right leg nearly severed and with several bullet holes in his body. With courage undaunted, he continued to fire into the emplacement from a prone position, killing two of the enemy and dispersing the rest of the crew,” the citation notes.