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World War II Hero Alex Vraciu '41 Provides Keynote Address at Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

December 13, 2004

December 13, 2004, Greencastle, Ind. - "U.S. Navy Cmdr. Alex Vraciu sat on the Munster High School stage, bathed in a spotlight and a large audience's admiration, telling what he called sea stories from World War II, where he finished as this nation's fourth-ranking ace," begins a story published in today's edition of Indiana's Munster Times. Vraciu, a 1941 graduate of DePauw University, "came back for the 10th annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day... People came to hear Vraciu's exploits in his Grumman F6F Hellcat. He shot down his first enemy aircraft, a Zero fighter, at Wake Island in October 1943, two years after he graduated from DePauw University and one year after earning his wings."

Vraciu the audience of more than 400 people, "There's a luck involved." The story continues, "His first tour over, he was sent home safe. But knowing the job wasn't done, Vraciu requested to return to the fighting. In December 1944, anti-aircraft fire took him down over the Philippines. Knowing what the enemy did to American pilots, he directed his oil-leaking plane west, climbed out onto its wing and jumped from 400 feet above ground. 'Alex, what have you got yourself into this time,' he recalled thinking. Guerillas found him and brought him safely back to an American camp."

Of the ceremony, the newspaper writes, "From the haunting bagpipes to the presentation of the flag, it was the type of event that sent shivers through the body and brought tears to old men's eyes. The intent of the day was to remember, to challenge and to educate, so that younger generations will know what it means and what it took to have the freedoms we all enjoy, organizers said."

Read the full story at the Times' Web site by clicking here. Another article, in the Gary Post-Tribune, can be found here.

Alex Vraciu's legacy is also noted in the book, Fly Navy: Naval Aviators and Carrier Aviation, A History. Read more about it here.

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