HA1c Fred Faulkner Lester

2018-6-12 Lester

Fred Faulkner Lester was born in Downers Grove, Illinois on April 29, 1926. He joined the United States Naval Reserve on November 1, 1943 when he was just 17 years old. He was placed on active service with the United States Navy, trained as a medical corpsman, and assigned to the 1st Battalion, 22nd Marine Regiment, 6th Marine Division.

Seventy years ago today during the Battle of Okinawa, then 19-year-old Lester, now a Hospitalman Apprentice 1st Class, rescued one wounded Marine from under heavy enemy fire, ignored his own grievous wounds, and instructed his comrades in care for the injured until he perished.

As is usual for members of the Naval Service awarded the Medal of Honor, a warship carried the young hero’s name. The USS Lester (DE-1022), a Dealey-class destroyer escort, served with our Navy from June 14, 1957 through December 14, 1973. The vessel was scrapped in 1974.

Lester today rests in peace in the Clarendon Hills Cemetery, Darien, Illinois.

We honor you, Fred Lester.

(#Repost @Their Finest Hour)

John Cole

2018-5-20 Cole.jpg

John Cole was called to active duty from the Marine Reserve in 1950 and assigned to the 5th Marine Regiment in northeastern Korea. In November, Cole’s unit was hit at Yudam west of the Chosin Reservoir by a massive Chinese onslaught in unimaginable 40-below-zero weather. Cole was wounded but continued to fight as the Marines battled through a gauntlet of enemy fire over a tortuous road to temporary safety in the encircled town of Hagaru. Cole was on the last medical evacuation flight to leave. For its action at Chosin and subsequent breakout to Hungnam on the coast, Cole’s lst Marine Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. Cole was awarded with 3 purple hearts.

We honor you, John Cole.

(Submission photo by: Ninzel Rasmuson, #Repost @https://veteransday.utah.edu)

Arnold Barker Jr.

2018-5-4 Barker

As a boy, Arnold Baker, Jr. always dreamed of joining the Navy. In 1941 he turned 17 and enlisted. He was stationed on the USS Hornet as an aviation mechanic and was onboard when the ship launched the Doolittle Raid against Japan, as well as during the Guadalcanal Campaign. He survived the sinking of the Hornet in October 1942 and went on to serve his country in Korea as well, and retired with twenty years in the service.

We honor you, Arnold Barker Jr.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

 

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)