This post is a follow-up to the True Story post. If you have not already done so, read that post first and then come back to this one.
Thanks to Google, the internet, and many folks making the effort to document parts of WW II, I was able to locate a photo, taken on the U.S.S. Hornet, of the squadron my father was in as it relates to the prior True Story post. It is below. My father is in the second row from the front all the way to the left (closeup also below). The web site from which the photo came is
All of this reminded me of another story he had related to me which was (paraphrasing but very close):
A flight of 4 or 5 of us was returning from a bombing mission when we came upon a lone Japanese Zero float plane. We boxed him in and agreed to each take a pass at it to shoot it down. I was in a Dauntless SBD dive bomber (which has a rear facing gunner/radio operator). My gunner and I were going to make the first pass and we had agreed to a maneuver where my gunner would attempt the shoot-down and if successful, get credit for it. I approached from above and behind the Zero, went underneath it and then barrel-rolled up and over the top of the Zero. While rolling over the top of the Zero my gunner opened up with his twin .30 machine guns and shot down the Zero in flames.
Note: The following is from
Their relatively heavy gun armament—with two forward-firing .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns and either one or two rear flexible-mount .30 in (7.62 mm) AN/M2 machine guns—was effective against the lightly-built Japanese fighters, and many pilots and gunners took aggressive attitudes to the fighters that attacked them. One pilot—Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa—was attacked by three A6M2 Zero fighters; he shot two of them down and cut off the wing of the third in a head-on pass with his wingtip.
Also see Boeing page
So how did he become a career Naval Aviator?
In August 1941 my father was about to start his 4th year at the University of Iowa. He and some friends had decided that war was inevitable, and soon. So rather than get drafted into god-knows-what they decided to enlist in the Navy to become pilots. Within 3 weeks they had already started flight school in St. Louis and were actually in the air (not solo) in a matter of days! Some time later, there was more flight training in New Orleans and in early 1942 he went to yet another flight school in Corpus Christi, TX for aerobatics and other training. A few years ago he related to me this story from Corpus Christi (paraphrased):
Early that day I had a session with an instructor in an open cockpit biplane. The instructor was in the rear seat. When we got up to altitude he had me do a slow roll. As I did I started falling out of the plane because I had forgotten to fasten and tighten my harness! Luckily I was able to stop my fall by pressing my arms and elbows out and up against the edge of the open cockpit. After the roll I strapped myself in trying to not let him see what happened but I think he knew. I was shaking the whole time. I never said a word because I would have been washed out immediately. And neither did my instructor, ever, because he would have been severely reprimanded for letting it happen. And if I had actually fallen out he would have been reassigned to some horrible duty.
Some more related photos
SBD over Wake Island
SBD over Enterprise (He also served for many many months on the Enterprise early in the war)
SBD gunner (Big bullets!)
***************** end of post ****************