Commander Alexander Vraciu Autographs, Memorabilia & Collectibles

Born: November 2, 1918 in East Chicago, Indiana
Died: January 29, 2015 in West Sacramento, California
Biography | show moreshow less
Alex Vraciu, the son of Romanian immigrants, was born in East Chicago, Indiana in 1918 and graduated from DePauw University. He entered the Naval Reserve in 1941, already holding a private pilot's license, and in early 1942 began Navy flight training at Corpus Christi, Texas. He was commissioned an ensign upon completion of training in August, eventually joining Fighting Squadron Six.

Fighting Six was led by Lt. Cdr. Edward H. O'Hare, and Vraciu flew as his wingman, then became the element leader in O'Hare's division. In this capacity Vraciu saw his first combat during a carrier strike on Marcus Island at the end of August 1943. His first aerial combat occurred some five weeks later, during a raid on Wake Island on October 5. "Butch" O'Hare's division encountered airborne Zekes near Wake, and in the combat which ensued Vraciu shot down one.

Two subsequent carrier raids elevated Vraciu to ace status. He shot down a Betty bomber in the Gilbert Islands on November 20, and during the Kwajalein operation of lanuary 29,1944 he added three more Bettys. The last of these was destroyed during a long low-level pursuit with only one gun firing.

Vraciu's last score with VF-6 came during the spectacular carrier strike on Truk Atoll in the Carolines. The two-day raid on Japan's major fleet base began with 70-Hellcat fighter sweep at dawn on February 16. Vraciu was preparing to dive on one of Truk's island airfields when he noticed enemy aircraft approaching. He led his wingman into the threat and became embroiled in an uneven combat. But the two Navy pilots took the initiative and shot down five Japanese planes between them. Vraciu splashed four — three Zekes and a Rufe.

Fighting Six shortly completed its tour and headed for the U.S. but Alex Vraciu wanted more combat. He arranged to transfer to VF-16 aboard Lexington, and took up his new career where he'd left off with VF-6. During the second Truk raid, on April 29, the Indiana ace destroyed two more Zekes. A lone Betty shot down near the Marianas on June 14 raised his total to 12.Five days later came the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, when Task Force 58 Hellcats destroyed over 300 Japanese aircraft. Vraciu had scrambled with VF-16 to intercept an incoming raid but lagged behind with supercharger trouble. However, he requested a vector from the fighter director and was put onto a line of Judy dive bombers. In an eight-minute tail chase, Vraciu splashed six. The following afternoon, escorting Lexington bombers in an attack on the Japanese fleet, Vraciu claimed his nineteenth and last victory, a Zeke.

After a short trip home, Vraciu was again aboard Lexington, this time with VF-20. But on his second mission with the squadron he was shot down by AA fire while strafing a Luzon airfield on December 14, 1944. He bailed out and spent the next few weeks with a band of Filipino guerrillas before returning to U.S. control. Though he flew no further combat missions, Alex Vraciu's 19 victories remained fourth-highest in the U.S. Navy.

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