Segment 6

Annotation

Alex Vraciu lost his wing man, Brockmeyer [Annotators Note: US Navy Ensign Homer Brockmeyer] out over the Japanese fleet. They escorted the bombers out over the enemy fleet. When they arrived they saw a huge cumulus cloud that went up all the way past 30,000 feet. Vraciu looked down and saw a TBM on fire and watched as the crew bailed out. All three crewmen were later picked up. Then Vraciu looked down and saw a number of Zeros that suddenly surrounded them. They started a Thach Weave [Annotators Note: aerial combat maneuver developed by US Navy Admiral John Smith "Jimmy" Thach] but the Japanese pulled off. They enemy pilots they were facing were very capable. During one pass Vraciu's wingman was hit. Vraciu got the plane that got his wingman. Vraciu did not have many probables. If he got behind an enemy plane he shot it down. Vraciu found himself all alone. He headed to the rendezvous area. He came across a TBM that had been shot up. The TBM pilot signaled to Vraciu that he would not be able to make it back to the fleet. Vraciu heard so many guys calling over the radio that they were going down that he turned his radio off. He climbed up and turned on his identification friend or foe, his IFF. All of a sudden he saw a search light. He thought he was heading for Yap but he kept going. The word went out over the radio to land at the nearest base. Vraciu wanted to land at his own but he saw the constant wave off on the Lexington so he ended up landing on the Enterprise. Vraciu landed on his first pass. When he parked his plane a deck crewman jumped up on his wing and told him that they had to get him off the deck as quickly as possible. When Vraciu got to the ready room he looked around and did not recognize anyone except maybe a guy from another squadron. Everybody was going different ways. Some guys even tried to land on destroyers. On the first day of the battle some planes made it to the battle and some did not. The skipper of Vraciu's unit never fired a shot. When Vraciu got back from the Turkey Shoot his skipper asked him how many he got. Vraciu told him that he had gotten 6. His skipper congratulated him then told him that he was grounded until further notice and that he was to report to his ready room. Vraciu could not believe it. The skipper was angry because Vraciu had left him. Vraciu told the skipper that this was the second day that he had accused people of something before asking what had happened. The day before the skipper had asked a pilot if he was yellow after the pilot’s plane broke down and he was not able to fly a mission. Soon after the skipper sent him to the ready room Vraciu got a call from the fighter director who promised to take care of the situation. Later that day the skipper approached Vraciu with a bottle of booze and apologized to him. The fighter director had explained to him what had happened. Three days after the battle, Admiral Mitscher called Vraciu's squadron commander and asked if Vraciu would on up on deck to have his picture taken. That admiral wanted the picture for personal reasons and not for publication.

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