FFG 51 Gary
USS Gary (FFG 51), the last remaining Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate on the West coast, was decommissioned during a ceremony held at Naval Base San Diego on 23 July 2015 after 31 years of service.
USS GARY's mission is to escort and protect convoys, underway replenishment groups, amphibious landing groups, and carrier battle groups. GARY's missile, gun, and anti-submarine warfare systems, combined with its quick reaction and high speed capability, make the warship a valuable asset in today's multi-threat environment.
The light blue "V" shape signifies the Medal of Honor ribbon as it rests on the dark blue of the Navy uniform. The "V for Victory" symbol was also used extensively during World War II at the time Commander Gary, then a Lieutenant, was awarded the Medal of Honor. The five white stars are from the medal service ribbon. The sea lion, long a symbol of courage at sea, represents the courage shown by Lieutenant Gary when he saved hundreds of his shipmates from violent death at sea. The ship's propeller denotes that he was an engineering officer that directed, at great personal risk, the raising of steam to get his damaged and imperiled ship underway after an enemy attack.
The anchor, without stock, is one of the distinguishing features of the Navy's Medal of Honor, and is also an ancient symbol of the sea. The fire bomb with three flames signifies the three times Lieutenant Gary went back through fire and exploding bombs to lead several hundred men to safety. The arrowheads are representative of the destructive force of the guided missiles of USS GARY (FFG 51). The setting sun is symbolic of the heroic actions of Lieutenant Gary that took place off the coast of Japan near the end of the war. The palm fronds denote his honor and service in the South Pacific area.
On an azure scroll in doubled gold is the motto "FREEDOM'S FOREMOST GUARDIAN"
Donald A. Gary
Donald Arthur Gary was born on 23 July 1903 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 April 1977.
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.
Lieutenant Gary was awarded the Medal of Honor, with a citation that stated:
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty as the Engineering Officer attached to the USS FRANKLIN when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy aircraft during operations against the Japanese home islands near Kobe, Japan, March 19, 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 beacon increasingly panic-stricken under the raging fury of incessant explosions, he confidently assured them he would find a means of effecting their release and, groping through the dark, debris-filled corridors, ultimately discovered an escapeway. Staunchly, 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 number 3 fireroom and directed the raising of steam in one boiler in the face of extreme difficulty and hazard. An inspiring and courageous leader, (he) rendered self-sacrificing service the most perilous conditions and, by his heroic initiative, fortitude and valor, was responsible for saving of several hundred lives ...."
The damaged FRANKLIN returned to New York harbor, and Commander Gary remained aboard the ship until it was decommissioned in 1947. On 23 January 1946 he was presented the Medal of Honor at the White House by President Harry S Truman.
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