Born on March 1, 1924 in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, William Gortney is a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He joined the Navy in 1942, after graduating from Harrodsburg High School. He earned his commission in 1943, and was designated a Naval Aviator after he completed flight training in 1945. Initially flying the F6F Hellcat, he was one of the first pilots to transition to jets. While stationed with VF-51 in San Diego (from 1949 to 1952), he deployed on USS Valley Forge in support of the Korean War. On June 20, the Valley Forge was forward deployed in the vicinity of Hong Kong. On June 25, it was near the Philippines, and was immediately sent toward the Korean peninsula in support of the Korean War. While flying on the wing of the Carrier Air Group Commander, he was the second American Navy pilot to cross the 38th parallel after the start of the Korean War. Their mission was bombing the runway and airbase in Pyeongyang, North Korea. As time progressed, the primary mission for Gortney and other Naval Aviators was to destroy the runways and airbases, tanks, trains, and other transportation nodes to disable enemy logistics. The primary enemy aircraft faced by Navy pilots at the beginning of the war was the Soviet Union’s Yak, but it was no match for U.S. air power. In later phases of the war, the Mig.17 was the first enemy aircraft to compete with superior U.S. air power. While serving on the staff of the Commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet from 1960 to 1962, he had several opportunities to return to Korea. He could not believe what the Korean economy had accomplished. Captain Bill Gortney retired from the Navy in 1970. The father of three children; one of his daughters is also a retired Navy captain. A second daughter is a school teacher. His son, William “Bill” Gortney, an active duty Navy Admiral and currently serving as the Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces in Norfolk Virginia, was a graduate of Elon College in North Carolina. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science in 1977, he was a Candidate for an Aviation Officer in the Navy, and began earning commission in the United States Naval Reserve starting in September 1977. He went on to earn his wings of gold in December 1978. To see more, visit: http://www.public.navy.mil/usff/Pages/CommandersBio.aspx
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