Gathering of Eagles Foundation

Honored as an Eagle in:

1996 2004

Eagle Biography

Stanley W. Vejtasa

Stanley W. "Swede" Vejtasa shot down Japanese fighters while flying a lightly armed dive-bomber. Born in Montana, he joined the Navy just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After pilot training, he was assigned to the USS Yorktown flying the Douglas SBD dive-bomber. The Yorktown, stationed on the East Coast, steamed through the Panama Canal and into the Pacific. Vejtasa got his first taste of combat, when Scouting Squadron Five (VS-5) flew strikes against Japanese targets in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. In February 1942, VS-5 raided enemy shipping near New Guinea, and Vejtasa made a direct hit on a transport.

After 105 days at sea, the Yorktown hit Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. On his second mission over Tulagi, Vejtasa was attacked by a Mitsubishi Rufe, a Zero with a float. Vejtasa outmaneuvered the enemy fighter and, with the help of a squadron mate, shot it down. A few days later in the Coral Sea, during historys first battle between carrier fleets, Vejtasa put a bomb squarely into the Japanese light carrier Shoho. The ship sank the next day after taking more than 12 direct hits. On 8 May 1942, one day after the sinking of the Shoho, he led 4 SBDs on an anti-torpedo patrol and added more enemy fighters to his score. Vejtasa was soon sent to fly Grumman F4F Wildcats with Fighting Ten (VF-10), "The Grim Reapers." On 26 October 1942, Vejtasa was 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 shot down 2. Then he spotted 11 enemy torpedo bombers making a run on the Enterprise. In the next few minutes, he shot down 5 of these planes, scattering the attackers before they had a chance to finish their torpedo runs. For Vejtasa it was 7 victories in one day! He flew with VF-10 until May 1943. During this time, he flew missions from the USS Enterprise and from the islands of Guadalcanal and Espíritu Santo. When the combat cruise of "The Grim Reapers" was finished, he went to NAS Atlantic City, New Jersey, to instruct pilots forming new squadrons. Eager for more combat, Vejtasa became Air Group Commander on a light carrier working up for the invasion of Japan, but the war ended before he could deploy.

After the war, in a very distinguished career, he served 16 1/2 years of carrier duty as a pilot, ships officer and ultimately Commanding Officer, USS Constellation. During Vietnam, he was Commander of Fleet Air, Mirimar, and was in charge of all training conducted on the West Coast. Officially credited with 11 victories, he has many decorations, including 3 Navy Crosses.

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On the second day of the Battle of the Coral Sea, Vejtasa was leading 4 of the 8 Douglas SBDs assigned anti-torpedo patrol duty. He suddenly found himself alone and under attack by 8 Mitsubishi Zeros. A wild dogfight ensued, with no quarter given by either side. Remembering lessons his skipper had emphasized, "Swede" defended himself. Turning into every attack, he was able to increase the angle of deflection for the enemy fighters and maneuver into position to use his own forward-firing .30 caliber guns. He downed three Zeros that day; but when the dogfight was over, only half of the SBDs returned to the USS Yorktown.

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