Memorial Day tribute — Gilbert Austin of Minerva

Twenty-year-old World War II sailor Gilbert Austin of Minerva was heroic twice in 1945 — the first he risked his life providing first aid to a USS Wasp shipmate, and the second time he made the ultimate sacrifice.

He posthumously was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.

When a 500-pound Japanese armor-piercing bomb struck the Wasp off Japan the morning of March 19, 1945, Austin remained in a smoke-filled, burning compartment to provide first aid to an officer.

Austin then went and got others to help him rescue the officer from the compartment.

Austin, a turret gunner on a torpedo bomber plane, died during a combat mission over the South Pacific on June 18, 1945.

The Minerva American Legion post held a memorial service for Austin July 29, 1945 at Minerva Baptist Church.

Austin was an honor roll student who graduated from Olmstedville School in 1942.

He was a delegate to the Adirondack Hi-Y student government conference at Lake Placid in 1941.

After graduation, Austin worked at Watervliet Arsenal until he enlisted in the Navy in July 1943.

He completed basic training at Sampson Naval Training Base in Seneca County, and advanced training at the Chicago ship yard and at Miami.

He visited Minerva on leave in May 1944, and went overseas in December 1944.

In January 1945, the American Red Cross arranged for Gilbert Austin to meet in Hawaii with his brother George Austin who was serving in the Marine Corps.

Sources: Ticonderoga Sentinel Feb. 19, 1942; July 7, 1943; March 30, 1944; June 11, 25, 28, Oct. 25, 1945; The Post-Star June 28, July 28, 1945; The Lake Placid News Nov. 21, 1941; Essex County Republican May 5, 1944; North Creek News Enterprise June 27, Oct. 10. 1945

Click here to read the most recent previous Memorial Day tribute post.

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Maury Thompson

Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY