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Gary file photo [4930]

Donald Gary

Given NameDonald
Born23 Jul 1901
Died9 Apr 1977
CountryUnited States


ww2dbaseDonald Arthur Gary was born in Findlay, Ohio, United States. He enlisted in the United States Navy in Dec 1919. He became an officer in Nov 1943 when he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant (jg). Between 1943 and 1944, he served at the Third Naval District and as an inspector of machinery at the Babcock and Wilcox Company. In Dec 1944, he was assigned to the aircraft carrier Franklin as an engineering officer. On 19 Mar, while only 50 miles off the Japanese home islands as indirect support for the Okinawa campaign, the carrier was attacked by a single dive bomber, either a D4Y or a D3A aircraft. Two 250-kilogram bombs hit the carrier, igniting fires and leaving the ship dead in the water with a 13-degree list. Gary discovered 300 men trapped deep within the ship; upon finding an exit, he returned to them repeatedly to lead groups to safety. US Marine Corps pilot Ray Larson recalled a navy lieutenant, Gary, breaking into the compartment where he and a group of other men were trapped. "I've found a way out. I'll take the first ten men closest to the door first. If I get them through, I'll come back and get the rest of you." Larson was among the second group Gary took above. He recalled Gary telling the group to stay low and hang on to the belt of the man immediately in front so that no one would get lost in the thick clouds of smoke. Later, Gary led firefighters on the burning hangar deck. For his actions during the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Franklin, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. The citation read:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as an Engineering Officer attached to the U.S.S. Franklin when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy aircraft during the operations against the Japanese Home Islands near Kobe, Japan, 19 March 1945. Stationed on the third deck when the ship was rocked by a series of violent explosions set off in her own ready bombs, rockets and ammunition by the hostile attack, Lt. (jg.) Gary unhesitatingly risked his life to assist several hundred men trapped in a messing compartment filled with smoke, and with no apparent egress. As the imperiled men belowdecks became increasingly panic stricken under the raging fury of incessant explosions, he confidently assured them he would find a means of effecting their release and, groping through the dark, debris-filled corridors, ultimately discovered an escapeway. Stanchly [sic] determined, he struggled back to the messing compartment 3 times despite menacing flames, flooding water and the ominous threat of sudden additional explosions, on each occasion calmly leading his men through the blanketing pall of smoke until the last one had been saved. Selfless in his concern for his ship and his fellows, he constantly rallied others about him, repeatedly organized and led firefighting parties into the blazing inferno on the flight deck and, when firerooms 1 and 2 were found to be inoperable, entered the No. 3 fireroom and directed the raising of steam in 1 boiler in the face of extreme difficulty and hazard. An inspiring and courageous leader, Lt. (jg.) Gary rendered self-sacrificing service under the most perilous conditions and, by his heroic initiative, fortitude, and valor, was responsible for the saving of several hundred lives. His conduct throughout reflects the highest credit upon himself and upon the U.S. Naval Service.

ww2dbaseGary was subsequently promoted to the ranks of lieutenant and lieutenant commander. After the war, he remained with the ship until she was decommissioned in Feb 1947. He was then assigned to the Naval Disciplinary Barracks at Terminal Island, California, United States, where he served until retirement in Jun 1950. He was promoted to the rank of commander while on the retirement list. He passed away in 1977. He now rests at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California, United States.

ww2dbaseIn 1983, the guided missile frigate USS Gary was named in his honor.

ww2dbaseSources: Inferno, United States Navy Naval Historical Center, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Nov 2007

Donald Gary Interactive Map

Donald Gary Timeline

23 Jul 1901 Donald Gary was born.
9 Apr 1977 Donald Gary passed away.


Portrait of Lieutenant Donald Gary, circa 1945, as seen in publication Identification photo of Lieutenant Donald Arthur Gary, circa 1945
See all 3 photographs of Donald Gary

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
14 Jan 2013 06:13:22 PM

Donald Gary held rank of Chief Watertender when I served with him in Nov. 1942. For 15 yrs he was driver for Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews who managed to get him commissioned a Lt(jg) when change of duty stations resulted in their separation.
2. Judy says:
21 Feb 2017 03:53:40 PM

Can you tell me if Donald A Gary has/had siblings? If so, do you have their information? Thank you

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Ship(s) Served:
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Portrait of Lieutenant Donald Gary, circa 1945, as seen in publication Identification photo of Lieutenant Donald Arthur Gary, circa 1945
See all 3 photographs of Donald Gary

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