Noel Arthur Meredyth Gayler (born December 25, 1914 in Birmingham; died July 14, 2011 in Alexandria, Virginia) was a decorated naval aviator in World War II, an Admiral in the U.S. Navy, Director of the National Security Agency from 1969 to 1972 and Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command from to 1976.
Gayler was one of three children born to Ernest VonRotteck and Anne Yates Roberts Gayler of Birmingham. Following in his father's footsteps, he attended a military preparatory school in Hawaii and enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy 1931. He was commissioned as a lieutenant commander upon graduation in 1935 and served as a junior officer at sea. He began training as an aviator at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1940 and was assigned to the U.S.S. Lexington aircraft carrier for service in the Pacific during World War II.
For his valorous accomplishments as an F4F fighter pilot, Gaylor was awarded the Navy Cross three times in as many months in the Spring of 1942. He was credited with five aerial victories over Japanese fighters. In June of that year he was transferred to the Anacostia Naval Air Station in Washington D.C. to train new pilots. After a year he was chosen to serve as a test pilot at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.
Gayler returned to combat duty in June 1944 leading Fighter Squadron VF-12, piloting F6F "Hellcats" from the U.S.S. Randolph. In March 1945 he was promoted to Air Operations Officer for the 2nd Carrier Task Force. He surveyed damage from the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan and was present on the U.S.S. Missouri when Japan surrendered to the Allied forces on September 2.
After the war, Gayler was appointed deputy director of the Navy's Special Devices Center, and later as Operations Officer for the escort carrier U.S.S. Bairoko. In October 1949 he headed the Fighter Design Branch, then in June 1951 became commanding officer of the VX-III experimental jet fighter squadron in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
In 1956 Gayler was put in command of the seaplane tender U.S.S. Greenwich Bay, then promoted to operations officer for the Commander of the Pacific Fleet in February 1957. In 1959 he took the helm of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ranger, and was given the post of United States Naval Attaché in London in June 1960. In August 1963 he was tapped as Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Development and directed bombing campaigns during the Vietnam War. In September 1967 Vice-Admiral Gayler was appointed Deputy Director of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
President Richard Nixon appointed Gayler as Director of the National Security Agency. He stepped down in August 1972 to succeed John McCain Jr as Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Command (CINCPAC) as a full admiral. In that post he took charge of withdrawing from the war in Vietnam and welcoming former prisoners of war, including Jeremiah Denton, to freedom at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. He remained in that position until his retirement in August 1976. In addition to his three Navy Crosses, he was awarded the Bronze Star, two Navy Distinguished Service Medals, and a Defense Distinguished Service Medal.
After his experience witnessing the devastation in Hiroshima and from atomic bomb tests on the Eniwetok Atoll, Gayler became an outspoken advocate for nuclear disarmament. He served on the American Committee on East-West Accord in 1986 and worked with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in 2000.
Gayler died at home in Virginia of heart failure in 2011. He was survived by his second wife, Jeanne; five children from his first wife, Caroline; three stepchildren; seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
- Hevesi, Dennis (July 20, 2011) "Adm. Noel Gayler, Leader in the Pacific, Dies at 96." The New York Times
- Herbert, Katherine (October 13, 2014) "Noel Gayler" Encyclopedia of Alabama - accessed August 6, 2015
- Noel Gayler at Findagrave.com