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Air Gunner James Curry
|James Curry joined the Navy in August 1942 amd after training as an air gunner was posted to join Ralph Yaussi an VB2 (Air Group 2), operating the Curtis SB2C Helldiver. The first of his combat sorties was made m March 1944 flying off the USS Hornet and he participated in every island strike that the Hornet made during that tour of duty, including Truk, Guam, the Bonin Islands and Iwo Jima amongst many others. James took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea when Yaussi was forced to ditch their SB2C on their return from the carrier strike. During the remainder of his tour he accompanied Yaussi on raids to Manila Bay, Mindanao, and the invasion of the Marianas. He retired the service in 1945.|
Captain Donald Gordon USN (deceased)
|Captain Donald "Flash" Gordon, USN joined the Navy on July 7, 1941 and was commissioned an Ensign on March 12, 1942. He served with VF-10 "Grim Reapers" flying the F4F Wildcat on his first combat tour aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise and claimed two air victories. He participated in the Battle of Santa Cruz and also served briefly on Guadalcanal with the Marines. His second combat tour was also aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise with VF-10 now flying the F6F Hellcat. He would claim 4 air victories on this tour including a claim during the "Marianas Turkey Shoot". Capt. Gordon retired from the Navy in July 1967. Sadly Captain Donald Gordon passed away on Monday January 4th, 2010.|
Commander Alex Vraciu USN (deceased)
|Alexander Vraciu was born in 1918, in East Chicago. Indiana to Romanian immigrant parents, . Alex grew up enthralled by the exploits of aviator Charles Lindbergh and World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker. Alexander Vraciu won a scholarship to DePauw University. Due to his passion for flying he obtained his private pilots license under the governments Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) program at Muncie, Indiana. Vraciu graduated in 1941, and entered the Navy as pilot candidate just before Pearl Harbor. On June 24th 1942 Alexander Vraciu recieved his Naval Aviators wings. He became carrier-qualified on Lake Michigan on USS WOLVERINE, a converted excursion ship, Vraciu qualified on eight straight passes in a F4F Wildcat, demonstrating an early affinity for carrier duty. He went onto fly the Grumman F6F Hellcat in the Pacific theatre. Alex Vraciu first saw combat flying the F6F Hellcat off carriers with VF-6. It was while flying as section leader in LCDR OHares division on October 5th, 1943, that Alex scored his first aerial victory over a Japanese zero at Wake Island. He notched three Zeroes and one Rufe in a wild dogfight at the first Truk raid on February 16, 1944 as part of a 72-Hellcat fighter sweep at the Japanese Naval fortress. During the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot he shot down six dive-bombers in eight minutes. The following day, escorting bombers in an attack on the Japanese Mobiel Fleet (Kido Butai), Vraciu downed his 19th victim, a Zero making him the foremost US Navy ace by a considerable margin, although he would hold that title for only four months. His luck ran out on December 14, 1944, while strafing over Luzon Island in the Philippines, his aircraft was struck by anti-aircraft fire and Alex Vraciu was forced to parachute safely from his damaged aircraft. Bailing out, he spent five weeks with Filipino guerrillas before meeting up with advancing Americans. He ended the war as the US Navys fourth highest Ace. In addition to his 19 aerial victories, he had destroyed 21 enemy aircraft on the ground. During the last few months of the war he served as a test pilot at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland, evaluating tactical performances between japanese an US aircraft he retired from the service in 1963. He died on 29th January 2015.|
Lieutenant Ralph Yaussi USNR
|Ralph joined the Service in July 1942 and after his commission was soon in action flying anti-sub patrols. In December 1943, flying the SB2C Helldiver, he went aboard the USS Hornet, where his first mission under fire was at Palau Island on March 30, 1943. During the Philippine Sea action he and his gunner James Curry attacked the Japanese carrier fleet in the Mission Beyond Darkness but on the return their Helldiver ran out of fuel as he attempted to land. They were forced to ditch and were rescued by the destroyer USS Anthony.|
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