Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: Nathan

Last Name: Gordon

Birthplace: Morrilton, AR, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: Morrilton, AR
Middle Name: Green

Date of Birth: 14 September 1916

Date of Death: 08 September 2008

Rank or Rate: Lieutenant

Years Served: 1941-1945
Nathan Green Gordon

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Nathan Green Gordon
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Lieutenant Nathan Green Gordon (4 September 1916 - 8 September 2008) was a U.S. Navy officer and aviator who received the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for rescuing the crews of several downed airplanes during World War II. After the war, he was a lawyer and politician. A Democrat, he served as the sixth Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas for ten terms, from 1947 to 1967.

Nathan Green Gordon was born on 4 September 1916 in Morrilton, the seat of Conway County in central Arkansas, to Edward Gordon and the former Ada Ruth Bearden. After graduation from Morrilton public schools, he graduated Columbia Military Academy, Columbia, TN, in 1933 followed by Arkansas Polytechnic College in Russellville. While enrolled in Arkansas Polytechnical College, he enlisted in Battery D, 206th Coast Artillery, Arkansas Army National Guard. Following graduation, he attended law school at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, graduating with a Juris Doctor degree in 1939.

Gordon practiced law in his hometown of Morrilton before joining the Navy in May 1941. After qualifying as a naval aviator, he was sent to the southwest Pacific Ocean, where he would serve more than two years. He joined Patrol Squadron 34, nicknamed the "Black Cats," a PBY Catalina patrol and rescue squadron based at Samarai Advanced Seaplane Base in Milne Bay, New Guinea.

The Medal of Honor Mission

On 15 February 1944, the Fifth Air Force attacked Kavieng on the island of New Ireland. The mission consisted of four squadrons of A-20 Havocs from the 3rd Bombardment Group that attacked shipping in the harbor, and seven squadrons of B-25's from the 38th and 345th Groups that bombed facilities along the harbor front. Accurate anti-aircraft fire shot down eight of the low-level strafers.

Lt. j.g. Gordon's PBY Catalina (which he had nicknamed Arkansas Traveler), call sign Gardenia Six, was on station near Witu, escorted by four P-47 Thunderbolts of the 348th Fighter Group. In one of the "most striking rescues of the war," he made four separate landings and take-offs while under heavy Japanese fire. On his first landing, endangered by waves that were breaking 16 to 18 feet high, he searched for the crew of a downed A-20 without locating survivors. The aircraft was severely stressed and took on water from numerous burst seams.

After taking off, Gordon was directed twice to pick up nine men of two B-25s that had ditched. He was forced to shut down one or both engines to effect the rescues, while two other B-25s strafed the Japanese gun positions to suppress their fire. After the PBY started back to base and its fighter escorts had departed, low on fuel, one of the B-25s spotted two rafts and called back the rescue aircraft. Despite heavy seas and a damaged aircraft, Lt.(j.g.) Gordon executed another landing only 600 yards from shore, overflying Japanese gun positions at low level to land, and picked up an additional six airmen. His final takeoff with 24 men aboard was with a dangerously overloaded aircraft, but he managed to keep the Catalina's nose up until he reached flying speed without nosing over in the rough seas.

For his heroic rescue of the survivors of several downed aircraft of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, commander of Catalina patrol plane.

Place and date: Bismarck Sea, 15 February 1944.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty as commander of a Catalina patrol plane in rescuing personnel of the U.S. Army 5th Air Force shot down in combat over Kavieng Harbor in the Bismarck Sea, 15 February 1944. On air alert in the vicinity of Vitu Islands, Lt. (then Lt. j.g.) Gordon unhesitatingly responded to a report of the crash and flew boldly into the harbor, defying close-range fire from enemy shore guns to make 3 separate landings in full view of the Japanese and pick up 9 men, several of them injured. With his cumbersome flying boat dangerously overloaded, he made a brilliant takeoff despite heavy swells and almost total absence of wind and set a course for base, only to receive the report of another group stranded in a rubber life raft 600 yards from the enemy shore. Promptly turning back, he again risked his life to set his plane down under direct fire of the heaviest defenses of Kavieng and take aboard 6 more survivors, coolly making his fourth dexterous takeoff with 15 rescued officers and men. By his exceptional daring, personal valor, and incomparable airmanship under most perilous conditions, Lt. Gordon prevented certain death or capture of our airmen by the Japanese.

Gordon received the Medal of Honor in September 1944, and his crew of eight each received the Silver Star.

He was subsequently promoted to Lieutenant and served in the Navy until 1945, when he was released from active duty.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Distinguished Flying Cross (2)
Air Medal (6)

Post-War Life

After the war, Gordon formed a business partnership with his brother, Edward Gordon, Jr. and returned to the practice of law in Morrilton. His political career began in 1946 when he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas under Governor Benjamin Travis Laney. He took office in January 1947 and was re-elected to nine more two-year terms, finally leaving office in January 1967. During his tenure he served under four different Governors: Laney (1945-1949); Sid McMath (1949-1953); Francis Cherry (1953-1955); and Orval Faubus (1955-1967).

Gordon did not seek re-election in 1966, when the Democratic nominee, James Pilkinton of Hope, narrowly lost the general election to Maurice L. Britt, the first Republican to hold the state's second highest office since Reconstruction. Like Gordon, Britt was also a military hero.

Death and Burial

Nathan Green Gordon died on 8 September 2008 at age 92 after a bout with pneumonia. He is buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Morrilton, Conway County, AR.

Honoree ID: 1411   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image