STATE COLLEGE — A book author has been designated as the 2018 Distinguished Alumnus by the State College Area High School Alumni Association.
Bruce D. Gamble, State High class of 1976, was born on the 17th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, so perhaps it was preordained for him to later achieve national recognition as an award-winning author and respected historian on World War II, according to an alumni association press release. His specialty is the Pacific theater, where his father piloted a B-29 and his uncle served as a B-17 navigator.
Raised in Boalsburg, Gamble graduated from Penn State in 1980 with a pre-law degree and proceeded to the U.S. Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Fla., where he earned his Naval Flight Officer wings in 1982.
Upon receiving his active duty assignment, he flew as an electronic-warfare navigator during the closing years of the Cold War — the famous “Top Gun” era — as part of an eight-year military career with deployments aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in both the Pacific and Indian oceans, and then instructor duty back in Pensacola.
During that last duty in 1988, Gamble was diagnosed with a malignant spinal cord tumor and underwent a complicated surgical procedure. Although it saved his life, it resulted in a permanent spinal cord injury, and he was medically retired from the Navy in 1989.
Starting over as a wheelchair user, Gamble began volunteering at the National Naval Aviation Museum and eventually worked part-time as a staff historian for the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, where he collected oral history interviews from notable aviators and wrote numerous articles for Foundation magazine. Then, in 1998, he made the leap to freelance writing and published his first book, “The Black Sheep: The Definitive History of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 in World War II.” Led by “Pappy” Boyington, the squadron was one of the best known and most colorful combat units of World War II, especially after the popular television series “Baa Baa Black Sheep” added to its legend.
Winner of the Admiral Arthur W. Radford Award in 2010 and Florida Book Award in 2013, Gamble’s narrative style and depth of research have earned him acclaim from Publishers Weekly, the American Library Association, Air & Space Smithsonian magazine, World War II magazine, and many others. He now has six books in print, with his seventh book, “Kangaroo Squadron: American Courage in the Darkest Days of World War II,” to be published in November of this year.
In addition to writing, he is the featured historian in documentaries produced by History Channel, Fox News Channel, PBS and Pritzker Military Library.
Cancer-free now for almost 30 years, Gamble lives in the countryside near Madison, Georgia.