As a 25-year-old Navy pilot, Mr. Gay flew a Douglas Devastator torpedo plane in an attack on Japanese warships near Midway Island on June 4, 1942.
All the planes in his squadron were shot down, and he was the only one of 30 men in Torpedo Squadron 8 to survive. Historians have credited the attack by his squadron as clearing the way for an attack by American dive bombers that eventually resulted in victory in the battle.
Wounded and wearing a life jacket, Mr. Gay watched the American dive bombers hurtle out of the clouds to attack Japanese aircraft carriers and found himself “cheering and hollering with every hit.”
After he was rescued by American forces, Mr. Gay made personal appearances for the Navy, spreading the news of the victory at Midway. That victory — achieved by an American fleet with only three heavy carriers against four heavy Japanese carriers and three light ones — was a turning point in the war in that theater.
Mr. Gay was a Trans World Airlines pilot for 30 years after the war. He also spoke to civic groups around the country, telling of his Midway experiences and calling for greater military preparedness.
In 1975, he was a consultant for the movie “Midway.” Kevin Dobson played his part. Mr. Gay toured the country with the film’s stars, Charlton Heston and Henry Fonda, to promote the film.
We honor you, George Gay.