|Birth: ||Jul. 14, 1936|
|Death: ||Feb. 23, 1960|
From St. Joseph News press dated May 27, 1960
DEVOTION TO A FRIEND LED TO OFFICER'S DEATH
A 23 year old Kansas City Navy officer who perished with another officer while returning from a hunting trip in a fierce Arctic storm voluntarily stayed behind with his exhausted companion, the Navy has concluded after a long investigation.
Three other members of the hunting party survived, although one collapsed and was found unconscious and in critical condition near the end of the trek by a Marine rescue party.
The bodies of Ensigns Jerry Wayne Giddens, 3602 Windsor avenue, and Russell Howard Floyd, also 23, Beaver, Okla. Were found February 23 on the island of Adak, a naval communications outpost, where they men were stationed. The Island, in the Western Aleutians, is more than 1,000 miles from the Alaskan mainland.
Error in Early Report
An earlier report stated incorrectly that Giddens became exhausted and that Floyd stayed behind with him. Along distance call to the Adak naval commander confirmed that it was Giddens who remained with Floyd.
Gidden's parents, Mr. And Mrs. Clyde A. Giddens, have been informed by the commander of the Adak station that a road will be named in honor of their son.
The Kansas City officer, a Northeast high school graduate, was commissioned in the naval reserve on his graduation last Hume from the University of Kansas with a degree in mechanical engineering.
The bodies of Giddens and Floyd were found together in sleeping positions at the top of a wind-swept hillside. They were less than two miles from a Marine observation post and the point where the hunting party began.
Details in letter.
Letters from two of the survivors to Giddens's parents provide a dramatic account of the events leading up to the tragic denouement of what had promised to be a weekend of recreation for five officers.
On Saturday, February 20, Giddens, Floyd, and three other officers set out from a parking area near heart lake on a hike to Shagak bay, seven miles away. The others were Capt. (Marion) Edward Duda, 33, --Aumsville, Mass.; Lt. Dale Treese, 39, Castle Rock, Wash.,; and Warrant Officer Bull Tremblay, 39, whose home town is unknown.
The men arrived at an old World War II hut on the south spit of the bay late Saturday afternoon. They spent Sunday hunting, fishing, and beachcombing. That night they retired early after a meal of fried ptarmigan and roasted goose, which the men shot Sunday.
".By seven in the evening the stars covered the entire sky without a whisper of a breeze," wrote Treese, "Inside the hut we had two fires going.
Five hours later an arctic williwaw, a glacial storm of near - hurricane intensity, swept down out of the valleys.
Storm Roars In.
At 1 a. m. (I lit a cigarette and checked the time) the storm began with great gusts of wind, "Tremblay recalled in his letter.
"The rain began a short time later and being driven horizontally by the wind, began to find its way in under the eaves. I awakened many times during the night and realized that the interior of the cabin was getting wetter and wetter. Several of the metal pieces we had nailed over the gaping windows were torn off and it was oblivious we were in for a williwaw.
"At 6:30 o'clock a large section of the roof flew off letting in great torrents of water."
After breakfast, he recounted, the men waited several hours for the tide to recede, as part of their return trip has to be made along the beach. They left about 10:45 o'clock.
Between the jut and their car lay seven miles of swollen streams, hidden by snow banks.. Fields of high tangled tundra grass and tortuous mountain terrain with sudden drop-offs. The driving rain, filled with salt water, was being whipped by head winds of 80 to 100 miles an hour. It was one of the worst storms in years on the island.
A Tortuous Trail.
The men inched forward two or three miles, stopping every 30 or 40 feet to catch their breath and wipe the salt water from their eyes. They rested briefly in the lee of a hill. Then, wrote Tremblay:
".Russ and Duda were in the lead. I was about 25 yards behind them and Jerry and Treese brought up the rear."
"A particularly strong gust at this time picked up Jerry and Treese and blew them along the ground as the sleeping bags on their packs were acting as sails. The two men removed their sleeping bags and stowed them in the lee of the hill..
"After going about 75 yards from the lee of the hill." Tremblay continued. :Ruse stopped, talked to Duda a few seconds, then headed back in my direction, As he passed me he stated he was too cold to go on and that he was going to crawl into his sleeping bag In the lee of the hill or attempt to find a cave known to be in the vicinity, or would return to the cabin.
Seen for the Last Time.
"Looking back toward the hill I saw Jerry, Russ, and Treese talking together and I quickly caught up with Duda. "This was to be my last sight of Jerry and Russ."
At this point in his letter Tremblay noted that the men previously had decided that no man would be left alone and that if a man were in trouble one of the party would remain with him.
"Duda and I now concluded." he said. "that both Jerry and Treese were remaining with Russ. I'm sure that Jerry was still capable of going on and that he voluntarily stayed with Russ."
Treese's letter reveals what happened after Floyd dropped back to the rear of the party.
"Jerry and I were the last two in the column..he was ahead of me and going strong. Jerry and I had taken off our sleeping bags and stowed them in the lee of a small hill. We had started on when Russell Floyd joined us and said he couldn't go on. I asked Jerry what he wanted to do and he said he would stay with Floyd."
Intended to Wait.
Treese said since both men looked capable of returning to the cabin he pushed on and joined Tremblay and Duda. He said he later surmised that Giddens and Floyd decided to get into their sleeping bags and wait until the storm subsided or help came, but that they started back too soon and the chilling wind induced a sleep that overcame them.
Tremblay's letter relates what happened after Treese joined him and Duda.
".We continued on, each step sheer misery, with no sign of the storm abating. several times I begged Duda and Treese to allow me to sit down and rest but they insisted that the only way to survive was to keep moving.
"..When within 250 yards of Heart lake, with one more hill to climb and with Duda now about 100 yards in the lead I was finding it extremely difficult to navigate. Both feet were now chunks of ice, At the top of the hill Duda turned and waved and purely as a reflex action. Treese and I waved back. " Tremblay said Duda later told him he interpreted this as a sign everything was all right.
"Treese attempted to half carry me for a short while but I was now extremely sleepy and wanted only to lie down. I told him I was endangering his life by holding him back and told him to go on alone and get help for me, He agreed and left. I lay down on the tundra and suddenly recalled all the stories I had read about it being fatal to go to sleep and that one should keep moving. I tried many times to get to my feet and keep moving but found it was impossible, I lay there cursing myself aloud, closed my eyes and suddenly felt no longer cold or wet."
After Duda and Treese made it back to the base, Treese led the rescue party that found Tremblay shortly before dusk Monday. The storm was then at its height.
Tremblay remained in critical condition several days, his body temperature so low it was many days before it registered on a thermometer.
A Marine rescue party that by pre-arrangements was to have searched for the men if they had not returned by noon Monday, did point get out because of the fury of the storm and a decision that more men would have been lost if the attempt were made.
Found Near Waterfall
The bodies of Giddens and Floyd were spotted near a waterfall below Heart lake the next afternoon by Marine patrol plane after search parties, traveling on foot, and by boat, had searched the hut and the point where the party separated.
A lighted flashlight found near the bodies indicated the men were attempting to find their way back in the dark Monday night or were signaling for help.
"I am convinced." Tremblay wrote, " that after climbing the steep hill alongside the waterfall the y apparently sat down to rest and were probably overcome with Arctic sleep in much the same manner that I was.
Tremblay said he suffered no permanent damage but that Duda's hair began turning gray three weeks later.
Giddens was to have been married next month to Miss Sondra May Brantley, Winfield, Kas. A University of Kansas Junior.
From St. Joseph News Press dated March 4, 1960
Frazer Rites for Ensign Who Died in Alaska Storm
Services will be conducted Tuesday at Frazier church for Ensign Jerry Wayne Giddens, 23, who died of exposure during a storm on Adak Island in the Aleutians on Feb 23. The exact time for the service has not yet been set.
Young Giddens, a former Frazer community resident, was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Giddens, Frazier residents now living in Kansas City. Young Giddens received his bachelor of science degree at Kansas University along with his commission in the naval reserve last June.
He is a cousin of Lieut. Robert Ottinger of the police department and of Clarence Ottinger, former county highway engineer.
According to word received here, Jerry and four other officers were on a week end hunting trip in the mountainous Shagak Bay area. Early Monday morning a severe rain storm accompanied by 80 mile an hour winds hit the region around Adak. The party split, Jerry and a friend seeking to return to shelter at Shagak.
The bodies of Jerry and the other officer were found early Tuesday afternoon by a marine patrol. They had not reached the shelter and had died approximately eight hours before from exposure and over exertion.
Survivors of Ensign Giddens also include two sisters, Mrs. C. R. Hatchette, Enid, Okla, and Miss Jane Giddens, of the home.
Note: son of Clyde Argyle and Goldie (Tyler) Giddens
Created by: Jona Runyon
Record added: Feb 12, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 24576362