Segment 3

Annotation

Alex Vraciu wanted to fly fighters. If he had not been given fighters when he was going through training at Corpus Christi he would have dropped out and gone to San Antonio and joined the US Army Air Corps. They could do that that at that time. Vraciu was born on 2 November 1918. He grew up building models and taking flights on planes at picnics. He grew up outside of Chicago and recalls seeing Italian aircraft flying over the area. When Vraciu saw what was going on in Europe he knew that the United States would be in it at some point. During his second semester of college he declared himself for the Navy. He graduated college in June 1941 and returned home to East Chicago, Indiana and went to work for Inland Steel until being called up in October of 1941. Vraciu went through the Civilian Pilot Training Program, CPTP. Even before that he had gotten his private pilot license between his junior and senior years of college at Ball State. In December of 1941, he was in Glenview, Indiana and was at his uncle’s house on the Sunday 7 December 1941 war broke out for the United States. Vraciu knew a war was coming. He knew that if he was going to do anything he was going to be a fighter pilot. Vraciu knew he would be a good fighter pilot. Vraciu first met Butch O'Hare when he joined his squadron. When the war broke out Vraciu was sent to Dallas to await the decision as to whether he would be sent to Corpus Christi or Pensacola. Vraciu qualified on Lake Michigan and was assigned to his first carrier squadron which was O'Hare’s. Vraciu had two big motivations for wanting to fight. The first was Pearl Harbor. He wanted to get even and felt that it was a good thing for a fighter pilot to have a certain amount of hate in him. After he got his sixth bomber, a Judy, during the Marianas Turkey Shoot he looked around for any other enemy planes he saw nothing but Hellcats and the wreckage of burning Japanese planes. He placed his hand over his heart and said to himself that this was his payback for Pearl Harbor. He kept that until O'Hare was lost. That became his second motivator. Vraciu volunteered a lot. He jokingly says it was because he was trying to win the war. Vraciu was in three different squadrons. In the last one he had two enemy contacts and those were on the ground. All he did was strafing in the Philippines.

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