Ensign George H. Gay was born in Waco, Texas on March
8, 1917. His first flight in airplane took place at the Texas State
fair in Dallas when his grandmother agreed to accompany him up in
a Ford Tri-Motor after his parents refused his request. “I
came here in a covered wagon, and I’m not afraid of that thing,”
she said. Neither was he. From then on he wanted to fly. He had
completed his sophomore year at Texas A&M when the war in Europe
convinced him America would soon get into it. He joined the navy
in February, 1941. After receiving his wings at Pensacola, he joined
Torpedo Squadron 8 in Norfolk. Nicknamed “Tex,” he was
considered one of the squadron’s better pilots.
During their final attack against the Japanese fleet, he saw all
his squadron mates die as the Zeros shot them out of the sky. Remembering
Waldron’s final words about what the last man must do, he
headed straight for the nearest carrier and successfully launched
his torpedo in the face of massive anti-aircraft fire. It missed
or did not explode.
Badly wounded, his gunner already dead, Gay crashed into the sea,
after which his tiny rubber raft was strafed by Japanese pilots.
With all the Japanese fighter planes at low altitude, the U.S. dive
bombers came in unmolested at their higher altitude and launched
their devastating attack, sinking three of the four Japanese carriers
as Gay watched from the sea.