Donald Arthur Gary was born on 23 July 1901 in
Findlay, Ohio. He enlisted in the U. S. Navy on 12 December 1919 and served
as an enlisted sailor until November 1943, when he was commissioned a
Lieutenant (junior grade). He progressed to the rank of Lieutenant Commander
in March 1946 and, when he retired on 1 June 1950, he was advanced to the
rank of Commander on the basis of combat awards. Commander Gary died on 9
His onshore duties during his naval career included assignments in the Third
Naval District, New York City; the Office of Assistant Inspector of
Machinery, B&W Company, Ohio; the staff of Commander Submarine Group ONE,
New York; and the Naval Disciplinary Barracks, Terminal Island, California.
His sea duty tours included ELCANO (PG 38), HANNIBAL (AG 1), SWAN (AM 34),
IDAHO (BB 42), INDIANAPOLIS (CA 35) for two tours, ENTERPRISE (CV 6), and
FRANKLIN (CV 13), that (then) Lieutenant Gary joined as an Engineering
Officer in December 1944.
On 19 March 1945, FRANKLIN was operating with a fast carrier task force
against remnants of the Japanese fleet when it was severely damaged by fires
caused by two Japanese bombs in an attack. Only outstanding efforts on the
part of the crew, and Lieutenant Gary in particular, saved the ship from
destruction and the lives of many sailors.
On 23 January 1946 Lieutenant Gary was presented the Medal of Honor at the
White House by President Harry S. Truman.
The damaged FRANKLIN returned to New York harbor, and Commander Gary remained
aboard the ship until it was decommissioned in 1947.
Medal of Honor citation of Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Donald A. Gary
(as printed in the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The
Navy", page 191):
"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, Lieutenant 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 below decks became increasingly panic-stricken under the
raging fury of incessant explosions, he confidently assured them he would
find a means of affecting their release and, groping through the dark,
debris-filled corridors, untimately discovered an escapeway. Staunchly
determined, he struggled back to the messing compartment three 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 fire-fighting 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 one boiler in the
face of extreme difficulty and hazard.
An inspiring and courageous leader, Lieutenant 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
United States Naval Service."