4 Sep 1916 - 8 Sep 2008
ZUI this article from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
The story sounds like something from an epic war novel: A World War II seaplane pilot lands time and again in tumultuous seas under fire to rescue 15 fellow Americans from likely death at the hands of their Japanese aggressors.
That was just one chapter in the life of former Arkansas lieutenant governor and Medal of Honor recipient Nathan Green Gordon. The story of his life ended Monday at 92. The Associated Press reported that Gordon died of pneumonia at UAMS Medical Center.
After receiving the Medal of Honor, Gordon went on to make history as Arkansas’ longest-serving lieutenant governor. He was acting governor on the day black students entered Little Rock’s Central High School for the first time in 1957.
Born Sept. 4, 1916, in his parents’ Morrilton home, Gordon was the second of four children. After finishing 10 th grade in Morrilton, he and his brother were sent to Columbia Military Academy in Tennessee. He went on to Arkansas Tech College (now Arkansas Tech University ) in Russellville before transferring to the University of Arkansas where he graduated with a law degree in 1939.
On Feb. 15, 1944, Gordon’s plane was assigned air-sea rescue duty to support a low-level raid by the Army Air Forces on a Japanese military base at Kavieng, near New Guinea.
Landing in turbulent seas, he and his nine-member crew responded to a distress call but found no one. Responding to a second rescue call from the same B-25 bomber, they found three men on a life raft. They had to shut off the Catalina’s finicky engines to rescue the men.
The same B-25 called again saying another plane was down. After a third landing in the rough water, the Catalina crew rescued six more men. As the heavily loaded plane was leaving the area, a fourth call came in. This time Gordon flew his airplane over an island to approach the water with Japanese forces firing at the plane. The crew managed to rescue six more men.
******* *** *******
NATHAN GREEN GORDON
Lieutenant, US Navy; Patrol Squadron 34, Fleet Air Wing 17
Born: 4 September 1916, Morrilton, Arkansas
Died: 8 September 2008, Little Rock, Arkansas
Citation: For extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty as commander of a [Consolidated PBY-5] Catalina patrol plane in rescuing personnel of the U.S. Army 5th Air Force shot down in combat over Kavieng Harbor in the Bismarck Sea, 15 February 1944. On air alert in the vicinity of Vitu Islands, Lt. (then Lt. j.g.) Gordon unhesitatingly responded to a report of the crash and flew boldly into the harbor, defying close-range fire from enemy shore guns to make 3 separate landings in full view of the Japanese and pick up 9 men, several of them injured. With his cumbersome flying boat dangerously overloaded, he made a brilliant takeoff despite heavy swells and almost total absence of wind and set a course for base, only to receive the report of another group stranded in a rubber life raft 600 yards from the enemy shore. Promptly turning back, he again risked his life to set his plane down under direct fire of the heaviest defenses of Kavieng and take aboard 6 more survivors, coolly making his fourth dexterous takeoff with 15 rescued officers and men. By his exceptional daring, personal valor, and incomparable airmanship under most perilous conditions, Lt. Gordon prevented certain death or capture of our airmen by the Japanese.