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In Memoriam: Rear Admiral George N. “Nick” Gee, USN

Oct. 31, 2023 | By Sam Cox (Rear Adm. USN, Ret.), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral George Nicholas “Nick” Gee on 1 August 2023 at age 84. Rear Admiral Gee enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in July 1961 and served as a surface line officer until his retirement in October 1994 as Commander, Joint Task Force FOUR (JTF-4). His commands included Limpkin (MSC-195), Merrill (DD-976), Vincennes (CG-49), Valley Forge (CG-50), and Cruiser Destroyer Group EIGHT. He was a Vietnam War veteran and commanded the Saratoga (CV-60) Battle Group during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
Nick Gee graduated from Notre Dame University in 1961 with a bachelor of arts degree in English. He then enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 20 July 1961, reporting for active duty on 17 September. Following Officer Candidate School, he was honorably discharged and then commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 9 February 1961, after which he continued on active duty.

Following additional training at the Fleet Training Center, San Diego, he reported to dock landing ship Monticello (LSD-35) in March 1962 as combat information center officer. Monticello operated in support to Operation Dominic, a series of atmospheric and underwater nuclear weapons tests at Christmas Island in the mid-Pacific. He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) in August 1963.
In September 1963, Lieutenant (j.g.) Gee reported to Fleet Anti-Air Warfare Training Center, Dam Neck, Virginia, for duty under instruction. The next month he reported as navigator to Gearing-class destroyer Furse (DD-882) at Naval Station Philadelphia, conducting East Coast fleet rehabilitation and modernization trials. In January 1964 he attended Naval Destroyer School, Newport, Rhode Island. He was assigned to Gearing-class destroyer Samuel B. Roberts (DD-823) in August 1964, homeported in Newport. He augmented into the U.S. Navy in February 1965 and was promoted to lieutenant in August 1965. Serving as engineer, Lieutenant Gee deployed on Samuel B. Roberts to Vietnam in the fall of 1965, escorting carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin and serving on the gun line in support of troops ashore. In February 1966, the ship concluded Vietnam operations and returned to Newport by way of the Suez Canal and Mediterranean, completing an around-the-world deployment.

In October 1966, Lieutenant Gee attended Naval Schools Mine Warfare, Charleston, South Carolina, before assuming command of minesweeper Limpkin (MSC-195) in December 1966, conducting mine warfare training operations along the U.S. East Coast, Caribbean, and Canada. In October 1968, Gee was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) in Washington, DC, as surface ship warfare analyst in OP-96. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in August 1969.

In February 1970, Lieutenant Commander Gee reported to Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, graduating in 1972 with a master of science degree in physics. In February 1973, Gee assumed duty as executive officer of guided-missile destroyer escort Brooke (DEG-1, later FFG-1), deploying to Vietnam shortly after the peace accords were signed in 1973. In December 1973, Brooke shifted homeport from San Diego to Bremerton and was awarded the Battle “E” ribbon and third consecutive Golden Anchor for retention.

In August 1974, Lieutenant Commander Gee reported as a student at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, graduating in 1975. In July 1975, he was assigned again to OPNAV as head of Weapons Tactical Branch, Nuclear Energy Division (OP-981). He was promoted to commander in May 1977 and then attended Surface Officer Schools Command in Newport for training, followed by additional training at Fleet Training Center, San Diego.

In January 1978, Commander Gee was assigned as pre-commissioning commanding officer of Spruance-class destroyer Merrill (DD-976) at Pascagoula, Mississippi. Commissioned on 11 March 1978, Merrill transited the Panama Canal to her homeport at San Diego, subsequently serving as the test platform for the Outlaw Shark high-frequency direction finding and targeting system for the Tomahawk anti-ship missile. In March 1980, Merrill became the first ship to successfully fire a Tomahawk missile. Merrill deployed to the Western Pacific from April to October 1980.

Departing Merrill in mid-deployment, Commander Gee was again assigned to OPNAV, this time as head of Anti-ship Missile Systems Section (OP-354H) due to his expertise with the Tomahawk. In July 1982, he was assigned as executive assistant to the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Surface Warfare) (OP-03). He was promoted to captain in October 1982. He was designated a weapons systems acquisition manager. In August 1983, he reported to the Bureau of Naval Personnel for duty under instruction, followed by additional training in the AEGIS combat system at Combat Systems Engineering Development Site, Moorestown, New Jersey.

In April 1984, he reported to Pascagoula as pre-commissioning commanding officer for Ticonderoga AEGIS-class guided missile cruiser Vincennes (CG-49). Following commissioning on 6 July 1985, Vincennes became the first AEGIS cruiser to transfer to the Pacific Fleet. She served as a test platform for the SM-2 Block II surface-to-air missile before participating in exercise RIMPAC and then deployed to the Western Pacific/Indian Ocean in August 1986, conducting operations with the Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and New Jersey (BB-62) Battle Groups. Gee subsequently briefly served as commanding officer of AEGIS cruiser Valley Forge (CG-50) from May to July 1987 during a Western Pacific deployment. In July 1987, he was assigned yet again to OPNAV as director, Surface Combat Systems Divisions (OP-35). He was promoted to rear admiral (lower half) on 1 October 1988.

In August 1989, Rear Admiral Gee assumed command of Cruiser-Destroyer Group EIGHT. He was designated a rear admiral (two-star) in August 1990. Rear Admiral Gee deployed in command of the Saratoga (CV-60) Battle Group from Mayport, Florida, to the Red Sea in August 1990 in support of Operation Desert Shield. U.S. Navy SEALs embarked on Saratoga conducted the first boarding of merchant shipping in the Red Sea in support of United Nations sanctions on Iraq. Saratoga completed a record six transits of the Suez Canal, tragically losing 21 sailors in a ferry accident in Haifa, Israel, just before the start of Desert Storm combat operations. Saratoga launched numerous combat sorties from the Red Sea to western Iraq during Operation Desert Storm (and could have flown more had she been allocated adequate airborne tanking) and suffered the first aircraft combat loss when Lieutenant Commander Scott Speicher was shot down on the first night of Desert Storm. The Saratoga Battle Group returned to Mayport in March 1991.

In July 1991, Gee assumed command of recently formed Joint Task Force FOUR (JTF-4) in Key West, Florida, in command of U.S. joint forces supporting the counter-drug interdiction mission. Rear Admiral Gee retired on 1 October 1994.

Rear Admiral Gee’s awards include the Legion of Merit (five awards); Meritorious Service Medal (two awards); Navy Commendation Medal; Navy Achievement Medal; Navy Unit Commendation; Battle “E” ribbon; National Defense Service Medal (two awards); Vietnam Service Medal (three campaign stars); Sea Service Medal (three bronze stars); Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation; and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. Although not reflected in the service transcript, his service in Desert Shield/Storm earned a second Navy Unit Commendation; the Southwest Asia Service Medal (two campaign stars); and two Kuwait Liberation Medals (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait).. It is also possible he was awarded a joint service medal (Defense Distinguished or Superior Service Medal) for his time in command of JTF-4 that is not reflected in the transcript.

I have no information on Rear Admiral Gee’s activity after he retired from active duty.

Rear Admiral Gee’s Navy career began with a bang, several big ones actually, as his first ship was engaged in supporting an intense series of live nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific during a particularly intense period of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. He quickly showed his technical and leadership skills while bringing the Furse to operational status after a major ship modification, then serving as engineer on the “Steaming Sammy B’s” Vietnam War and around-the-world deployment. As a lieutenant, he jumped as the first chance to command a ship, the minesweeper Limpkin. During his executive officer tour, his ship (Brooke) earned the Golden Anchor for retention, which was no easy feat as retention was a huge problem in the mid-1970s. He used his superb leadership skills to bring two ships into commission: Spruance-class destroyer Merrill and AEGIS cruiser Vincennes. His command of the latter included the first successful shipboard launch of a Tomahawk missile and the first AEGIS cruiser deployment to the Pacific. His expertise in the Tomahawk and other weapons systems resulted in multiple tours on the OPNAV staff engaged in the development and fielding of the new weapons systems that came on line in the 1980s. He commanded the Saratoga Battle Group, engaged in maritime interdiction operations during Desert Shield, and then launched combat strikes from the Red Sea into Iraq during Desert Storm, encountering and overcoming some of the most intense Iraqi resistance of the war. He finished his career taking up another new challenge (at the time) of interdicting the flow of narcotics by sea and air from South America. His stellar career included numerous deployments and much time away from family, for which the Navy and nation should be grateful. He truly made a difference in the modernization of the U.S. Navy and in the security of the United States.

Rest in Peace, Admiral Gee.