Segment 12


During one of his trips back to the United States Alex Vraciu was offered the opportunity to fly the Zero that had been captured in the Alaska [Annotators Note: the aircraft was found on the Aleutian island of Acutan] around the United States. When he returned to the United States Alex Vraciu was promoted to lieutenant. He was the leading navy ace at the time. After returning to the United States he was assigned to duty in Washington DC for six years two months before he picked another duty station. At the time they were helping the Air Force do their own reserve program. Vraciu was allowed to choose his next duty station so he took a plane and flew around to each of the potential places he could be assigned. By that time they had started getting Bearcats [Annotators Note: Grumman F8F Bearcat single engine navy fighter aircraft]. He ended up picking Los Alamitos near Los Angeles. He and his wife had three children while they were in Washington and another at Los Alamitos. Vraciu and his family were at Los Alamitos for three years. There he was a jet training officer. He was also a trust officer and an air intelligence officer. During this time the Navy was augmenting some reserve officers into the regular navy. When Vraciu arrived at Los Alamitos he was a Lieutenant Commander. When he had left Washington DC for Los Alamitos the only thing he really wanted was to be in command of a jet squadron. The navy was only going to select two lieutenant commanders to command jet squadrons and Vraciu was one of them. The reserve program backed him 100 percent. By now Vraciu should have been a commander but had not had the required sea duty so he could not be promoted. Instead the navy sent him to the navy post graduate school. When he finished post graduate school he thought he would be given command of a jet squadron but was instead assigned to the USS Hornet as communications officer. Vraciu was sent through the necessary programs in San Diego. Vraciu was given a group of 12 ensigns. His battle station was on the bridge. Vraciu did not want the sea duty but did his job the best he could. It turned out that the Hornet got the navy E for excellence award for communications. Vraciu credits the ensigns he had working under him. Vraciu went on two cruises aboard the Hornet. After the second cruise the Hornet had to be taken to Bremerton, Washington to have an angled flight deck and a steam catapult installed. By this time the Hornet had a new skipper. Vraciu had to remain with the ship during the time it was in the yard so he and the skipper spent a lot of time together. While in Bremerton Vraciu got a call from a friend down in San Diego asking if he was interested in taking over a jet fighter squadron. If he was interested he would be taking over on that day. Vraciu accepted. His orders were cut very fast and Vraciu moved down to Coronado where he took over VF51. He led VF51 for almost two years.


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