August 9, 2015



Admiral George E.R. “Gus” Kinnear II made his final takeoff at the age of 87 on Aug. 9, 2015, from his home in York Harbor, Maine, surrounded by his loving family.

He was born in Mounds, Okla., on Jan. 12, 1928, the son of Neil Tilman Kinnear and Mary Miller-Bancroft, and was raised in Brooksville, Fla., where the family settled on a citrus farm after his father returned from combat in World War I as a disabled veteran.

His Naval career began during World War II when he left high school to enlist on his 17th birthday. In between combat tours in Korea and Vietnam, he made up for his lack of a high school diploma by earning two degrees from Stanford University (PhD in Engineering Management and MS in Industrial Engineering), and two from George Washington University (MA in Personnel Management and BA in Physical Science and Mathematics). He also graduated from the Naval War College and the Naval Postgraduate School. Adm. Kinnear is probably the first enlisted man to rise to the rank of four-star admiral after having been commissioned without a college degree.

Adm. Kinnear served as the U.S. Representative to the NATO Military Committee, Brussels, Belgium, prior to his retirement in 1982. His distinguished career as a naval aviator with sub-specialties in R&D, Human Resources and Financial Management included such assignments as Commander of the Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Chief of Legislative Affairs, Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel, Special Assistant for Financial Management, and Assistant Comptroller for Cost Review and Reporting.

Kinnear was an extraordinary naval officer and aviator who played a vital role in numerous defining events that changed history over the span of his career. His life was a shining example of the value of character, integrity and valor as well as devotion to his family and country.

He flew more than 100 combat missions in Korea and, later, in Vietnam, and flew more different aircraft in combat than any Naval Aviator. Just another of his unbreakable records that will live in history.

Flying off the carriers USS Shangri-La, USS Princeton, USS Lake Champlain, USS Kitty Hawk and USS Ranger, Kinnear logged more than 10,000 hours of flight time and made more than 1,000 carrier landings, many at night, in bad weather and under combat conditions. As a combat aviator, he earned many decorations for valor, including the Legion of Merit and four Distinguished Flying Crosses. He made the transition to flying jets by “riding in the back seat” on several missions and then, with no formal training, taking the controls of his own aircraft. He later commanded Air Wing Two, the Navy’s first all-jet air wing.

Kinnear was one of the first Navy pilots designated and specially trained to deliver nuclear weapons flown off of a carrier, but fortunately never had to take on such a daunting mission.

He was a key player in planning the U.S. response to the seizure of the USS Pueblo “spy ship” by the North Koreans in 1968, dealing directly with the White House.

His first ship command was USS Spiegel Grove when it was designated the South Atlantic recovery vessel for the famous Apollo 13 lunar mission, and he later received a special commendation for preventing the ship from sinking when a burst pipe flooded the engine room.

Kinnear was the Commanding Officer of Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego, known popularly as “Fighter Town USA” and for “Top Gun” fame, where he managed a major expansion to accommodate the Pacific Fleet’s transition to the F-14.

While serving as Commanding Officer of Carrier Group One, during which his flagship was USS Kitty Hawk, he implemented Outlaw Hawk, the Navy’s first carrier-based digital command and control system.

He was instrumental in the program that led to the first-time use of computer-based electronic systems in tactical operations of ships at sea. While serving in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, he was a key player in the F-18 and Harpoon missile procurement programs.

While serving as Chief of Legislative Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, Kinnear was the primary liaison between the Navy and the Congress, where he developed many relationships at the highest levels of the Pentagon as well as with Congressional and Executive branch officials, including the President.

Following his retirement from the Navy, Kinnear became Senior Vice President of Grumman International, which entailed several adventures dealing with top military and aerospace officials in the People’s Republic of China.

Kinnear also served as the interim President of the University of New Hampshire, and was elected to the boards of several corporations including Compaq Computer, New England Digital Corporation and the Aerospace Corporation, and he served as Chairman of the Board of The Retired Officers Association.

His experience growing up on the farm during the Great Depression shaped him as humble, gracious and down-to-earth. He was known for his good humor and boundless energy. He urged everybody to simply “Call me Gus” and “Keep smiling”.

Gus was predeceased by his brother Neil, sisters Patricia and Peggy, and sons George III and Kim. He is survived by his wife Mary, of York Harbor, Maine; sons Kevin, Douglas (Terry), Stephen Cundari (Susan), and David Cundari; daughters Kandace Balazich (Khris), Holley, and Christina Vieglais (David); grandchildren Ethan, Felice, Mikaela, Alyssa, Bryony, Amberly, Sierra, Matthew, Bradley and Kyle; and great-grandchildren Manoa and Stella.

A memorial Mass will be held at St. Christopher’s Catholic Church in York, Maine, at 11:00 am on Saturday, September 12, 2015. Formal funeral services and interment are being planned for Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. or a favorite charity. Lucas & Eaton Funeral Home is directing arrangements.

A tribute to Gus from Congress in 1994

Gus' Mustang Page