LT Walter Sherman Gifford, Jr., USNR
Radio Intelligence Officer
December 15, 1917 – July 31, 1944
Walter Sherman Gifford Jr. was appointed to the rank of ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve 15 December 1941. He served in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations until July 1944 when he was ordered to the Pacific for duty with the Fleet Radio Unit of the Seventh Fleet. He attained the rank of lieutenant on 1 October 1942. Lieutenant Gifford was killed when a plane in which he was a passenger crashed on take-off in Funafuti Lagoon, Ellice Islands Group, 31 July 1944.
Walter Sherman Gifford, Jr., was born on 15 December 1917 at Washington, D. C. He was educated at Buckley School, New York City; The Fessenden School, West Newton, Mass., where he made a record by being the head of the school for three successive years, and was one of the editors of the Albemarle, the school paper; Phillips Exeter Academy, where he was a member of Cum Laude Society and graduated with honors in 1935; and Harvard, where he graduated cum laude in 1939. He was president of the Harvard Monthly during his junior and senior years, and a member of Signet Society, the Harvard Mountaineering Club and the American Alpine Club.
After graduating from Harvard he went into newspaper work, joining the newspaper PM in New York as a junior writer at the time when the paper started.
His sports were skiing, tennis, squash, pack trips, fishing and mountaineering. As a member of the H.M.C., he went in 1938 on the Club’s expedition to the Chugach Range in Alaska. In 1939 he enjoyed climbing in the Tetons. He had a wide range of intellectual interests, and one of his particular hobbies was photography.
He entered the Navy on 2 December 1941 as Ensign, was promoted to Lieutenant (j.g.) on 1 October 1942 and became a full Lieutenant a year later. He was killed in a plane crash at Funafuti Atoll in the Pacific on 31 July 1944. He was posthumously awarded a citation by the Secretary of the Navy “for outstanding performance of duty while attached to the Division of Naval Communications, from December 19, 1941 to July 31, 1944. Carrying out his important work with skill and initiative, Lieutenant Gifford rendered invaluable assistance in fulfilling the obligations of the Division of Naval Communications throughout a critical period in the history of our country. By his professional ability and devotion to the completion of an exacting assignment, he contributed to the prosecution of the war and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
The Gifford Award
It was in Lieutenant Gifford’s honor that the trophy was named. The award was made by the Navy Department on the basis of performance, including enrollment, attendance at drills, annual active duty for training, and advancement in rating. The first award was made in 1953.