During the Battle of Midway, 15 torpedo bombers from Torpedo Squadron 8 were launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet and none of them returned. The only survivor was George Gay, a 25-year-old native of Waco, Texas. He had been shot down less than 1 year after completing the Navy Aviation Cadet Program and then had struggled to escape from his sinking plane. After freeing a jammed canopy, he had risen to the surface in the middle of the Japanese fleet and, to avoid capture and probable death, had hidden under a cushion that floated free of his aircraft.
The wounded "sole survivor" spent 30 hours in the water before he was rescued by a PBY Catalina flying boat. After recovering from his wounds in 1943, he was assigned to land-based Torpedo Squadron 11 on Guadalcanal where he flew TBD Avengers. Following the Guadalcanal campaign, he returned to the United States as an instructor pilot.
The TBD-1 Devastator flown by Ensign Gay is shown during its wave top attack on the Japanese aircraft carrier "Akagi" on 4 June 1942. Flying at 80 knots, Ensign Gay has just released his one-ton Mark 13 torpedo at a range of approximately 850 yards. Moments later, Zero fighters shot down this remaining TBD-1 from Torpedo Squadron 8.