Gerald J. Carroll, a highly decorated naval officer and novelist, died Thursday of heart failure at his home in Leonardtown. He was 46.
"Gerry's heart may have failed him, but it never failed anyone else," said author Tom Clancy, who attended Loyola High School with Mr. Carroll. "This is very hard for me; he was my very best friend in the whole world. He was for me that very special friend that everyone wants to have."
The two friends had played golf Thursday. Mr. Carroll died that night.
The retired lieutenant commander flew 198 combat missions -- many in Beirut in 1982 and 1983 and in Grenada in 1983 -- and was awarded many medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He also served in Vietnam.
"He was one of the many heroes that we don't ever really know of," Mr. Clancy said.
Born in Washington, Mr. Carroll grew up in Norwich, Conn., and Baltimore. He was a 1965 graduate of Loyola.
He attended Boston College, where he played lacrosse and was the first Boston College lacrosse player to have his number retired. He graduated in 1969 with a bachelor's degree in English.
Mr. Carroll entered the Navy in 1969 through the aviation officer candidate program at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla..
He earned his wings in 1971 and reported to the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla., as a search and rescue helicopter pilot. During that time, along with two other officers, he wrote a course that formed the basis for the Navy's current human relations training.
From 1980 to 1981, he was an English instructor and lacrosse and football coach at the U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I.
At the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Mr. Carroll was a leadership instructor, course manager and head of the Midshipman Flying Program in 1981.
After serving in Beirut and in Jacksonville, Mr. Carroll was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, as the assistant air operations officer.
He retired from the Navy in 1990 and began a writing career that led to a novel, "North SAR," a term that stands for "search and rescue," that was published in October 1991. His second novel, "Ghostrider One," will be published this month.
"I knew he had it in him, and I yelled at him for three years [to write]," Mr. Clancy said. "He was growing magnificently as a writer." Mr. Clancy said his friend had been working on a third book.
Mr. Carroll also was a technical consultant and scriptwriter for several U.S. News & World Report aviation and military history television series for the A&E cable network.
He also was the junior varsity lacrosse coach at St. Mary's Ryken High School in Leonardtown for the past three years.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church, Leonardtown.
Mr. Carroll is survived by his wife of 20 years, the former Deborah Anderson; his parents, Dr. Gerald J. and Dee Carroll of Baltimore; three sons, Sean P., Kevin G., and Brian J. Carroll, all of Leonardtown; a brother, Kevin F. Carroll of Baltimore; and a sister, Maura Doucette of Baltimore.
The family suggested memorial donations to a scholarship fund for the Carroll sons, in care of the National Aviation Museum Foundation, P.O. Box 33104, Pensacola, Fla. 32508-3104.