By Christine Baldwin
Fay Steele joined the U.S. Army in September 1937 with the intent of becoming an Aerial Photographer. He wanted to sign up for thirty years, but could only sign up for three years at a time. His career included flying in 78 Combat missions. Sixty five of these missions were flown as Waist Gunner and Combat Photographer with the Ninth Air Force, in which he earned the Air Medal with 12 Oak Leaf Clusters. The other thirteen missions were with the Ninth Troop-Carrier Command (Airborne) and included two Combat Glider landings. As a result of one of these landings, Fay was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with a V. Later, he was attached to several American Embassies, including the Soviet Union, France, Indonesia and Egypt. Fay retired on November 19, 1957.
Along with this military career, Fay became a track and field star. In 1940, while stationed in Panama, he became the first person to run from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean in one day. In September of 1990, Fay made his 5th trans-Isthmus run exactly fifty years after his first run. Believe it or not, he made the run 2 ½ hours faster! This is after he established a new World Record for men over 70 years old in 1986. Fay was also a star in the U.S. National Senior Olympics Championship, entering the extremely challenging Decathlon. Of the seven times he competed, he won six times!
After his Military Career, Fay embarked on a Zoo career as a Bird Specialist. In this twenty year stint, he went to eight different U.S. zoos. He was then hired by the Smithsonian to do a study of endangered birds on the Mauritius Island. As a result of this work, Fay was elected to membership in the prestigious International Explorer’s Club that includes such members as Charles A. Lindberg, Prince Philip of England and James Doolittle.
Fay came to AFRH-W in 1996. He has been very active; becoming an “Iron Man” under the walking program, writing an autobiography titled “A Man of Steele”, and providing musical enjoyment with his cataloged collection of 45 records.