CAPT Stanley W. “Swede” Vejtasa

2018-4-27 Vejtasa

Stanley W. “Swede” Vejtasa is the only World War II carrier pilot to receive Navy Crosses for both dive bombing and aerial combat. Born in Montana in 1914, Vejtasa attended both Montana State College and the University of Montana. He enlisted in the Navy in 1937 and later attended flight training at Pensacola, Florida, where he earned his wings and was commissioned an ensign. His first fleet assignment was aboard the USS Yorktown (CV-5) flying Curtiss SBC-3 Helldiver biplanes while operating in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Vejtasa was drawing and checking out in the new Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bomber with Scouting Squadron Five when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor. The Yorktown and Air Group Five were immediately ordered to the Pacific.

Vejtasa’s combat exploits began in January 1942, when he participated in the first offensive strikes against Japanese targets in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. In March, during raids on enemy shipping near New Guinea, Vejtasa contributed to the destruction of three Japanese ships and was awarded his first Navy Cross. By April, the Yorktown was conducting strikes against Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, and on his second mission, Vejtasa shared in the downing of a Japanese Zero floatplane. On 7 May, during the Battle of the Coral Sea, he scored a direct hit and shared in the sinking of the Japanese carrier Shoho. Just one day later when a swarm of Japanese Zeros ambushed his patrol, Vejtasa downed three enemy planes and earned his second Navy Cross. Soon after, he was sent to fly Grumman F4F Wildcats with “The Grim Reapers” of Fighting Squadron Ten.

Then on 26 October 1942, Vejtasa permanently made his mark on history while leading a combat air patrol from the USS Enterprise during the Battle of Santa Cruz. Finding a formation of enemy dive-bombers just short of their release points, Vejtasa quickly shot down two. Then he spotted 11 enemy torpedo bombers making a run on the Enterprise. In very short order, he shot down five of these planes, and scattered the attackers before they had a chance to finish their torpedo runs. For Swede, it was seven victories in one day, a feat that earned him his third Navy Cross and quite possibly saved the Enterprise from destruction. When his combat cruise with “The Grim Reapers” ended in May 1943, Vejtasa went to Naval Air Station, Atlantic City, New Jersey, to provide flight instruction to new carrier squadrons being formed there.

After the war, he continued to serve in the Navy completing over 30 years of distinguished duty as a pilot, ship’s officer, and ultimately the commanding officer of the USS Constellation. After retiring, he served 25 years as the Secretary of the Ray River Ranch Corporation.

We honor you, Stanley Vejtasa.

(#Repost @goefoundation.org)

Maj Kurt Chew-Een Lee

2018-2-24 Lee

Major Kurt Chew-Een Lee is the first Chinese-American officer in the history of the United States Marine Corps. Honored for his heroic performance during the Korean War, Lee is a recipient of the Navy Cross, the second highest honor a marine can receive for valor.

Born and raised in northern California, Lee is the first-born son of Chinese immigrants. As a first-generation American, Lee says he and his siblings “grew up in an American way, but kept Chinese customs.” As a high school student, Lee witnessed the events of World War II and-determined to become an honored American soldier-joined the Junior ROTC. During a time when very few minorities were in command, Private Lee rose through the ranks to become a First Lieutenant. Blowing past cultural barriers, he became Commanding Officer of a Machine-Gun Platoon of Company B, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division. His opportunity to earn the respect of his troops and prove his solidarity as an American citizen would soon arise on the rugged mountain ranges of northeast Korea.

Outnumbered by Communist Chinese forces and facing temperatures 20 degrees below zero, Lee boldly exposed himself to enemy fire as he braved the enemy-held slope. His audacious one-man attack forced the Chinese to fire and reveal their battle stations, which gave his platoon the opportunity to capture the base. Despite injuries sustained on the battlefield, Lee went on to lead 500 marines on a grueling night mission to save their fellow soldiers, the Fox Company, at the battle of Chosin Reservoir. In a mission unprecedented in Marine Corps history, Lee’s company fought for every inch of ground and safely evacuated Fox Company to the Port City of Hungnam. As the first officer of Asian descent to be commissioned in the United States Marine Corps, Lee is not only a pioneer but also a shining example of resolve and courage.

We honor you, Kurt Lee.

(#Repost @Smithsonian Channel)

ENS George H. Gay

2018-2-12 Gay

As a 25-year-old Navy pilot, Mr. Gay flew a Douglas Devastator torpedo plane in an attack on Japanese warships near Midway Island on June 4, 1942.

All the planes in his squadron were shot down, and he was the only one of 30 men in Torpedo Squadron 8 to survive. Historians have credited the attack by his squadron as clearing the way for an attack by American dive bombers that eventually resulted in victory in the battle.

Wounded and wearing a life jacket, Mr. Gay watched the American dive bombers hurtle out of the clouds to attack Japanese aircraft carriers and found himself “cheering and hollering with every hit.”

After he was rescued by American forces, Mr. Gay made personal appearances for the Navy, spreading the news of the victory at Midway. That victory — achieved by an American fleet with only three heavy carriers against four heavy Japanese carriers and three light ones — was a turning point in the war in that theater.

Mr. Gay was a Trans World Airlines pilot for 30 years after the war. He also spoke to civic groups around the country, telling of his Midway experiences and calling for greater military preparedness.

In 1975, he was a consultant for the movie “Midway.” Kevin Dobson played his part. Mr. Gay toured the country with the film’s stars, Charlton Heston and Henry Fonda, to promote the film.

We honor you, George Gay.

(#Repost @The NY Times)

Col Thomas George Lanphier, Jr.

2017-12-19 Lanphier

He was born on November 27, 1915 in Panama City, Panama. He married Phyllis of Boise, Idaho and had 5 children. He studied journalism at Stanford University and graduated in January 1941.

He completed his pilot training at Stockton Army Air Field, California on October 30, 1941, and was assigned to the 70th Pursuit Squadron, 35th Pursuit Group at Hamilton Field in Novato, California. Until December 1942 he served in Fiji then his squadron was moved to Guadalcanal and he joined the 347th Fighter Group. He scored his first aerial victory on Christmas Eve in 1942 when he shot down an A6M Zero. Lanphier was promoted to captain in March 1943. The next month he destroyed three A6M Zeros over Cape Esperance on April 7, 1943. By the end of his tour, he flew 97 combat missions out of Guadalcanal in P-39s and P-38s.

Following World War II, he was one of the founding members of the Idaho Air National Guard, eventually retiring as a Colonel.

During World War II, Colonel Lanphier was credited with downing nine Japanese planes, damaging eight on the ground, and sinking a destroyer. He received the Navy Cross, Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross.

We honor you, Thomas Lanphier Jr.

(#Repost @Fandom: Military)

RDML Burton Hale Shepherd

2017-11-25 Shepherd

Rear Admiral Burton H. Shepherd, who during his military career, as a commander, was strike leader of Attack Carrier Air Wing 16.

Oct. 26, 1967, 18 aircrafts set out on a mission to destroy a heavily defended thermal power plant in Hanoi. For this and other acts of bravery during this mission, Shepherd received the Navy Cross.

That citation was read at Monday’s Glenmoor salute by Shepherd’s son, Michael, a resident of Ponte Vedra Beach. In part, it states: “After proceeding expeditiously to the coast to refuel, Commander Shepherd returned to an area south of the target to search for one of his missing strike pilots. Continuing the search for over an hour over enemy terrain in the face of the most concentrated enemy fire in North Vietnam, he finally returned to the coast after reaching a low fuel state.”

The missing pilot who had been shot down was John McCain, now a U.S. senator.

We honor you, Burton Shepherd.

(#Repost @The St. Augustine Record)

LCDR Maurice David Jester

2017-8-3 Jester

Maurice Jester enlisted in the Coast Guard as a Surfman in 1917, working his way up to Chief Boatswain’s Mate by 1935 while serving on five cutters. Commissioned as a Lieutenant and promoted to Lieutenant Commander, he was the first Coast Guardsman to earn the Navy Cross in World War II, and the first Coast Guard Officer to receive the award for a combat action in direct confrontation with enemy forces.

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Commander Maurice David Jester, United States Coast Guard, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. ICARUS (WPC-110) during a successful action on 9 May 1942, with an enemy German submarine. The conduct of Lieutenant Commander Jester throughout this action reflects great credit upon himself, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

We honor you, Maurice Jester.

(#Repost @Hall of Valor)