Segment 8

Annotation

After the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot the action really slowed down for Alex Vraciu. There was a lot of argument over whether the remnants of the Japanese fleet should have been pursued. Either way the enemy carriers were empty at that point. During the Battle of Leyte Gulf the carriers were used as bait. There were no planes. Vraciu could have gone back with the squadron but did not. He went all over the Pacific. After being shot down over the Philippines Vraciu was made a brevet major in the army. On the day he was shot down, Vraciu had gone in on a morning hop during which he burned up a handful of planes on the ground. That afternoon he went out and got a few more. The Japanese anti-aircraft gunners shot down seven of the planes from Vraciu's carrier that day. Vraciu dove down very low on an enemy plane and burned it. He then leveled off to get another one when his plane was hit by ground fire. He pulled up to about 700 feet and opened his canopy. He started heading west. His carrier was west of his location but he knew he could not make it back to the ship. Vraciu threw everything out of his cockpit and headed for the hills. They had been told that if they could get to the hills the guerillas would take them to the west coast where they would be picked up by a friendly submarine. Vraciu later discovered that the submarine that was supposed to pick them up had been sunk by a Japanese submarine. Vraciu watched his oil pressure gauge. It was going down faster and faster. He got to the hills north of Clark Field. He stabilized the plane and crawled out onto the wing root. Vraciu had bailed out once before back in the States when the SNJ he was flying was hit by another plane. He was at 4,000 feet over Lemon Grove, California when he told his passenger to jump. The young sailor with him bailed out while he tried to maintain control. When it became clear that he could not he went to bail out. He was thrown from the plane and parachuted down.

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