Happy Birthday Gerald Ford!
Happy Birthday Gerald Ford!
Leslie Lynch King Jr., better known as Gerald Rudolph Ford, was born on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska.
The future president’s parents separated when he was very young and his mother eventually married a man named Gerald Rudolff Ford. In 1916, they changed the young boy’s name to Gerald Rudolff Ford Jr. When he legally changed his name in 1935, he adopted the more conventional spelling of his middle name.
Ford would go on to become a Boy Scout (the first Eagle Scout to reach the Oval Office) and a football star. In fact, he had the opportunity to play professional football, but instead chose to pursue a career in law. He attended Yale Law School and returned to Grand Rapids to open a law practice. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 caused him to change his plans.
Ford didn’t want to wait for the draft, so he joined the Navy. He reported for active duty on April 20, 1942. After a month of training Ford became an instructor for seamanship, ordnance, gunnery, first aid, and military drill. He also coached all nine sports taught at the Preflight School. By 1943, Ford was promoted to Lieutenant.
Ford then applied for sea duty and was assigned to the USS Monterey. He served as the ship’s assistant navigator, athletic officer, and antiaircraft battery officer. During Ford’s time aboard the Monterrey, he participated in several Pacific actions with the Third and Fifth Fleets. They helped protect Makin Island in the Gilberts, launched strikes against Kavieng, New Ireland, the Marianas, Western Carolines, and Northern New Guinea, supported the landings at Kwajalein and Eniwetok, and participated in the Battle of Philippine Sea. They also participated in battles at Wake Island, the Philippines and Ryukus, Leyte, and Mindoro.
Ford was also present on the Monterrey when it was hit by a typhoon on December 18 and 19, 1944. During the storm, several of the ship’s planes broke loose from their cables and started fires. During this time, Ford left his battle station, but the ship rolled 25 degrees, making him lose his footing and slide down the deck. He nearly slid overboard, but was saved by the two-inch steel ridge around the deck. He later recalled, “I was lucky; I could have easily gone overboard.”
After that typhoon, the Monterrey was deemed unfit for service. Ford was then sent to California where he worked in the Athletic Department of the Navy Pre-Flight School. He was released from the Navy in 1946. For his service, Ford received the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with nine engagement stars as well as the Philippine Liberation and World War II Victory Medals.
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