From his days playing a prank on his college instructor at DePauw University that received national news to his wartime feat of shooting down six Japanese planes in just eight minutes, learn about the life and times of World War II ace Alex Vraciu during my noon Monday, July 26, talk at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, 450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis. The talk, part of the Indiana Historical Society's Author Series, is free and open to the public.
Fighter Pilot: The World War II Career of Alex Vraciu, examines how Vraciu, possessed with keen eyesight, quick reflexes, excellent shooting instincts, and a knack for finding his opponent's weak spot, became skilled in the deadly game of destroying the enemy in the skies over the Pacific Ocean. For a period of four months in 1944, Vraciu stood as the leading ace in the U.S. Navy. He shot down nineteen enemy airplanes in the air, destroyed an additional twenty-one on the ground, and sank a large Japanese merchant ship with a well-placed bomb hit.
Vraciu's luck, however, finally ran out on December 14, 1944, during a strafing run against a Japanese airfield before the American invasion to retake the Philippines. Luckily he was almost immediately rushed to safety by a small group of U.S. Army in the Far East guerrillas, who had been battling the Japanese in the area for the past few years. The navy pilot spent the next five weeks with the guerrillas, receiving the honorary rank of brevet major while with them. Vraci finally marched into an American camp carrying with him a captured Japanese Luger pistol and sword.