USS Gary (FFG-51) ( Also Known As Freedom's Foremost Guardian) is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate in the United States Navy. She was named for Commander Donald A. Gary (1903–1977).
Gary was laid down on 18 December 1982 at San Pedro, California, by the Todd Pacific Shipyards Co., Los Angeles Division; launched on 19 November 1983, sponsored by Mrs. Donald A. Gary and Mrs. George D. Leamer; and commissioned on 17 November 1984 at Naval Station Long Beach, Commander Harlan R. Bankert Jr. in command
USS GARY is the forty-fifth ship of the Oliver Hazard Perry class of Guided Missile Frigates. These ships were built to provide air, surface and sub-surface protection for underway replenishment groups, convoys, amphibious groups and other military and merchant shipping. While a capable surface combatant in these traditional warfare areas, GARY’s role has expanded from that of the early 1980’s to meet the threats and contingencies of the 21st century. Being the smallest multi-mission surface combatant in the U.S. Navy, GARY’s shallow draft gives her an advantage over larger cruisers and destroyers in the littoral operations that have characterized recent conflicts. GARY’s engineering plant is computer controlled and monitored, reducing the number of watchstanders required in the engineering spaces themselves. Two marine gas turbine engines provide propulsion. Digital electronic logic circuits and remotely operated valves are monitored in a central control station and make GARY capable of getting ready to get underway in less than ten minutes rather than the eight hours required by steam-powered ships. One of the U.S. Navy’s premiere Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) platforms, GARY routinely deploys for bi-lateral ASW exercises and real-world contingency operations in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, she displayed her versatility, deploying to the Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea, conducting carrier escort and air defense, intelligence gathering and presence missions, terrorist interdiction operations, rescue at sea and escorted dozens of merchant and military supply ships through the Strait of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb strait. From 1999 to 2007, GARY was forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, as part of the United States SEVENTH Fleet. During 2007, GARY completed a hull-swap/crew-swap with USS MCCAMPBELL (DDG-85) and is now home-ported at Naval Station, San Diego.
On 9 February 2007 GARY docked at the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville. It is the first time since the Vietnam War that an American warship has docked in Cambodia.
In the summer of 2012, GARY took part in the largest Rim of the Pacific multi-national naval exercise including 23 nations and over 40 ships.
Donald Arthur Gary was born on 23 July 1903, in Findlay, Ohio, enlisted in the U.S. Navy on 12 December 1919, and served as an enlisted man until November 1943, when he was commissioned a Lieutenant (junior grade). He progressed to the rank of Lieutenant Commander by 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 April 9th, 1977. His naval career included shore assignments in the Third Naval District, New York City; the Officer 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 included tours in USS ELCANO (PG 38), USS HANNIBAL (AG 1), USS SWAN (AM 34), USS IDAHO (BB 42), USS INDIANAPOLIS (CA 335) (two tours), USS ENTERPRISE (CV 6) and USS FRANKLIN (CV 13), which then-Lieutenant Gary joined as Engineering Officer in December 1944. On 19 March 1945, FRANKLIN was operating with a fast carrier task force against remnants of the Imperial Japanese Navy when she was severely damaged by two 500lb bombs from an enemy dive-bomber. The initial blasts killed everyone on the hangar deck, spilled 17,000 gallons of aviation fuel, set of explosions from FRANKLIN’s own 1000lb bombs, and set fires that burned fore and aft on three decks. Only outstanding efforts on the part of her crew saved her from destruction. For his heroic role, Lieutenant Gary was awarded the Medal of Honor with the following citation:
“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, 19 March 1945. Stationed on the third deck when the ship was rocked by a series of violent explosions set off by her own ready bombs, rockets and ammunition in 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 became increasingly panic-stricken under the raging fury of incessant explosions, he confidently assured them he would find a means of effecting their egress 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, he 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 in the most perilous conditions and. By his heroic initiative, fortitude and valor, was responsible for saving of several hundred lives.
The damaged ship returned to New York for overhaul and Commander Gary remained with her until FRANKLIN joined the mothball fleet in 1947. On 23 January 1946, he received his Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman at the White house. Commander Gary’s other decorations included the American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one star and the World War II Victory Medal.Hull number FFG-51
Shield: Azure escutcheon with blue chevron surmounted by gold Mer-lion holding a three-bladed ship’s propeller proper under an inverted rocker of five argent stars. Crest: On a wreath of the colors gold and azure a demi-sun gules below a fire-bomb proper flanked by two green palm fronds and surmounted by a gold stockless anchor between two demi-arrows proper. Motto: On an azure scroll in doubled gold the motto “Freedom’s Foremost Guardian.”
Shield: The light blue “V” shape represents 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 then-Lieutenant Gary was awarded the Medal of Honor. The five stars are from the medal service ribbon. The Mer-lion, a legendary seafaring creature, represents the courage shown by Lieutenant Gary when he saved hundreds of his shipmates from a violent death at sea. The ship’s propeller denotes that he was an Engineering Officer, who as such went back into the number 3 fireroom at great personal risk to direct the raising of steam to get the carrier FRANKLIN underway after it was without power for several hours due to extensive damage from enemy action.
Crest: The stockless anchor 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 denotes the three times Lieutenant Gary braved fire and exploding bombs to lead several hundred men to safety. The arrowheads are a traditional warrior symbol indicative of the warship GARY. The setting sun is symbolic of the location of the battle off the coast of Kure, Japan in which Lieutenant Gary performed his heroic actions. The palm fronds are an age-old symbol of honor and also represent his service in the south Pacific theater.