James Gray was born on February 1, 1914, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1932, and was commissioned an Ensign on June 4, 1936. Gray served aboard the heavy cruiser USS Salt Lake City (CA-25) from July 1936 to June 1938, and then entered flight training at NAS Pensacola, Florida. He was designated a Naval Aviator on June 7, 1939, and then served with VF-6 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) from July 1939 to August 1942. During this time, he commanded VF-6 from March to July 1942, and was credited with the destruction of 3 enemy aircraft in aerial combat. His next assignment was as commander of VN-4D8 at NAS Pensacola from September 1942 to November 1943, and then as commander of VF(N)-78 aboard USS Enterprise from December 1943 to November 1944. He damaged 1 enemy aircraft in the air with VF(N)-78 before transferring as commander of VF-20 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-16) in November 1944. CDR Gray destroyed another 3 enemy aircraft in the air with VF-20, and then served as commander of Carrier Air Group 3 from May to August 1945. He was aide to the Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy from August 1945 to February 1947, and then attended Armed Forces Staff College from February to August 1947. After attending refresher pilot training at NAS Pensacola, CDR Gray served as commander of VP-22 from September 1947 to May 1949, followed by service as All Weather Coordinator for OP-55B from June 1949 to June 1951. He served as Executive Officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea (CV-43) from July 1951 to December 1952, and then served as Operations Officer for the Commander of Fleet Air Eastern Atlantic/Mediterranean until August 1954. Capt Gray next attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces from August 1954 to May 1955, followed by service on the staff of the Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, from May 1955 to September 1957. He served on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon from October 1957 to June 1958, and then commanded the ammunition ship USS Mauna Loa (AE-8) from July to October 1958, the ammunition ship USS Suribachi (AE-21) from October 1958 to September 1959, and the USS Coral Sea from October 1959 to December 1960. Capt Gray served as Chief of Staff to the Commander of Carrier Division 4 from January to December 1961, and then served as Director of the Inter-Service Liaison Group with OP-90J from January 1962 until June 1964. His final assignment was with NAC at Naval Base Norfolk, Virginia, from June 1964 until his retirement from the Navy on January 1, 1966. James Gray died on August 28, 1998, and was buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.