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During the second Truk raid Alex Vraciu was on a morning hop escorting bombers when they were attacked by a group of Zeros. Vraciu was able to shoot down two of the attacking aircraft. During the afternoon hop they were again escorting bombers. They were at about 10,000 feet when the skipper of the bomber squadron nosed over into his dive. Usually the fighters would dive with the bombers to split up the AA fire [Annotators Note: anti-aircraft fire]. The bombers would bomb and the fighters would strafe. Vraciu went into his dive and was almost immediately hit by AA fire. The round shattered his plexiglass canopy and damaged some of the controls. He aborted his dive and turned for home. His wingman escorted him back. Vraciu was not permitted to land on the carrier. He was told to either bail out or make a water landing. Vraciu had already made a dead stick water landing 5 and a half weeks before when the engine of his plane quit while he was waiting to land. Now he had to do it again. Vraciu selected the spot where he wanted to put his plane down. He did not want to bail out because the waves were too strong. Vraciu was about to go in for his landing when all of a sudden the whole fleet made a turn and went in another direction. He tried again and landed next to a destroyer that picked him up quickly. Vraciu had to spend the night on the destroyer. The skipper had given Vraciu his sea cabin for the night. Since destroyers do not handle the rough seas as well as carriers do Vraciu decided to mess with Admiral Mitscherâ€™s operations officer, Gus Widhelm. At the time Vraciu was flying from the Lexington [Annotators Note: USS Lexington (CV16)] which was Mitscherâ€™s flagship. He sent a message to the Lexington stating that if Widhelm did not get him off of the roller coaster he was on he would vote for MacArthur for president. Widhelm had his laugh too. His reply was that in order to conserve aircraft the destroyer skipper was to retain Vraciu until they got back to Ulithi. Vraciu was later transferred to the Lexington by high line. When he transferred over Widhelm was standing there waiting for him. Widhelm took him to the Admiral and told him that Vraciu had sent the message. They nicknamed Vraciu Grummanâ€™s best customer after his second crash landing. He later had to bail out of a third Hellcat [Annotators Note: Grumman F6F Hellcat single engine naval fighter aircraft] over the Philippines. Vraciu took part in several actions before they got to the Mariana Islands. During those strikes he destroyed 13 planes on the ground in two days. By the end of the war he totaled 21 enemy planes destroyed on the ground in addition to the 19 planes he got in the air.
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