US Navy send condolences to family

In the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 1941, he likely felt the shock waves of the bombs and torpedoes that exploded around him in Pearl Harbor.

His eyes were witnesses to history as they watched thousands of enemy aircraft carry out the surprise attack on the “day that will live in infamy.”

His Navy, his nation and most likely even him would never be the same.

Clarence Varos 1.png

Clarence Varos, basic training graduation photo, US Navy, San Diego, CA. The summer dress “cracker-jack” uniform indicates Varos graduated during the warmer summer months.

Clarence Varos, a member of The Greatest Generation with a remarkable WWII record, passed away this week. He was 101.

“It is with both sadness and pride that we bid Aloha to our shipmate,” Capt. John Gay, U.S. Pacific Fleet Director of Public Affairs, said while speaking from the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet Headquarters in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. “As a U.S. Navy Sailor at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, he was much more than a witness to history – he was a participant. He continued the fight, and his determination and courage – and that of his contemporaries – turned the tide of the war in Pacific. Our nation and world are better for his service.”

The U.S. Navy will honor his service and family this week with full military honors during his burial service Monday. Like many veterans of wars, Mr. Varos “didn’t talk much about the war,” his family said.

While growing up in New Mexico Mr. Varos, like thousands of others who had their lives and plans changed due to the Great Depression and the outbreak of the war, was unable to finish high school. Instead he joined the Navy, completing his basic training, or boot camp, at the U.S. Navy Recruit Training Command (RTC) in San Diego, Calif.

Liberty Break Pearl Harbor.jpeg

A liberty break in Pearl Harbor. Varos may have been in this group, and if not then his shipmates certainly were. They are sailors from attack transports shoving off with liberty parties in July 1945. The boats are from USS Hyde (APA-173), Colusa (APA-74), and Effingham (APA-165). 

After the attack on Pearl and while aboard the transport USS Hyde (APA-173), commissioned in 1944, he saw action at both Iwo Jima and Okinawa when his ship was present in both those famous battles. The Hyde then transported critically wounded from those battles to Guam and San Diego and then rushed back to combat in the Pacific Theater.

Aboard the Hyde, Mr. Varos was an anti-aircraft gunner (the Bofors 40-mm anti-aircraft cannon), and he recounted stories to his family of being under attack by enemy aircraft and Kamikazee raids. A highly accurate gunner, an officer relieved him of the infamous KP duty.

USS Hyde APA 173.jpeg

Varos was aboard the USS Hyde (APA-173), shown here at anchor, circa 1945. 

After the war he choose to settle in Cheyenne on the city’s south side. He was hired by Union Pacific Railroad and retired after 30 years, all in Cheyenne.

On his 95th birthday, Cheyenne Central High School – the alma mater of all his children – presented him with an honorary diploma.

“Dad wanted us all to have a good education,” said his son, Jimmy Varos. “We all graduated from school. He always had a nice set of encyclopedias with the yearly update editions for us to study from.”

Clarence also enjoyed gardening, travel, his family and church. Jimmy said his dad also liked buying his cars brand-new and, over the years, purchased and enjoyed several.

Among his favorites included a 1940 Chevrolet, 1955 Bel Air, 1958 Buick Century, 1983 Cadillac Eldorado and several others over the years.

“I think the secret to his longevity was his diet,” Jimmy said. “He liked fresh foods and cooking from the garden. He loved baking cowboy bread, and his homemade jam and wine he made with Chokecherries from his garden.”