US Navy Captain. Gray grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and from an early age learned to fly. He soloed at the age of fourteen and became the youngest licensed pilot in the United States in 1930. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1936 and after graduation he served at sea until 1938 when he was accepted at Flight Training School. Upon completion of Flight School he was assigned to Squadron VF-6 aboard the Aircraft Carrier, U.S.S. Enterprise. On February 1, 1942 he led the strike against Taroa Air Base in the Marshalls Islands. During this mission he shot down two Imperial Navy Mitsubishi A5M Claude fighters over Taroa. On June 4, 1942 Gray took part in the decisive action of the battle of Midway as Squadron Commander of VF-6 and leader of a ten plane flight of VF-6 Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters assigned to protect the slow vulnerable, outmoded Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo planes of Torpedo Squadron VT-6 also based aboard the Enterprise. During 1942-1943 he commanded the fighter training squadron at Pensacola, and authored the Navy fighter pilots Bible "A to N for the Fighter Pilot". Gray was Chief of Staff to the Commander Carrier Division Four as well as Commander Carrier Air Group 3. He was also Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of the Aircraft Carrier U.S.S. Coral Sea as well as Commanding Officer of the Ammunittion ships U.S.S. Mauna Loa and U.S.S. Suribachi. Gray was the first Navy pilot to achieve "Ace" status in World War II. He retired from the Navy in 1965. (bio by: Saratoga)
Before 8 May 1945, the aircraft carrier CVB-42 had been known as USS Coral Sea; after that date, CVB-42 was renamed in honor ofFranklin D. Roosevelt, the late President, and CVB-43 was namedCoral Sea.
Installation of the Pilot Landing Aid Television (PLAT) system was completed on Coral Sea on 14 December 1961. She was the first carrier to have this system installed for operations use. Designed to provide a videotape of every landing, the system proved useful for instructional purposes and in the analysis of landing accidents, thereby making it an invaluable tool in the promotion of safety. By 1963, all attack carriers had been equipped with PLAT and plans were underway for installation in the CVSs and at shore stations.
The Coral Sea made another Westpac/Vietnam deployment from 29 July 1966 to 23 February 1967.
In the summer of 1967 the city of San Francisco adopted the ship as "San Francisco's Own." This might seem ironic given the strong anti-military sentiment in the San Francisco Bay area, and the fact that this occurred during the Summer of Love.  Despite this, the city and the ship enjoyed a formal, official relationship. However, there were probably many times the crew did not enjoy the attitudes of Bay Area residents at all. The feeling was mutual.
The ship continued to make WestPac/Vietnam deployments until 1975: 26 July 1967 to 6 April 1968; 7 September 1968 to 15 April 1969; 23 September 1969 to 1 July 1970; 12 November 1971 to 17 July 1972; 9 March 1973 to 8 November; and from 5 December 1974 to 2 July 1975. Operations by United States Navy and United States Marine Corps aircraft inVietnam expanded significantly throughout April 1972 with a total of 4,833 Navy sorties in the south and 1,250 in the north. Coral Sea, along with Hancock, was on Yankee Station when the North Vietnamese spring offensive began. They were joined in early April by Kitty Hawk and Constellation. On 16 April 1972, aircraft from Coral Sea, along with those from Kitty Hawk and Constellation, flew 57 sorties in the Haiphong area in support of U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortressstrikes on the Haiphong petroleum products storage area in an operation known as Freedom Porch.
After refitting, from 1970 through to 1971, and during Reftra down to San Diego, the Coral Sea on its return trip to Alameda caught fire in the communications department. The fire spread so fast that Captain William H. Harriscommanded that the carrier be put just off shore between San Mateo and Santa Barbara in order to abandon ship if the fire could not be put under control. Several communications personnel were trapped and Radiomen Bob Bilbo and Bill Larimore pulled many shipmates out of the burning and smoke filled compartments.
Operation Pocket Money, the mining campaign against principal North Vietnamese ports, was launched 9 May 1972. Early that morning, an EC-121 aircraft took off from Da Nang airfield to provide support for the mining operation. A short time later, Kitty Hawk launched 17 ordnance-delivering sorties against the Nam Dinh railroad siding as a diversionary air tactic. Poor weather, however, forced the planes to divert to secondary targets at Thanh and Phu Qui. Coral Sealaunched three A-6A Intruders and six A-7E Corsair II aircraft loaded with naval mines and one EKA-3B Skywarrior in support of the mining operation directed against the outer approaches to Haiphong Harbor. The mining aircraft departed the vicinity of Coral Sea timed to execute the mining at precisely 09:00 local time to coincide with PresidentRichard M. Nixon's public announcement in Washington that naval mines had been seeded. The Intruder flight led by the CAG, Commander Roger E. Sheets, was composed of United States Marine Corps aircraft from VMA-224 and headed for the inner channel.
Flight operations during the Vietnam war
The Corsairs, led by Commander Leonard E. Giuliani and made up of aircraft from VA-94 and VA-22, were designated to mine the outer segment of the channel. Each aircraft carried four MK52-2 mines. Captain William R. Carr, USMC, the bombardier/navigator in the lead plane, established the critical attack azimuth and timed the naval mine releases. The first mine was dropped at 08:59 and the last of the field of 36 mines at 09:01. Twelve mines were placed in the inner harbor and the remaining 24 in the outer. All mines were set with 72-hour arming delays, thus permitting merchant ships time for departure or a change in destination consistent with the President's public warning. It was the beginning of a mining campaign that planted over 11,000 MK36 type destructor and 108 special Mk 52-2 mines over the next eight months. It is considered to have played a significant role in bringing about an eventual peace arrangement, particularly since it so hampered the enemy's ability to continue receiving war supplies.
On 12 May to 14 May 1975, Coral Sea participated with other United States Navy, United States Air Force, and United States Marine Corps forces in the Mayaguez incident, the recovery of the U.S. merchant ship SS Mayaguez and her 39 crew, illegally seized on 12 May in international waters by a Cambodian gunboat controlled by the Communist Khmer Rouge. Protective air strikes flown from the carrier against the Cambodian mainland naval and air installations as Air Force helicopters with 288 Marines from Battalion Landing Teams 2 and 9 were launched from U Tapao, Thailand, and landed at Koh Tang Island to rescue the Mayaguez's crew and secure the ship. Eighteen Marines, Airmen, and Navy corpsmen were lost in the action. For her action, Coral Sea was presented the Meritorious Unit Commendation on 6 July 1976. Meanwhile, she had been reclassified as a "Multi-Purpose Aircraft Carrier", returning to hull classification symbolCV-43, on 30 June 1975.