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WWII Marine pilot to be honored at Sioux Falls VA


Sioux Falls S.D. (KELO AM) - Leo Istas of Miller, SD will be honored May 2, 2014 at a recognition ceremony at the Sioux Falls VA Medical Center. Mr. Istas, age 90, is one of the last of The Greatest Generation and a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Flying with the Marine Fighter Squadron, VMF-313, Mr. Istas flew a F4U Corsair from bases in the Philippines against Japanese forces. Though all combat is essentially dangerous, VMF-313 was tasked with the challenging missions against enemy shipping. The Pacific Theatre of WWII used the ocean to transport war material so the war could not be won without control of the seas.

Flying fast and literally on top of the wave crests, the Marine Corsairs would attack to destroy the shipping vessels, exchanging fire at point-blank range. Mr. Istas was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for singlehandedly sinking a transport ship with a 1000 lb. bomb delivered through a technique called “skip bombing,” where the bomb was released at an especially high rate of speed.

During a recent visit to the Sioux Falls VA Medical Center, Mr. Istas and Wade Luttges, a Registered Nurse and retired Air Force pilot, became acquainted. Their conversation revealed the story of Mr. Istas’ WWII service and distinction.

Local artist and historian, John Mollison, drew Mr. Istas’ actual combat aircraft as an honor to the Veteran and his contributions. This drawing will be presented to Mr. Istas during the reception on May 2 at 4:00 PM in the 4th floor auditorium of the Sioux Falls VA Medical Center.. 

The public is invited to attend. Refreshments will be served.