Captain Edwin W. Besch, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.) December 22, 1936 - November 11, 2020

Edwin Warren Besch was born in Milwaukee, WI, December 22, 1936 and died in Hendersonville, NC, November 11, 2020, Veteran’s Day. He was the son of the late Edwin Frederick Besch and Selma (née Henke) Besch. Ed graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1960 and received his M.A. from George Washington University in absentia while serving as a Marine Corps infantry officer in Vietnam in 1966. He participated in ten combat operations as Commanding Officer of Headquarters Company, 4th Marines, and as C.O. of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, during which he was severely wounded during Operation Prairie I and received a Purple Heart.  He later retired from the Marine Corps for disability.

As a civilian, Ed served as a CIA Military Analyst at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam, for three years. He shared this time in Vietnam with his new bride, Donna Steadham Besch to whom he had proposed on their first date in 1970 and remained married to for 49 years to his death. He spent 24 years in government service with the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of the Army working at the Navy Yard and Pentagon as well as traveling to Asia frequently for his work as an intelligence analyst. As an independent consultant after retiring, he conducted 12 Civil War battlefield surveys for the Congressional Civil War Sites Advisory Commission and the National Park Service. He was the author/co-author of 14 U.S. Intelligence studies, his book “U.S. Colored Troops Defeat Confederate Cavalry: Action at Wilson’s Wharf, Virginia, 24 May 1864”; 300 plus U.S. Intelligence reports, and 105 professional journal articles. Ed was a Fellow in The Company of Military Historians.

Ed is survived by his beloved wife, Donna Steadham Besch, and daughters, Christina Besch Robichaux (Michael), Catherine Besch, and grandson, Patrick Robichaux.

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  1. Godfrey says

    This morning, I retrieved a book that I received as a gift from Ed, with whom I had a brief encounter during a church service at St. Luke’s, Mobile AL, on February 7, 2017. I wanted to reach out and say hello since we last spoke – but I didn’t have his phone number. I turned to Google – only to learn of his passing!

    Well, Ed not only signed the book, but also left a personal note for me, “As a U.S Army sergeant, you are ‘descendant’ of those Soldiers of African descent who served in U.S. Colored Troops, the largest regular component of the U.S Army during 1863 – 1866!”

    Even though we were meeting for the first time, Ed and I talked for a long time outside the steps of the church, his eloquence in military history coming out elegantly. But it wasn’t just the eloquence, or elegance, rather it was his friendliness, and his impression upon me to stand tall on the shoulders of giants who came before me – the Colored Troops.

    Thank you, Ed – know that you are a giant – wherever you are.

  2. Harry C. Lewis says

    Dear Dona & family,
    Ed was a classmate of mine with whom Mimi and I enjoyed many reunions at the Naval Academy. He was a truly fantatic gentleman, and will be sorely missed by all his classmates. Please note that a donation will be made in Ed’s memory to the Wounded Warriors organization. We pray that Ed is resting in peace.

  3. M.D. and Jane Price says

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time of great loss of your husband, Ed. May the Lord Jesus comfort every one of you in a special way that only He can do.

  4. Bob Will says

    Donna, I was very saddened to hear of Ed’s death. He was a great guy. All my best to you and your family. Bob Will

  5. Cookie Sweeney says

    Christina, Mike, Patrick,
    We are very sorry for the loss of your Father and Grandfather. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
    Aunt Cookie, Uncle Paul and Family