Lt. CMDR G. R. Ford Jr. USNR
In the wake of the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor In December 1941 a young college football star from the University of Michigan decided to put his life on hold in order to join the US Navy. That young man would serve in the war and end up going into politics. Eventually, he would serve as the President of the United States.
That young man was Gerald R. Ford who gained his commission in the US Naval Reserve as an ensign in April 1942. The first year of the war he spent training Navy pilots in basic navigation, ordnance, gunnery, first aid, and drill. And of course, he acted as a coach for all the sports that were offered on the base.
In May 1943 he was assigned to the USS Monterrey, a light carrier that was still under construction in New Jersey. During his time attached to the ship, he served as the assistant navigator, Athletic Officer and commanded an anti-aircraft battery. He saw plenty of action during the tour. The Gilbert Islands, New Ireland, the Marianas, and Western Carolines, Wake Island and many actions in the Philippines. After almost losing his life in a typhoon that did major damage to the ship and the fleet, in December 1944 he was transferred off the Monterrey and was sent to the Navy Pre-Flight School at Saint Mary’s College of California where he became the football coach. He passed the rest of the war in that post.
On February 23, 1946, he left the service under honorable conditions. During his military career, he was awarded the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with nine and 3/16 bronze stars, the Philippine Liberation Medal with two and 3/16 bronze stars and a World War II Victory Medal.
During those years he learned many lessons about leadership and sacrifice that would serve him for many years to come. From college football star to a warrior, to President of the United States, Ford did pretty well for himself.