Veterans' Memorial Project

John Floyd Gray

Champaign, IL

World War II

College: Liberal Arts & Sciences

Graduation Year: 1938

Service Branch: Navy

Rank: Lieutenant Commander

Date of Birth: 01/01/1917

Date of Death: 06/03/1946

Lt. Commander Gray was one of the Navy’s top aces and pioneer test pilots of the Navy’s new Fireball fighter, first plane in the world to combine jet and gasoline engines. He was killed June 3, 1946, when his fighter collided with another plane in his squadron off the northern coast of California. Commander Gray, who was awarded the Navy Cross just nine days before his death, was leading his squadron back to their San Diego base following a Navy show at San Francisco. Due for a land-based appointment in the summer of 1946, Lt. Commander Gray was the first and only commander of the “combat evaluation squadron” for the Fireball. He served as a “Hellcat” pilot throughout the early South Pacific fighting and was a member of the original Task Force 58. He was awarded two Air Medals for heroism over Truk (one being awarded for leading a Navy carrier-based plane attack in which three Japanese four-engine flying boats were destroyed) and other islands and also received the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism over Palau. He entered the service in 1939.

-taken from Illinois Alumni News, June, 1946 and July, 1945

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