Friday, December 29, 2006
President Gerald R. Ford passed away Dec. 26 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 93. When he entered the White House in 1974 as the 38th President, Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. became the fourth consecutive President to have served in the U.S. Navy. "President Ford was a great man who devoted the best years of his life in serving the United States", said President George W. Bush in a statement from his Crawford, Texas ranch. "He was a true gentleman who reflected the best in America's character. Before the world knew his name, he served with distinction in the United States Navy and in the United States Congress."Ford received his commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on April 13, 1942. On April 20, he reported for active duty to the V-5 instructor school at Annapolis, Md. After a month of training he reported to the Navy Preflight School in Chapel Hill, N.C., where he taught elementary seamanship, ordnance, gunnery, first aid, and military drill. In addition, he coached in all nine sports that were offered, but mostly in swimming, boxing and football. He was promoted to Lt. j.g. in June 1942, and to Lt. in March 1943, while assigned to the Preflight School. In May 1943, Ford was sent to the pre-commissioning detachment for a new light aircraft carrier, USS Monterey (CVL-26) at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, N.J. From the ship's commissioning on June 17, 1943, until the end of Dec. 1944, Ford served as the assistant navigator, athletic officer, and antiaircraft battery officer aboard Monterey. While he was aboard, Monterey participated in many actions in the Pacific with the 3rd and 5th Fleets during the fall of 1943 and in 1944.Ford was detached from the ship on Christmas Eve 1944, and sent to the Athletic Department of the Navy Pre-Flight School, St. Mary's College, Calif., where one of his duties was to coach football. From the end of April 1945 to Jan. 1946, he was on the staff of the Naval Reserve Training Command at Naval Air Station, Glenview, Ill. as the staff physical and military training officer. He was promoted to Lt. Cmdr. Oct. 3, 1945. The future president was released from active duty under honorable conditions on Feb. 23, 1946. On 28 June 1963, the Secretary of the Navy accepted Ford's resignation from the Naval Reserve. Ford earned the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with nine engagement stars for operations in the Gilbert Islands, Bismark Archipelego, Marshal Islands, Asiatic and Pacific carrier raids, Hollandia, Marianas, Western Carolines, Western New Guinea, and the Leyte Operation. He also received the Philippine Liberation with two bronze stars for Leyte and Mindoro, as well as the American Campaign and World War II Victory Medals.As part of the honors for the former president, the Washington Navy Yard fired a gun salute every half hour from 8 a.m. until sunset on Dec. 27. "This is one of the biggest honors we can have as members of the ceremonial honor guard," said FN Joseph Oliphant one of the Sailors firing the cannon. History shows the former president's term in office began in the midst of scandal, but as President Bush noted in his statement, Ford brought honor back to the highest office in the land. "He assumed power in a period of great division and turmoil," said Bush. "For a nation that needed healing and for an office that needed a calm and steady hand, Gerald Ford came along when we needed him most. "During his time in office," Bush continued, "the American people came to know President Ford as a man of complete integrity who led our country with common sense and kind instincts." "We mourn the loss of such a leader, and our 38th President will always have a special place in our nation's memory.