SHARKHUNTERS Salutes Veterans
GEORGE GAY (3300-1993)
United States Navy Aviation ‘the Sole Survivor’
During the Battle of Midway, GEORGE GAY was the first of his squadron(Torpedo Squadron 8) to take off from USS HORNET on 4 June 1942. They found the Japanese carrier battle group but their US Navy fighter support was nowhere to be seen. They commenced their attack. GAY was wounded and his radio operator was dying of his wounds, GAY pressed on his torpedo attack against the huge Japanese carrier KAGA. The carrier evaded, so rather than banking off and presenting an excellent target to the Japanese gunners, GAY flew right down the carrier’s flight deck! He said that for a moment, he considered crashing into the many Japanese planes on the carrier’s deck.
His DEVASTATORtorpedo plane was still in passable condition so GAY decided to try to return to the HORNET. However, six A6M Zero fighters came after him and amidst a hail of machine gun and cannon fire, brought him down into the sea right in the midst of the battle. He got out of the plane and covered his head with his seat cushion to avoid being spotted and killed in the water by Japanese planes. He had the best place to watch the battle unfold and watch the destruction of three of Japan four top-line carriers – AKAGI, KAGA, and SORYU. When he felt it was safe, he inflated his life raft and after being in the water some 30 hours, he was picked up by a PBY flying boat and brought back to USS VINCENNES where he was patched up. He was the only survivor of the ill-fated Torpedo Squadron 8.
GEORGE GAY continued flying throughout the war and eventually became an instructor. After the war, he flew with Pan Am Airlines for thirty years. On 21 October 1994, a little more than a year after joining Sharkhunters, GEORGE GAY, the sole survivor of Torpedo Squadron 8, died from a heart attack. We had several telephone conversations with him and found him to be a pleasant fellow and full of history.