ALEXANDER VRACIU - THE MEDAL OF HONOR CONTROVERSY

UNDER CONSTRUCTION


  A clerical error...

  A medal downgraded...

  Justice denied...

  It's time to make it right...


  PART II: Garbled Communications, Admiral Murray, and the Navy Cross


  Alex's Congressional Medal of Honor nomination, having been approved and forwarded up the chain of command by FIVE of his superiors, including Admirals Mitscher and Spruance, reached the desk of Rear Admiral George D. Murray. For reasons that have never been explained the version of the nomination that left Murray's desk eliminated two crucial details and contained information that was completely incorrect. (Whether or not this information was corrupted prior to reaching Admiral Murray is unknown, so we will give the Admiral the benefit of the doubt and assume that something was lost in the shuffle prior to his receipt of the nomination.) Alex's Navy Cross citation reflects these unfortunate changes.

 

 

  The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the NAVY CROSS to

 

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER ALEXANDER VRACIU UNITED STATES NAVAL RESERVE

  for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

      "For extraordinary heroism as Pilot Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron SIX attached to the U.S.S. HANCOCK during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the vicinity of the Marianas Islands, on June 12, 14, 19 and 20, 1944. Participating in a daring strike against enemy shipping in the harbor, Lieutenant Commander (then Lieutenant, Junior Grade,) Vraciu dived through antiaircraft fire to sink a large enemy merchant ship by a direct hit on its stern. With his Task Force subsequently under attack by a numerically superior force of enemy aircraft, struck furiously at the hostile bombers and, despite vigorous fighter opposition, succeeded in shooting down six and contributing to the breaking up of a concentrated enemy attack. Flying escort for bomber and torpedo planes on a long-range strike against the Japanese fleet, he fearlessly closed with a group of hostile fighters, blasting one from the sky and severely damaging another to enable our forces to sink a Japanese carrier. By his daring combat tactics and devotion to duty throughout, Lieutenant Commander Vraciu upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

  For the President

  (SIGNED) JAMES FORRESTAL
  Secretary of the Navy

 

  The errors contained in the citation are glaring and obvious when compared to the original Congressional Medal of Honor nomination ( Page 1 / Page 2):

  • Alex is shown as a member of Fighter Squadron Six in the Award. He was actually assigned to Fighter Squadron Sixteen.

  • Alex is shown to have been attached to the U.S.S. Hancock (CV-19), which did not see combat action until a 10 October 1944 strike on Okinawa, some four months AFTER Alex's heroic deeds of June 1944. In fact, while Alex Vraciu was in combat as a member of U.S.S. Lexington's Air Group, U.S.S. Hancock was still in Boston. Hancock would not set to sea until 31 July 1944.

  • Alex's mission of 14 June is completely ignored in this citation and his kill of that day is not mentioned. The original citation wording was removed: "On 14 June 1944 in the course of a strike against enemy positions in the Islands north of Saipan and while at an altitude of 3000 feet, he sighted an enemy search plane at an altitude of 18000 feet. He approached the enemy plane so skillfully, keeping in its 'blind spot' that despite its altitude advantage he was able to overhaul it and shoot it down in flames."

  • Much of the wording involving the number of aircraft engaged by Vraciu in both the 19 June and 20 June missions was omitted.

  • The citation also eliminates the fact, pointed out in the original nomination, that Alex Vraciu had set the all-time record for Naval Aviators with 19 aerial victories.

  •   Other pilots (Dive bomber pilots Lt. Cook Cleland, LCDR James "Jig Dog" Ramage, Lt. Harold "Hal" Buell, Stear, Scheurer, Taylor, etc.) were awarded the Navy Cross in this action, specifically for the strike on 20 June. For example, then-LCDR Ramage, commanding officer of Enterprise's Bombing Squadron Ten was awarded a Navy Cross for his "leadership" during the attack on 20 June. Clearly Ramage was a brave and capable leader, eventually attaining the rank of Rear Admiral. However, one cannot help but wonder how much higher a hurdle Vraciu would have to climb to earn a Medal of Honor. At the minimum, his four missions combined are worthy of far more than one Navy Cross.

  •   Medal of Honor Controversy Part III - 1947, 1990 - "Careful" Reviews of Flawed Data


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