CAPT William E. Zidbeck, USN (Ret.), former Commanding Officer of HS-5, NAS Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and a lifetime member of the Naval Helicopter Association (NHA), passed away at home in Imperial Beach, California on March 15, 2021. He was 88 years old. LT William E. Zidbeck, USN became a designated Navy Helicopter Pilot on December 11, 1963 at HT-8, NAS Ellyson Field, Pensacola, Flordia. LT Zidbeck was Naval Helicopter Designator Number R-7083.

Memories about Bill Zidbeck 

Bill was the Admin Officer when I checked into HS-6 in 1965.  He was a terrific guy then and he never changed.  Always admired him and still do.  He will be missed.

CAPT Rick Grant, USN (Ret.)

Captain Bill Zidbeck US Navy (Retired) Shared Experiences of Distinguished Career in US Navy

Oct 30, 2018 09:38PM ● By Paul Spear


Captain Bill Zidbeck US Navy (Retired) Continues to Serve Long after Leaving the Navy in 1985.

Captain William Zidbeck is a retired Navy helicopter pilot, former commander of the Guantanamo Naval Base, instructor with the National Defense University in Washington DC, and longtime volunteer with many Imperial Beach organizations including the Imperial Beach Optimist, Friends of the Imperial Beach Library, a South Bay Historical Society member and in June was honored as he received a District Champion Award from the South Bay Union School District.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Captain Zidbeck (US Navy Retired) while he was interviewed by Dr. Steve Schoenherr of the South Bay Historical Society.  Bill has done a lot of charitable work here in Imperial Beach since he and his now deceased wife Jo Ann (Jody) decided to make Imperial Beach their home after Bill’s retirement from the Navy in 1984.  Bill and his wife had lived for a brief time in Imperial Beach from 1963 to 1966 and had kept the home they purchased when they were here the first time and when their son Scott came into their lives.   However, they purchased a new home when they moved here after a frief stay in Coronado from 1982 to 1984.

So it came as no surprise to me when I heard that Bill had been involved in the creation of the Imperial Beach Optimists Club or the Friends of the IB Library as well as serving as its first president.  At 86, Bill is still actively involved in lots of community organizations and activities here in Imperial Beach and other places. When Bill started sharing about his career in the US Navy and his Commands and Assignments it shouldn’t have surprised me that he had such an amazing and storied career in the Navy but it still did. However, what comes across the most when I have spoken with Bill is his love of helping other people. 

Bill and his wife had both thought school at different points in their lives. Bill while in the Navy did some instruction and taught at Castle Park High School from 1985 to 1989 after his retirement and his wife Jody taught Emory Elementary School in Imperial Beach when they lived here the first time.

This is a man who gives back so much to the community we live in. Bill did some very interesting things from flying many types of aircraft.  In October 1955 he finished his flight training at NAS Hutchinson, Kansas, and received his “Wings of Gold” as a Naval aviator. After that, Bill flew blimps before he ended up flying Helicopters. 

A special thank you to Dr. Steve Schoenherr of the South Bay Historical Society for putting together all the information below on Bill’s life and of course to Bill for all he does to help other people. He is a very special man!

I hope you enjoying reading the chronology about Bill and learning more about a man that has served his country and community so proudly!

Bill Zidbeck chronology

William E. Zidbeck was born on 7 June 1932 in Ancon, Canal Zone, Panama. His father was George Zidbeck who was born 1903 in Brooklyn, NY. His grandfather was Gustav Zidbeck who was born in Finland in 1878 and immigrated to the U. S. in 1895. Gustav and his wife Annie were living in Brooklyn in 1903 when George was born. Gustav was a machinist who moved to Panama in 1907 and helped to build the Panama Canal as an engineering supervisor. He and his family lived in the Canal Zone for 30 years, returning in 1940 to live in Long Beach CA until his death in 1944.

Bill Zidbeck was 12 years old when his family moved to Corona CA. He was valedictorian of his class at Corona Senior High School. He attended Stanford University on an NROTC scholarship and graduated in 1954 with a degree in biology. At Stanford, he met his wife, Jo Ann “Jody” Hill of Alhambra, and they were married June 13, 1954, in Stanford’s Memorial Church.

Bill was commissioned an ensign in the Navy on June 12, 1954, and assigned to Naval Aviation Schools Command at NAS Pensacola FL.

In October 1955 he finished his flight training at NAS Hutchinson, Kansas, and received his “Wings of Gold” as a Naval aviator. No allotments in Neptune P2V squadron were available at that time, so Bill was sent to Glynco, Georgia for lighter-than-airship training.

In 1956-57 he served in airship squadron ZP-4 at Elizabeth City, NC. (Weeksville airfield). He qualified as Aircraft Commander in the ZP2G airship.

In 1958-59 he served in airship squadron ZW-1 at Lakehurst, NJ, and subsequently served as the Communications Officer on the staff of Fleet Airship Wing ONE. However, the Navy ended its support of airships at Lakehurst Naval Air Station by 1961.

In 1960 Captain Zidbeck reported to the University of Southern California as Assistant Professor of Naval Science in the NROTC Program.

“Lt. William Zidbeck, USN, and Mrs. Zidbeck have returned to their home in Alhambra after spending a month in San Diego where he has been working on summer cruises of West Coast university NROTC midshipmen. Lt. Zidbeck and his wife spent his week’s leave in the San Bernardino Mountains at Lake Arrowhead, In September he returns to USC where he is an instructor with the NROTC Unit. (Pasadena Independent, Aug. 16 1962)

“Bill was an NRTOC Instructor at USC and finished his 3 year tour in 1963, with orders to a helicopter squadron in Imperial Beach, California. Jody then taught third grade for two years at Emory Elementary School in Imperial Beach. In the summer of 1965, Jody and Bill adopted their son, William Scott, and Jody became a full-time mother.” (Jody’s obituary)

Following the USC NROTC assignment, he qualified as a helicopter pilot in Ellyson Field, Pensacola FL. After HS-10 replacement pilot training, he went to Helicopter AntiSubmarine Squadron SIX in 1964 as Administrative and subsequently Maintenance Officer.

This squadron, HS-6, embarked in 1964 and in 1966 on the USS KEARSARGE for two Western Pacific deployments into the South China Sea.

In 1966, “Four Ream Field fliers yesterday escaped injury when their Sea King helicopter made a forced landing two miles west of Point Loma. Minutes later the four had to scramble to safety when their downed craft flooded with water and flipped over as the pilot was attempting to taxi to North Island Naval Air Station. All four men were picked up by a whale boat from the destroyer Black and were taken to North Island. The crewmen, all attached to HS-6 squadron at Ream, were identified as: Lt. Cmdr. William E . Zidbeck, 33, the pilot, of 1772 Haley St., Imperial Beach. Lt. Raymond M. Carlton, 25, co-pilot, of 237 Carnation Ave., Imperial Beach. John R . Kitts, 23, a sonar technician third class of Ream Field. Gary W. Smith, a sonar technician third class of 343 Palm Ave., Imperial Beach. The SH-3 helicopter flooded after being hit by a wave, but it did not sink because of its flotation gear, Zidbeck said later. Zidbeck said the cause of the accident is under investigation, but he suspected an engine had failed. He said they were participating in a routine Navy exercise and were to have flown to the aircraft carrier KEARSARGE at the end of the exercise. They will take another helicopter to the carrier today, he said. The accident occurred at 10:50 a.m. (San Diego Union, Apr. 13, 1966)

 “Mrs. William Zidbeck of Imperial Beach, a past president of the officers wives club of HS-6 has left the South Bay area. First stop for her and year-old Scott, was a brief family vacation in Hawaii. Her husband, who sailed to Hawaii, on the KEARSARGE with his squadron, will be detached there for duty in Florida. After a rest and fun fling the couple will fly back to California and then make tracks for his new duty station in Florida. (Chula Vista Star-News, June 23, 1966)

His next tour of duty was as Replacement Air Group Instructor at Helicopter AntiSubmarine Squadron ONE, NAS Key West, Florida, and was promoted to Captain.

In 1968 Captain Zidbeck was Executive Officer of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron NINE aboard USS ESSEX on a North Atlantic Deployment.

In 1969, he attended the senior course at the Naval War College and graduated with distinction. During his career, he also attended the Graduate School of International Relations at the University of Southern California and was awarded a Masters Degree in 1969. 

In 1970 he was the Executive Officer of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron FIVE aboard the USS WASP.

He assumed command of HS-5 in Hamburg, Germany. During Captain Zidbeck’s tenure of command, 1970-1971, HS-5 deployed into the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean and was the recipient of the Battle “E”, Arnold J. Isbell Trophy for Excellence in airborne ASW operations and the Navy Unit Commendation. His next tour of duty was as “the last ongoing” navigator of the USS WASP.

Following this tour he reported to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, serving in the Studies, Analysis, and Gaming Agency (SAGA) for Politico-Military Affairs from January 1973 to 1975.

He assumed command of the US, Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from 1977-1979. NAS Guantanamo was the first recipient of the Silver Eagle Award for the best retention program in the U.S. Naval Forces, Atlantic.

Captain Zidbeck next reported to the Chief of Naval Operations where he served as Head of the Europe and NATO Plans and Policy Branch. In 1982 he and his wife moved to Coronado. His last tour of duty was as Commanding Officer of Naval Education, Training and Support, Pacific.

In 1984 he retired from the Navy and moved to IB.

Taught science at Castle Park HS 1985-88

1987 – Optimist Club – “Established in 1987, former Navy helicopter pilot instructor Bill Zidbeck helped found the international organization’s IB branch after extensive involvement with the Coronado Optimist Club.”

2001 – Friends of the Imperial Beach Branch Library incorporated, Bill Zidbeck is first president.

On June 1, 2018, Bill Zidbeck received a District Champion award from the South Bay Union School District.