Clarifying Bill Giftos' strong service record
To the editor:
I read with interest your Nov. 8 interview of Peter Giftos but I take exception with Mr. Giftos' description of his brother Bill's service as "seeing little action" in the online video. Surprisingly, there was no mention of his service in the print edition of Nov. 9.
His brother Bill [the writer's father] served as a Grumman Wildcat fighter pilot on the escort aircraft carrier USS Bismarck Sea. In Nov. of 1944, the USS Bismarck Sea operated off Leyte in support of the operations. In Jan. of 1945 it took part in the Lingayen Gulf landings and on Feb. 16 arrived off Iwo Jima to support the invasion.
The USS Bismarck Sea was sunk by two kamikaze attacks crashing through the hangar deck and striking the ship's magazines. The carrier rolled and sank in 90 minutes and was the last US Navy aircraft carrier to be lost during World War II. Rough seas, cold water and Japanese strafing cost the lives of 318 members of the escort carrier's crew of 923.
Bill spent the evening in the water and was picked up the following day. Three destroyers and three destroyer escorts spent 12 hours picking up survivors.
Bill served honorably in both the battle of Leyte Gulf, Lingayen Gulf and the battle of Iwo Jima. Bill's service was incorrectly described as seeing "little action." In fact he did see quite a bit of action and as a result received the Distinguished Flying Cross and numerous air medals. He refused the Purple Heart for minor shrapnel wounds to the leg. Unfortunately Bill suffered many years from what we now know as PTSD and hearing loss attributed to many hours of loud cockpit noise. In those days PTSD was incorrectly called "battle fatigue."
Hopefully that clarifies Bill's distinguished service as a decorated combat tested naval aviator. Thanks for allowing me to correct the record.