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Alexander Vraciu

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Alexander Vraciu

Alexander Vraciu
Lt. (jg) Alexander Vraciu in his Grumman F6F Hellcat after the "Mission Beyond Darkness" during the Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 20, 1944)
Born (1918-11-02) November 2, 1918
East Chicago, Indiana, United States
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1942—1964
Rank Commander

Alexander Vraciu (born November 2, 1918) was a United States Navy fighter ace and Medal of Honor nominee during World War II. He once shot down six Japanese dive bombers in eight minutes.


Vraciu's parents had immigrated from Romania at the turn of the century, settling in East Chicago, Indiana. His father, Alexandru Sr., was born in Poiana Sibiului, and his mother, Maria (née Tincu) was from Sebeș. After his birth, the family returned to Romania for a brief residence, as his parents hoped that the experience would rub off on him and that he would be immersed in the culture. Vraciu graduated from DePauw University in 1941 and enlisted as a naval aviator in the United States Navy Reserve. While at university, Vraciu was a member of the Delta Chi Fraternity.

War service

Vraciu was commissioned as a Naval Reserve Ensign in August 1942. He was promoted at the end of March 1943 and joined Fighting Squadron Six (VF-6), under Lieutenant Commander Edward "Butch" O'Hare, the navy's first ace of the war. O'Hare made Vraciu his wingman and gave him valuable advice regarding air combat. The squadron entered combat in October 1943, flying from USS Independence.

Vraciu scored his first victory during a strike against Wake Island on October 10, 1943. He and O'Hare came across an enemy formation; O'Hare went below the clouds to get a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero and Vraciu lost him, but followed a second Zero to Wake Island, where it landed. Vraciu strafed the Zero on the ground. He then saw a Mitsubishi G4M ("Betty") bomber and shot it down. Vraciu also learned from O'Hare the "highside pass" used when attacking Betties, to avoid the lethal 20 mm cannon wielded by the tail gunner.

The squadron later transferred to USS Intrepid, which was nicknamed "The Evil I" because of a reputation for bad luck. Vraciu, however, began downing Japanese aircraft in multiples: three Betties on January 29, 1944 and four fighters over Truk Atoll on February 17. With nine victories, he became and remained VF-6's leading ace of the war. Although he had an opportunity to rotate back to the United States, Vraciu requested additional combat duty and joined VF-16 on USS Lexington.

Lt. Alex Vraciu uses his hands to indicate his downing of six aircraft on June 19, 1944. All were Yokosuka D4Y "Judies".

Vraciu's most successful day as an aviator occurred during the First Navy Cross.

Soon afterwards, Vraciu was assigned to the promotion of war bond sales in the United States. There he married his sweetheart, Kathryn Horn, with whom he would have three daughters and two sons. Later in 1944, Vraciu obtained a return assignment to the Pacific, flying Grumman F6F Hellcats in VF-20. After two missions with VF-20, he was shot down by anti-aircraft fire during a December mission over the Philippines. Vraciu was rescued by Filipino resistance fighters, who appointed him commander of a 180-strong guerrilla unit. Six weeks later he made contact with American forces and was returned to the Navy.

Vraciu ended the war as the United States Navy's fourth highest ranking ace. He subsequently became a test pilot and was instrumental in forming the post-war Naval Air Reserve program. Promoted to Commander, Vraciu led VF-51 from 1956 to 1958, winning the Navy's individual gunnery championship in 1957. He retired in 1964 to begin a career in banking. As of 2013, Vraciu lives in Danville, California. Although retired, he continues to be active on the lecture circuit. Vraciu made an appearance in "The Zero Killer", a January 2007 episode of the History Channel's Dogfights series. Vraciu has declined invitations to write an autobiography. He did cooperate with the Indiana Historical Society Press, however, which in March 2010 published an account of his life titled Fighter Pilot: The World War II Career of Alex Vraciu.


See also



  1. ^ Vraciu's actions on 19 June 1944 are documented in Edward H. Sims' book Greatest Fighter Missions, as the seventh chapter of that compilation.
  2. ^ Tillman, Barrett: "Clash of the Carriers", p. 173. New American Library, 2005


  • Boomhower, Ray E. Fighter Pilot: The World War II Career of Alex Vraciu. Indiana Historical Society Press, 2010
  • Marcello, Ronald E. Oral History Project - Alex Vraciu. University of North Texas, 1994
  • Olynyk, Frank. Stars & Bars: A Tribute to the American Fighter Ace 1920–1972. London: Grub Street, 1993
  • Tillman, Barrett. Hellcat Aces of World War 2. London: Osprey Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1-85532-596-9

External links

  • - Medal of Honor
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