Gilstrap honored with Quilt of Valor

With his children and family members present, Ernest Gaines Gilstrap, Seamen Second Class USS Massachusetts U.S. Navy (1942-1945) was awarded the Quilt of Valor for WWII veterans on Aug. 22 in quiltLiberty. Anne Medlin (member of the Quilt of Valor Anderson) presented him with this very unique quit designed especially for him. The quilt was very special to Medlin because her father, James Day, had served with Gilstrap aboard the USS Massachusetts from (1942-1945). Gilstrap was born July 7, 1927, to the late William Henry and Elsie Akin Gilstrap in Liberty. He tells the story of being a young mischievous teenager, and at the age of 15 and two months, he revised his birth certificate to show he was 17, which was the minimum age for enlistment for the Navy. When he finished bootcamp in Norfolk, Va., he went aboard the USS Massachusetts in Casco Bay, Maine, on Oct. 24, 1942. The next day they weighed anchor for the invasion of North Africa at Casablanca. The Massachusetts was hit three times by enemy fire with little damage and no loss of life. The ship and crew were awarded the battle star for the European/African theater of war and battle stars for the Pacific theater of war. As a member of the Naval landing force, he went ashore in Tokyo Bay on Aug. 26, 1945, and helped unarm the Japanise and sailed past the USS Missouri as they were signing the surrender. Gilstrap was honorably discharged in Dec. 20, 1942.