Survivor of USS Bismarck Sea Sinking (CVE-95)
Eldred Katyryniuk served on the aircraft carrier USS Bismarck Sea from Many 1944 until February 1945 when the vessel was sunk while supporting the invasion of Iwo Jima. After boot camp he was assigned to the USS Bismarck as a head loader on a twin 40 battery. The USS Bismarck was assigned to the South Pacific Campaign and supported the Philippines, Guadalcanal and other smaller island or atolls invasions. While supporting the Iwo Jima invasion on May 14th 1945 the USS Bismarck came under heavy attack from Japanese Kamikazes and onshore artillery. The Bismarck along with the carrier USS Saratoga was providing landing support to the invasion fleet. The Saratoga was critically hit by 4 Kamikazes and came south to around the island requesting the Main Task Force to accept its aircraft since its deck was severely damaged. In order to accept any aircraft the USS Bismarck had to turn on its landing craft lights thus exposing the ship to enemy aircraft. Almost immediately 2 Kamikaze aircraft struck the ship with one hitting the starboard side gun and the second came straight through the deck down into the hanger area and exploded. It was this second hit that critically wounded the ship destroying most of the firefighting capability. After several fatal attempts to extinguish the fire and consultation with Division the Captain declared abandoned ship. Immediately Eldred who was promoted to Captains Orderly earlier was dispatched to the Captains quarters to retrieve all confidential documents. Upon returning to the bridge he found the bridge empty and fought his way to the upper deck of the bridge and jumped overboard. While in the water for some 5 hours he was exposed to toxic fumes and ingested copious amounts of contaminated seawater. During his time in the water, Eldred spotted a seaman who was struggling to stay afloat. As Eldred approached the man, the seaman paniced and attempted to down him. After backing off, Eldred was able to convince the seaman to relax and follow him as he cleared a path though the fuel and fire.
After attacking the fleet, the Japanese fighter aircraft turned their attention to the surviving seamen. As Eldred and the struggling seaman attempted to swim away they became under attack. After several strafing runs Eldred turned back to the struggling seaman only to see that he had been hit between the eyes. It was during these strafing runs that Eldred became wounded. Eldred was rescued by a landing craft vessel and taken to a destroyer. After battling with the sunken carrier, swimming through fumes, fires and barely escaping multiple strafing runs Eldred was to face a further nightmare. During the battle the sea conditions had grown to 5 to 7 feet making a boat transfer extremely hazardous. It was during the transfer operation that additional seamen lost their lives as they missed time their jump and were crushed between the vessels hull. Eldred observed the mayhem as his fellow shipmates were crushed and fell into the sea after surviving an earlier holocaust. As Eldred was evaluating the situation a fellow seaman was attempting to jump Eldred grab him and held him back so as to time their jump accordingly with the swells. This valiant effort saved this fellow seaman’s life but also benefitted others who were to follow. Eldred was barely able to climb the rope ladder and was stalled at the top and was just about to let go when a courageous seaman reached down and grabbed him pulling him onto the ship. To this day Eldred owes his life to the unknown person. After caring for his condition Eldred was transferred to a troop transport vessel but was fortunate to observe the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima.