Following in the footsteps of his brothers, James Rogers Gorby enlisted in the Navy in 1954. After completing his training, he served aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Antietam. USS Antietam sailed twice in the Middle East by order of the president in response to ongoing crises, though Gorby was never involved in active combat.
While deployed to the Middle East, an armed helicopter malfunctioned during regular practice operations and crashed into the ship, causing a fire. Trained in firefighting, Gorby quickly responded. Gorby maintained a clear head and began dousing the aircraft with water, avoiding an ammunition cook-off. After working tirelessly to combat the flames without success, he prepared to jump ship, but saw the damage control chief running toward the fire with another hose. Gorby realized together they might be able to bring the fire under control, so he risked his life and ran back into the fire. There, he and the damage control chief extinguished the fire. Although several sailors lost their lives in the accident, the entire ship and many more lives could have been lost if the ammunition or gas tanks had ignited.
After completing his service with USS Antietam, Gorby transferred to Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, Maryland. There, the Navy tested various aircraft and technologies. After one of these tests as the aircraft taxied back to the hangar, Gorby noticed a fire on the bottom of the aircraft. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and alerted the pilot inside. After helping the pilot exit the aircraft, Gorby again risked his life attempting to extinguish the fire before it spread to the fuel tanks.
Gorby discharged from Patuxent Naval Air Test Center in 1958 at the rank of aviation boatswain’s mate third class. Though his actions during his service made him eligible for several awards, he refused to accept them. After leaving the Navy, Gorby returned to his home in West Virginia. He married and worked as a machinist until retirement.
We honor his service.
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This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.