When he entered the White House in 1974, Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. became the fourth consecutive President to have served in the U.S. Navy. He was born Leslie King, Jr in Omaha, Nebraska on 14 July 1913. After his parents divorced, his mother married a prominent business man, Gerald R. Ford of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who adopted him and gave him his name. Gerald Ford, Jr. grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he attended public schools and won both all-city and all-state honors for football before graduating from South High School. Ford studied at the University of Michigan where he also played center on the football team. He was on the University of Michigan's 1932 National Championship football team and was named most valuable Michigan player in 1933. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in economics in 1935, Ford went to Yale University as an assistant football and boxing coach instead of accepting pro football offers. Accepted into Yale Law School in 1938, Ford received his law degree in 1941. Returning to Grand Rapids, Ford started a law practice with fellow classmate from the University of Michigan. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor changed his plans.
Instead of waiting for the draft, Ford wanted to join the Navy. His background as a coach and trainer made him a good candidate for instructor in the Navy's V-5 (aviation cadet) program. Ford received a commission as ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 13 April 1942. On 20 April, he reported for active duty to the V-5 instructor school at Annapolis, Maryland. After one month of training, he went to Navy Preflight School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he was one of 83 instructors and taught elementary seamanship, ordnance, gunnery, first aid, and military drill. In addition, he coached in all nine sports that were offered, but mostly in swimming, boxing and football. During the one year he was at the Preflight School, he was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade on 2 June 1942, and to Lieutenant on March 1943.
Applying for sea duty, Ford was sent in May 1943 to the pre-commissioning detachment for a new light aircraft carrier, USS Monterey (CVL-26) at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey. From the ship's commissioning on 17 June 1943 until the end of December 1944, Ford served as the assistant navigator, Athletic Officer, and antiaircraft battery officer on board Monterey. While he was on board, Monterey participated in many actions in the Pacific with the Third and Fifth Fleets during the fall of 1943 and in 1944. In 1943, the carrier helped secure Makin Island in the Gilberts, and participated in carrier strikes against Kavieng, New Ireland in 1943. During the spring of 1944, Monterey supported landings at Kwajalein and Eniwetok and participlated in carrier strikes in the Marianas, Western Carolines, and northern New Guinea, as well as in the Battle of Philippine Sea. After overhaul, from September to November 1944, aircraft from Monterey launched strikes against Wake Island, participated in strikes in the Philippines and Ryukus, and supported the landings at Leyte and Mindoro.