Captain Stanley ‘Swede’ Vejtasa, USN

Captain Stanley Vejtasa, USN

Swede Vejtasa

CAPT. Stanley Vejtasa – by R Leonard

Designated Naval Aviator: 14 August 1939, Naval Aviator # 6020
Active Duty: 1 June 1938 to 1 July 1970
Total Flight Hours: 5,267
Carrier/Ship Landings:
– Fixed wing: 478
Approximate Flight Hours:
– Prop: 3,786
– Jet: 1,023
– Rotary: 22
– VF/VA: 4,240
– VR/VP: 123

Combat Tours:
VS-5, USS Yorktown (CV-5);
– Makin Island Raid (31 Jan. 1942);
– Lae and Salamaua Raid(10 Mar. 1942);
– Guadalcanal-Tulagi Raid (4 May 1942).
– Battle of the Coral Sea (7-8 May 1942);
VF-10 USS Enterprise (CV-6);
– Battle of Santa Cruz (25-26 Oct. 1942).
– Active in Guadalcanal area until April 1943

Aviation Commands:
CO, VF-97, August 1943 to April 1945
CAG-44, May 1945 to October 1945
CO, VF-17, October 1945 to June 1946
CO, VF-10A/VF-92, November 1947 to June 1949
CO, NAF China Lake, CA, April 1953 to April 1955
CO, USS Constellation (CVA-64), October 1962 to November 1963
ComFAirMiramar, August 1965 to September 1968

Combat Awards:
Navy Cross (3)
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star
Navy Commendation Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Meritorious Service Medal

Duty Assignments
Flight Training, NAS Pensacola, FL — June 1938 to July 1939
Pilot, VS-5, USS Yorktown (CV-5) — August 1939 to May 1942
Pilot, VF-10 USS Enterprise (CV-6) — May 1942 to July 1943
CO, VF-97, NAS Atlantic City — August 1943 to April 1945
CAG-44 — May 1945 to October 1945
CO, VF-17, NAS Fallon/ NAS Brunswick — October 1945 to June 1946
General Line School, Newport, RI — July 1946 to May 1947
Navigator, USS Sicily (CV-118) — May 1947 to November 1947 .
CO, VF-10A/VF-92, USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) — November 1947 to January 1949
CO NAS Mojave/NLO, Edwards AFB — February 1949 to January 1951
Air Officer, USS Essex (CV-9) — January 1951 to April 1953
CO, NAF China Lake CA — April 1953 to April 1955
Operations Officer, Staff CarDiv 5 — April 1955 to July 1956
Senior Course, Naval War College, Newport, RI July 1956 to June 1957
BuOrd (Air Weapons Officer), Washington DC — June 1957 to March 1959
CO, USS Firedrake (AE-14) — March 1959 to August 1960
Operations Officer, Staff CinCPacFlt — August 1960 to October 1962
CO, USS Constellation (CVA-64) — October 1962 to November 1963
Office of CNO (Carrier Readiness), Washington, DC — November 1963 to August 1965
ComFAir Miramar, NAS Miramar, CA — August 1965 to September 1968
CoS, Com 11th Naval District, San Diego, CA — September 1968 to July 1970
Retired from active duty — July 1970

CAPT. Stanley Vejtasa – by MK2

Well from right here on the site:

Stanley W. Vejtasa
“Swede” set a record for Wildcat pilot by scoring seven victories in one mission. He started as an SBD pilot on the Yorktown, and shot down three Jap planes while flying with VS-5. Lt. Cdr. Flatley then recruited him into Fighting Squadron 42. With the passing of VF-42, Lieutenant Vejtasa served with VF-10, on the Enterprise. During the crucial Battle of Santa Cruz, on October 26,1942, the Enterprise and Hornet were repeatedly attacked by large numbers of Vals. The ‘Grim Reapers’ of VF-10 had their hands full. Leading the “Red Seven” division, Swede caught a string of Vals headed for the Hornet and quickly knocked down two of them, while his wingman got another. Then he turned his attention to some Kates just arriving from the Zuikaku. Dodging their fire as well as American AA, he downed five more of the low-flying torpedo planes. Out of ammunition, he could only watch as the Enterprise was then hit by two bombs.

But the ‘Big E’ didn’t sink, although 23 Wildcats and 10 pilots from the two carriers were lost defending them. The Battle of Santa Cruz was a draw, or perhaps a slight tactical victory for the Japanese. However, the Americans weren’t driven off Guadalcanal, and the 150 lost Japanese fliers couldn’t be replaced.


Barrett Tillman, Wildcat Aces of World War 2, Osprey Publishing, 1995

CAPT. Stanley Vejtasa – by R Leonard

Except Jimmy Flatley DID NOT recruit Swede Vejtasa into VF-42. Vejtasa was never assigned to VF-42 and, in fact, he was not “recruited” into VF-10 for that matter either.

Swede Vejtasa was in Yorktown’s VS-5 when he received orders to VF-10 in the days immediately before the Battle of the Coral Sea. Flatley was aboard Yorktown as XO of VF-42 and at the same time received orders, also, to report to VF-10, as commanding officer. Receiving, also, orders to VF-10 were Vejtasa’s VS-5 squadronmate Fritz Faulkner and, over on Lexington, from VS-2, John Leppla; VB-2, Bobby Edwards; and ship’s company, Dave Pollock. After the Battle of the Coral Sea, with Lexington sunk and Yorktown damaged, the USN forces rendezvoused at Tongatabu.

While at Tongatabu, Flatley was detached from VF-42 and replaced by Lieut Vince McCormack. Vejtasa and Faulkner were detached from VS-5. The three of them joined the Lexington survivors for the trip to the west coast via transport, including the Lexington folks for destined for VF-10.

The sequence of events was described in Stanley Johnston’s, “The Grim Reapers”, EP Dutton and Co., 1943:

“A Marine orderly entered the ready room and told Flatley that Captain Elliott Buckmaster requested him to report to the Captain’s quarters. … Captain Buckmaster received him with a friendly nod, invited him to sit down, and handed Flatley the copy of a signal just now recorded. As Jim read it, a wide grin spread over his face. It was an order to take the first available transportation to the west coast, where he was to form and command a new fighter squadron, VF-10. It was a first class assignment.
“The captain congratulated him, and suggested that he had better pack quickly, get some breakfast, and transfer to the Neosho, which would cast off soon and take him at least part way home.
“Jim’s face fell at this advice. … he made his request quietly: ‘Captain, we are expecting a big battle. I would like to be allowed to remain and see it through. I could pick up transportation after it’s over. Surely you could use another pilot.'” (pgs 21 & 22)

“Back in the ready room he found two members of the scouting squadron, Lieutenant Stanley Vejtasa and Lieutenant Fritz Faulkner. Mightily excited, they informed him that they had just been ordered to transfer to the Neosho and report to the San Diego Naval Air Station, where they would become fighter pilots in VF-10. Their belongings already rested on the Neosho’s deck and they intended to follow after breakfast.
“When Faulkner and Vejtasa heard that Flatley was to be their new skipper and had requested to stay aboard for the battle, they insisted on remaining, too. Surely, Vejtasa argued, two experienced fliers shouldn’t be refused a chance to get a crack at the Japs.” (pg 22)

“Laughing, Jim had to promise he would make a similar request for them if his was granted. … An hour later … Buckmaster greeted Jim with one of his rare smiles. ‘I have made arrangements for you to stay with us, and I am glad to have you aboard,’ he said.
“Jim put in quickly: ‘Lieutenants Vejtasa and Faulkner also ask permission to see this thing through with the ship, sir.’
‘Well, all right. I see no reason why not, now that you’re remaining, because they can’t do much back there until you arrive.'” (pg 23)

“Eight days after the Coral Sea engagement, several ships of Admiral Fletcher’s carrier force were anchored at a small Pacific island. A hospital ship had taken several of the more serious battle casualties aboard, and the remaining wounded were comfortably bedded down in the hospital wards of two transports. The survivors of the Lexington had been distributed between the transports – that is, all except a few who had already been given other duties.
“Jim Flatley, Swede Vejtasa, and Fritz Faulkner had joined the Lex’s survivors on the homeward journey. . . . ” (pg 45)

“The crowded transports arrived at a West Coast port late one June day and it was 8:30 pm before the ships were warped alongside the piers. Next morning Jim Flatley sat down in the office assigned to him at the Naval Air Station and began the task of organizing the new squadron. Vejtasa and Faulkner reported, bringing with them Ensigns R.M. Vois and James Dowden. … Pollack, Leppla, and Edwards had been granted a months leave, as had all other Lex men. That left only five of the new squadron ready to begin work.” (pg 46).

That would seem to sum it up nicely. Swede Vejtasa never, say again, never, was assigned to VF-42.

The information posted earlier on Vejtasa’s assignments came directly from Vejtasa himself as written for the “Golden Eagles Chronolog,” which consists of biographical sketches written by the members themselves of the Association of Early and Pioneer Naval Aviators. This group is made up exclusively of Naval Aviators and each member must be nominated by an existing member based on the nominee’s contributions to Naval Aviation. The membership then votes a nominee up or down. A very select group of outstanding gents. There is no “Auxiliary,” there are no “Friends of,” only Naval Aviators, and only those considered by their peers to have had a significant and lasting contributions to Naval Aviation. And ‘significant contribution’ does not mean simply a good combat record. In the early 1980s there was a big push to get this sort of information from the membership, especially those who had served in WWII. You might note that there is no mention of VF-42.

On a more personal note, my father was a pilot in VF-42. He was Assistant Flight Officer under McCormack and when McCormack moved up to XO with Flatley’s detachment, moved up to Flight Officer. Flight Officers, among other duties, are the guys who make up the flight schedules and decide who flies with whom. I have some of the few remaining documents from that squadron (most everything went down on Yorktown at Midway), including rosters. I can assure you that Swede Vejtasa appears on none of them.

This “Flatley then recruited him into VF-42” is an apparent misapplication of cause and effect.
Yes, Flatley was aboard Yorktown in VF-42.
Yes, Vejtasa was aboard the same ship in a different squadron, VS-5. and Yes, They both ended up in VF-10 with Flatley as the CO. So . . . therefore, Flatley somehow recruited Vejtasa into VF-42?

If Flatley had “recruited him into VF-42” why is it that Vejtasa did all his Coral Sea flying in a VS-5 SBD?

No, Flatley did not bring Vejtasa into VF-42. Both (amongst others) were assigned to VF-10 in an ALNAV posted before the Battle of the Coral Sea. Both were detached from their respective squadrons after the Battle of the Coral Sea and proceeded by transport to San Diego and North Island NAS.

The later disestablishment of VF-42 on 23 June 1942 also had nothing to do with the process. When Yorktown returned to Pearl Harbor all of the VF-42 pilots except the CO Lieut Comdr Charles Fenton and the XO, the aforementioned McCormack, were verbally TAD’d to Lieut Comdr John Thach’s VF-3 where they made up 57% (16 of 28) of the pilots. Fenton and McCormack remained at Ewa Field as a squadron headquarters element. All VF-42 of the maintenance personnel remained aboard Yorktown as VF-42 personnel, but were responsible for servicing the VF-3 aircraft. VF-42 was the most experienced VF squadron in theater; with the exception of Thach and one other VF-3 pilot, Mach Tom Cheek, all the divisions and sections of VF-3 were led by VF-42 pilots. 63% of the pilots actually flying for VF-3 at Midway were TAD from VF-42. When the dust had settled, those VF-3 pilots who had been aboard Yorktown when she was abandoned, or who were plucked from the water, were transported back to Pearl Harbor by ship, most aboard USS Fulton. Those lucky enough to have been in the air after Yorktown suffered her damage from torpedo planes flew in from, mostly, Hornet and, maybe one or two, from Enterprise, as I recall, on 18 June. The VF-3-42 flight from Hornet separated into two groups with the VF-3 pilots flying into Kaneohe NAS and the VF-42 pilots to Ewa MCAS. I believe all the VFs from Enterprise went to Ewa. VF-42 lingered on for a few more days to arrange transportation and survivors leave, then closed up shop for good. When VF-42 was disestablished, Vejtasa had already been in VF-10 for 17 days. By the time VF-42 was disestablished, 35 days had passed since Vejtasa parted company with VS-5 and USS Yorktown.


CAPT. Stanley Vejtasa – by radical3d

Hi. Saw your post on the Swede just now. I actually spoke to him today during an interview for the History Channel and as he tells it he WAS personally recruited by Flatley for Vf-10. Also as he tells it he was just about to be transferred over to the Neosho when Buckmaster came down and asked him to stay as he expected action the next day. Swede was glad to stay. He went on to mention that the Neosho was sunk – the next day?) with nearly all hands. He is still, to this day, a little shaken by “the hand of fate” as he calls it. On a personal note, this is a great man who did a lot of damage to the Japanese in a very short amount of time. He helped sink the Shoho with a nicely placed bomb. The next day he defeated 3 Zero’s in a 1v3 situation while flying an SBD. This during a time when the Zero was still supreme in the Pacific and the Japanese pilots were at their peak. In my opinion one of the greatest feats in Military Aviation. At Santa Cruz he shot down 2 Vals and 5 Kates. Tex Hill told me that in his opinion Swede was the greatest Naval Aviator he ever knew.

CAPT. Stanley Vejtasa – by R Leonard

Please read posts carefully.

Note that I said that Vejtasa was not recruited into VF-42 as the poster prior to mine recounted from the incorrect information posted on this site. My father, a contemporary of Vejtasa (in fact they were both promoted to Lieutenant (jg) in November 1941), WAS assigned to VF-42, and flew F4Fs at Coral Sea. I have the VF-42 roster, in fact I have a 1 May 1942 roster of all officers, ships company and air group aboard Yorktown which clearly shows Lieut (jg) Vejtasa as being in VS-5 (7th ranking officer in squadron, after Lieut Comdr Burch and Lieut’s Ware, Stever, Caldwell, Woodhull, and Strong). Vejtasa never, say again, never, served in VF-42. The info I posted above on Captain Vejtasa’s career was taken directly from the entry written by Vejtasa, himself, in the “Golden Eagles Chronolog.” The Golden Eagles is more formally known as “The Early and Pioneer Naval Aviators Association” of which Vejtasa is an emeritus member, as was my father, Rear Admiral William N. Leonard, until his death last year. The “Chronolog” consists of autobiographical sketches by the membership. Membership is by invitation only upon nomination by an active member and voted upon by the membership.

While you are certainly fortunate to be able to speak with Captain Vejtasa, please do not think that you are possibly the only one ever to have done so, for you would be very much mistaken.

And as far as [i]anyone[/i] being recruited into VF-10, I believe that you need to research the concept of “orders” a little more. I’d wonder who used the word “recruit” first? You? Or Captain Vejtasa? It strikes me that you are making a classic enthusiast’s mistake, using certain words to get the answer you want to hear. All of which flies in the face of the historical record and the established means of assignment and orders generation and transmission. Vejtasa and Faulkner from VS-5 (and Pollock AAO, over on Lexington) all received orders to VF-10 at the same time. So, tell, me, how did Flatley “recruit” Vejtasa, or any these gents, into his squadron when orders arrived via on their respective ships via radio from BuNav? Squadrons were not a club, orders of assignment had to be issued from senior authority, and Flatley, with all due respect, then a very junior Lieutenant Commander, did not have the pull to dragoon pilots from squadrons other than that to which he was assigned into a new squadron. A Lieut Comdr at the far end of the spring 1942 Pacific pipeline was not in a position to tell BuNav who he wanted assigned to a squadron for which he had orders as prospective commander. And just what, pray tell, would have caused Flatley to “recruit” someone in another squadron, on a ship upon which he had only been aboard for a week, when he had his own squadron duties, preparing for combat, to attend? Frankly, only an Admiral had the clout to ask for someone specifically (for example, on the advice of his Ops Officer, Jimmy Thach, VADM McCain had my father transferred to his TF-38 staff from ComFAirWest in October 1944 – for that matter, McCain had specifically asked for Thach, as well) and even then, there were occasions when the BuNav, and later BuPers, answer was, “No.”

No, sorry, your interview not withstanding, that is not the way it worked, and anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the way personnel assignments and permanent changes of station are made can see that.