Paul Burgess Fay was born in San Francisco, California, on 8 July 1918. After graduating from Stanford University in 1941 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, he briefly worked for his father’s construction firm before he joined the Navy after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Fay attended Officer Candidate School and was assigned to PT boat training in Rhode Island where future President John F. Kennedy was his instructor. After training, Fay was assigned to a small base in the South Pacific (the same base where Kennedy was assigned). On 5 November 1943, Fay’s PT-167 was struck by a Japanese torpedo plane off Bougainville, Solomon Islands, that pierced the hull of the boat below the waterline but failed to explode. Fay would later receive the Bronze Star for his actions during the attack.
After World War II ended, Fay returned to California and rejoined his father’s company. Fay and Kennedy remained friends as they shared the same Quonset hut during the war when their boats were being repaired. Fay became a political advisor and supporter of Kennedy working for him on his House, Senate, and presidential campaigns. After Kennedy was elected president, Fay was nominated and served as Under Secretary of the Navy. In November 1963, he was named Acting Secretary of the Navy, serving in that role until Kennedy was assassinated later that month. He continued to serve as under secretary until 1965.
After serving in Washington, Fay returned to San Francisco and shut down the family business, because he was no longer interested in construction. In 1966, Fay wrote a best-selling book about his relationship with Kennedy, The Pleasure of His Company. The following year he founded an investment research firm. He also served as a trustee for the Naval War College Foundation. After a long bout with Alzheimer’s disease, Fay passed away at his home in Woodside, California, on 23 September 2009.