Commander Donald Arthur Gary USN

Lt. Donald A. Gary receiving the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman.


Donald Arthur Gary was born in Findlay, Ohio, on 23 July 1901. He enlisted in the Navy in December 1919 and served continuously in the enlisted ranks until November 1943, when he received a commission as a Lieutenant (Junior Grade). In 1943 and 1944, Lt(JG) Gary was assigned to the Third Naval District and as an inspector of machinery at the Babcock and Wilcox Company. In December 1944, he was sent to the aircraft carrier Franklin as an engineering officer. When that ship was severely damaged by Japanese air attack on 19 March 1945, Lt(JG) Gary distinguished himself as he helped hundreds of trapped men to escape from below decks, organized and led fire-fighting parties and directed the restoration of power in one boiler room. For his heroism on that occasion, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Subsequently promoted to the ranks of Lieutenant and Lieutenant Commander, Gary remained with Franklin until she was decommissioned in February 1947. He was then assigned to the Naval Disciplinary Barracks at Terminal Island, California, where he served until relieved of active duty pending retirement, which took place in June 1950. On the basis of his combat awards, he was advanced to the rank of Commander upon retirement. Commander Donald A. Gary died in 1977.

(Courtesy of the Naval Historical Center)

Medal of Honor Citation

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 USS 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, ultimately 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.


Page revised Feb. 7, 2007