Bertram Stetson Varian, Jr.—born on 26 November 1920 at Weiser, Idaho—enlisted in the Navy as a seaman 2d class on 3 December 1940 at Boise, Idaho, and received an appointment as aviation cadet on 15 February of the following year. Following flight training at Pensacola, Fla., he was designated a naval aviator on 8 September 1941 and was commissioned an ensign in the Naval Reserve on 4 October.
Varian received further instruction with the Advanced Carrier Training Group and reported to Enterprise (CV-6) on 3 April 1942, joining Bombing Squadron (VB) 6. Flying from Enterprise during the pivotal Battle of Midway on 5 June 1942, he flew with the third division of "Bombing Six" in their attack against the Japanese carrier Akagi. VB-6 pressed home their attack—often diving to very low altitudes to ensure their bomb's delivery—and severely crippled Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo's flagship.
The victory had not been attained without cost, however, as only a third of the 15 Douglas SBD Daunt-lesses that Enterprise launched earlier that day returned to their carrier. Among those lost were Ensign Varian and his gunner, ARM3c C. R. Young, who were forced to take to their rubber boat when their plane ditched 50 miles northeast of the Japanese task force. They were never seen again.
For his "extraordinary heroism" and "distinguished service" in pressing home his attack against heavy odds and knowing that very little fuel remained with which to return to friendly forces, Ensign Varian received a posthumous Navy Cross.
(DE-798: dp. 1,400; 1. 306'; b. 36'10"; dr. 9'5" (mean); s. 24 k.; cpl. 186; a. 3 3", 4 1.1", 8 20mm., 2 dct., 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.); cl. Buckley)
Varian (DE-798) was laid down on 27 August 1943 at Orange, Tex., by the Consolidated Steel Corp.; launched on 6 November 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Arnold F. Brunkow, sister of the late Ens. Varian; and commissioned on 29 February 1944, Lt. Comdr. C. W. Petrie, USNR, in command.
After fitting out, Varian conducted shakedown out of Bermuda for the last half of the month of March 1944. She then joined the homeward-bound ships of Convoy GUS-33 on 30 March and helped to escort them to Hampton Roads, Va. Following repairs at Boston and further training out of Casco Bay, Varian shifted south and rendezvoused with Mediterranean-bound Convoy UGS-44 on 2 June. After subsequently shepherding GUS-44 from Bizerte to Hampton Roads, the destroyer escort arriyed at New York on 18 July. She then conducted two more round-trip convoy missions, with UGS/ GUS-51 from mid-August to mid-September and with UGS/GUS-58 until mid-November, before she was assigned to the first "hunter-killer" group—formed on 30 November 1944 to track down and destroy enemy submarines.
Varian and her sisters accordingly underwent intensive training for 26 days. They received special instruction, principally in high-frequency direction finding and gunnery; and spent 60 hours perfecting unit tactics for coordinated attacks on maneuvering submarines. Before they put to sea, the ships—grouped as Task Unit (TU) 27.1.1—practiced every type of known antisubmarine warfare attack, rehearsing them in simulated operating conditions.
In less than a month after TU 27.1.1's departure from Casco Bay on the day after Christmas of 1944, the new, crack unit proved the "hunter-killer" concept valid. On the morning of 16 January 1945, Varian, Hayter (DE-212), Otter (DE-210), and Harry E. Hubbard (DE-748) hunted down U-248 and sank her after a dogged two-hour hunt, 500 miles north of the Azores. A little over three months later, on 24 April, Varian and nine other DE's tracked down the U-boat that had recently torpedoed Frederick C. Davis (DE-136). The 10 American DE's avenged their sister's loss with a punishing depth charge barrage that forced U-546 to the surface, where the DE's then destroyed her with gunfire. Varian picked up nine survivors.
The end of the war in Europe on 7 May 1945 saw many of Germany's U-boat fleet still at sea. On 12 May, Varian rendezvoused with one of these unterseebooten, U-805, and a party from the destroyer escort, led by Lt. (jg.) Earl D. Stevenson, USNR, boarded the submarine and brought her to the east coast.
Following upkeep at the Boston Navy Yard, Varian got underway on 23 May and proceeded via New York to Hampton Roads. Shifting to Miami, Fla., soon thereafter, the destroyer escort operated in a training role, providing practical experience for newly commissioned officers until 16 July. The next day, earmarked for conversion to a radar picket ship, Varian arrived at Charleston for availability. However, her conversion was cancelled; and the ship soon resumed training operations in the Caribbean.
On 2 September, the ship departed Culebra, Puerto Rico, and she steamed north to New London, Conn., for training duty with Atlantic Fleet submarines. At New Haven, Conn., for Navy Day festivities, Varian subsequently sailed south for inactivation at Green Cove Springs near Jacksonville, Fla. Arriving there, via Boston, on 27 November, Varian was decommissioned on 15 March 1946 and placed in reserve. She was later shifted to the Texas group of the Reserve Fleet at Orange. There, she remained through the 1960's. Struck from the Navy list on 1 December 1972, Varian was sold on 12 January 1974 to the Southern Scrap Metal Co., Ltd., of New Orleans, for scrapping. Towed by three tugs, the erstwhile U-boat killer began her final voyage on 31 January.
Varian received two battle stars for her World War II service.