ROBERT COATS and ALEX VRACIU<br> Signature Ensemble
ROBERT COATS and ALEX VRACIU
Signature Ensemble
$64.00
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ROBERT COATS and ALEX VRACIU<br> Signature Ensemble
Captain ROBERT COATS
Commander ALEX VRACIU
Signature Ensemble:

Unframed Ensemble: $64
Framed Silver Ensemble: $90
Framed Gun Metal Ensemble: $90
(Overall size 13½” x 13½”)

Silver Edition

TWO of the United States Navy’s top-scoring carrier fighter pilots of the Pacific Theater, each having achieved triple-ace status, combine to make this a highly collectable signature ensemble. Both highly decorated with the Navy Cross, just one notch below the Medal of Honor.

Both fighter pilots flew the redoubtable Grummann F6F Hellcat off the decks of famous carriers – Hornet, Intrepid and Lexington – taking part in some of the hardest fought air battles of the Pacific air war. In addition to their high air-to-air scores, both pilots destroyed many aircraft on the ground, a quantity of enemy shipping, and survived parachute jumps, ditchings following battle damage, and torpedo attacks on their ships. Two great signatures!

*** *** ***

Read Robert Coats’ Service biography Here
Captain
ROBERT COATS NC, DFC, USN



Prior to graduation from the Louisiana Polytechnic Institute, I was accepted in the Aviation Cadet program, Navy, and in June 1939 received orders to active duty for flight training in Pensacola and Miami, Florida. In early 1941, I was designated a Naval Aviator, commissioned Ensign, USNR, and retained to instruct in the Fighter Training Squadron, flying Boeing F-4B and the Grumman F-2F biplane, both obsolete fighters. In March, 1943, I reported to Fighter Squadron (VF) Eighteen, a fleet unit. We trained in the Grumman

F-4F and transitioned to the F-6F Hellcat. We deployed in the aircraft carrier, USS Bunker Hill and participated in routine combat air patrol, strafing and bombing attacks in the Solomons prior to our first real combat activity against the Japanese at Rabaul, New Britain, on November 11, 1943.

Following our strike sweep at Rabaul, the Japanese launched a retaliatory strike, catching Hornet in the early phase of a second launch. I happened to be in a position with my wingman between the force and three flights of torpedo planes (Kates). I downed four Kates, while my wingman downed two more. We disrupted the torpedo attack, such that no torpedos found their targets.

While flying CAP January 1, 1944, I engaged a Tony fighter, a snooper. I maneuvered onto his tail at about 12,000 feet, followed through clouds and rain, firing when I could, and finally brought the Tony down at about 300 feet. A wild ride! Other combat activities followed in the Gilbert Islands (Tarawa), the Marshalls and the Carolines (Saipan, Guam, Truk).

After five months of flying an intensive schedule in the combat zone, VF-18 pilots returned to continental US to re-deploy in other squadrons. I joined VF-17 and returned to combat in January 1945. We flew the Grumman F6F-5 from the USS Hornet, and participated in strikes against Okinawa, Tokyo, Iwo Jima, the Okinawa invasion, the Japanese home island Kyushu, battleship Yamato and shipping in and around the Sea of Japan.

March, 1945, was a very significant month for me and it began on the first, when my F-6F took anti-aircraft hits over Okinawa that made her far too unstable for a carrier landing. I opted for a water landing inside the task group—the first of three water landings during my fighter career—and I made it safely.

March 18 saw enemy air attacks on the Hornet. Bad weather, and trigger-happy ships gunners firing on our own airplanes, interrupted the pre-dawn launch of 24 fighters, with only six airborne. My division plus two Hellcats from the second division, rendezvoused and proceeded toward Kyushu. Twenty to thirty Zekes patrolling the coastline high, mounted a mostly unco-ordinated attack. The Hellcats maintained the three, two plane sections in a line abreast, and figure eight defense to guard each others tail. Nine kills verified. We survived only because of outstanding air discipline, aggressive head-on shots, snap shots, and returning to formation. Continuing inland, we spotted six Zekes that wanted to fight, and flamed them all. We re-grouped, eased south, and found two Zekes and a Corsair in a vertical circle. My wingman and I collected the two Zekes, and a grateful Marine. During this sweep I got five kills from a total of sixteen. We took some hits, but no losses.

The last day of the month was also exciting when over Ammimi-O-Shima I took a direct hit in the engine causing loss of engine and very heavy fire. I dived into a channel between two islands striking the water at 170 knots. I recovered under water, surfaced and survived with the help of a one-man raft dropped by Ensign Harry Hanna, my Number Four man. Then I was picked up by a single-engine sea plane, escorted by 60 fighters, and was returned to the Hornet and back in action a few days later.

What a month, and what a pleasure to fight with such men as Lieu­tenant Bill Colvin, Ensign Harry Hanna and Ensign Jerry Foster. Tally for March—seven confirmed, four probables, versus two definitely confirmed for the other side!

On ‘Fighting Seventeen’ Hellcat Squadron we had well trained fighter pilots and superb ground crews, and mor­ale, ‘that priceless pearl’, was very high. It was a great era—pushing the Japs back—and we all knew we were winning the war in the Pacific.

I flew Grumman Hellcats (F6F and F6F-5) in combat and always felt very confident in these sturdy fighters which could take a lot of punishment and still bring you home. The -5 was a smoother version with flush rivets, and maybe 20-25 knots faster; it was the best carrier-based Navy fighter at that time, having better visibility, more stable flight characteristics, and more internal fuel than other carrier-based fighters. This airplane made more ‘aces’ than any other fighter.

While attending the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in the fall of 1960, President Eisenhower dedicated the new building housing the college. He stayed for lunch with Lieutenant General Mundy. USAF, Commandant of the school. An officer from each service was invited to join them. I represented the Navy, General Mundy read the Atlantic Fleet Safety Award, and President Eisenhower presented me with a momento award. Needless to say, “I like Ike!”

In October, 1970, I was on duty as Head, Mid-East Plans for a Joint Staff, the Strike Command. During an unpleasantness in Jordan, the Strike Command Commandant, an Army general proposed that I parachute with a support group into a Middle East airfield, hostile environment, to co-ordinate Navy aircraft carrier support. Fortunately, the situation corrected itself. I felt like telling the General that water landings are alright, but like windows, I don’t do bailouts!

I retired in 1971 with 32 years of satisfying service. Happy Landings.

Read Alex Vraciu’s Service biography Here

Commander
ALEX VRACIU NC, DFC, USN



Born in East Chicago, Indiana, I won a scholarship to DePauw University, and sensing a war looming on the horizon, obtained a private pilot’s license under the government’s CPT (Civilian Pilot Training) program during the summer vacation between my junior and senior years.

Following graduation in 1941, I entered naval flight training just prior to Pearl Harbor and earned my wings in August, 1942. With planes and aircraft carriers scarce in the earlier phases of the war, I was finally given the opportunity to carrier-qualify on the USS Wolverine, a converted excursion ship, on Lake Michigan. I qualified on eight straight passes in my F4F Wildcat, demonstrating an early affinity for carrier duty. My first combat assignment was flying F6F Grumman Hellcats off carriers, learning my deadly trade for five months as wingman to Medal of Honor winner, Lieutenant Commander Edward H. ‘Butch’ O’Hare, Commanding Officer of Fighting Squadron 3 (later changed to 6).

It was while flying section lead in Skipper O’Hare’s division that I shot down my first enemy aircraft, a Japanese Zero fighter, at Wake Island in October, 1943. I got a reconnaissance Betty two-engine bomber at Tarawa, and on January 29, 1944 I qualified as an Ace after downing three more Betty’s over Kwajalein. The last of these was destroyed after a long, low-level pursuit with only one gun firing part-time at the Betty which was jinking and turning all the while. I notched three Zeroes and one Rufe in a wild dogfight at the first Truk raid on February 16, 1944 as part of a 72-Hellcat fighter sweep at the Japanese Naval fortress. It was a new and enjoyable experience for the F6F pilots . . . an all-fighter raid with no bombers to protect. That night. Air Group Six, aboard Intrepid, was forced to retire from the combat zone when the carrier was torpedoed by a Japanese Kate.

When my squadron returned to Stateside, I requested continued combat duty. I felt keenly that there was still a job to be done and requested continued combat duty and I was not disappointed. The Pacific war was warming up and all good fighter pilots naturally want to be where the action is.

The Navy obliged by assigning me to Fighter Squadron Sixteen aboard Lexington, where I added two more Zeroes at the second Truk raid on 29 April. My 12th kill, another Betty snooper, was shot down north of Saipan on 12 June. Betty’s (big, fat-bellied, versatile Japanese bombers) were my prime preoccupation after being told that it was a Betty that had shot down Butch O’Hare on a strange night encounter. On June 14, participating in a strike against enemy shipping in the harbor, I sunk a large enemy merchant ship with a direct hit on its stern.

On 19 June I bagged six Judy dive-bombers in eight minutes in what has become known as the Marianas ‘Turkey Shoot’. Not many fighter pilots get a-once-in-a-lifetime occasion like this. The following day I shot down a Zero, my last enemy kill, and damaged another while flying escort for bomber and torpedo planes on a record, long-range strike against the Japanese fleet in the First Philippine Sea Battle.

My luck ran out early this time on December 14th 1944 when I was shot down by anti-aircraft fire on my second mission while strafing near Clark Field, Luzon, Philippines. After parachuting to safety, I spent the next five weeks with the USAFFE guerrillas and was given the honorary rank of Brevet Major while with them. For the final week of this episode, I found myself in command of 180 men, dodging Japanese to meet General McArthur’s advancing Americans. I marched into an American camp sporting a Luger and carrying a Japanese sword. Forced to return home due to regulations, I would not be able to make the first Tokyo raid.

After surviving service on six carriers, two of which were torpedoed, two ditchings and two parachute jumps—to be known as Grumman’s Best Customer-—my war was over. I was the U.S. Navy’s one-time leading Ace for three months in 1944 and ended World War II as the fourth-ranking Naval Ace, having shot down 19 enemy aircraft and destroyed 21 more on the ground. For the last few months of the war I served as a test pilot at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland, helping evaluate tactical performances of U.S. and enemy aircraft.

After post-war staff duty in the Navy Department. Naval Post-Graduate School and shipboard duty, I received the ultimate desire of all fighter pilots-command of my own squadron. As Commanding Officer of Fighter Squadron 51, I won the High Individual Air-to-Air competition in 1957 Naval Air Weapons Meet at El Centro, California, outshooting all Naval and Marine pilots for the top honor. I received the following message from CINCPACFLT: I am delighted to hear that you are top gun in jets in peace as you were with hellcats in war. Congratula­tions and well done, Adm Stump.

Throughout the war I flew the Grumman F6F Hellcat, which was designed to counter the Japanese Mitsubishi Zero, the dominant plane early in the Pacific war. The Hellcat gave us not only the speed, range and climb to compete successfully against the Zero, but it could dictate the rules of combat. It had a rugged dependability, a solid and stable gunnery platform, and distinctly was more of a pussycat than a Hellcat in its carrier operations. What better success could be attributed to the F6F than to acknowledge its kill-to-loss ratio of nineteen to one.

Commander
ALEX VRACIU NC, DFC, USN


Born in East Chicago, Indiana, I won a scholarship to DePauw University, and sensing a war looming on the horizon, obtained a private pilot’s license under the government’s CPT (Civilian Pilot Training) program during the summer vacation between my junior and senior years.

Following graduation in 1941, I entered naval flight training just prior to Pearl Harbor and earned my wings in August, 1942. With planes and aircraft carriers scarce in the earlier phases of the war, I was finally given the opportunity to carrier-qualify on the USS Wolverine, a converted excursion ship, on Lake Michigan. I qualified on eight straight passes in my F4F Wildcat, demonstrating an early affinity for carrier duty. My first combat assignment was flying F6F Grumman Hellcats off carriers, learning my deadly trade for five months as wingman to Medal of Honor winner, Lieutenant Commander Edward H. ‘Butch’ O’Hare, Commanding Officer of Fighting Squadron 3 (later changed to 6).

It was while flying section lead in Skipper O’Hare’s division that I shot down my first enemy aircraft, a Japanese Zero fighter, at Wake Island in October, 1943. I got a reconnaissance Betty two-engine bomber at Tarawa, and on January 29, 1944 I qualified as an Ace after downing three more Betty’s over Kwajalein. The last of these was destroyed after a long, low-level pursuit with only one gun firing part-time at the Betty which was jinking and turning all the while. I notched three Zeroes and one Rufe in a wild dogfight at the first Truk raid on February 16, 1944 as part of a 72-Hellcat fighter sweep at the Japanese Naval fortress. It was a new and enjoyable experience for the F6F pilots . . . an all-fighter raid with no bombers to protect. That night. Air Group Six, aboard Intrepid, was forced to retire from the combat zone when the carrier was torpedoed by a Japanese Kate.

When my squadron returned to Stateside, I requested continued combat duty. I felt keenly that there was still a job to be done and requested continued combat duty and I was not disappointed. The Pacific war was warming up and all good fighter pilots naturally want to be where the action is.

The Navy obliged by assigning me to Fighter Squadron Sixteen aboard Lexington, where I added two more Zeroes at the second Truk raid on 29 April. My 12th kill, another Betty snooper, was shot down north of Saipan on 12 June. Betty’s (big, fat-bellied, versatile Japanese bombers) were my prime preoccupation after being told that it was a Betty that had shot down Butch O’Hare on a strange night encounter. On June 14, participating in a strike against enemy shipping in the harbor, I sunk a large enemy merchant ship with a direct hit on its stern.

On 19 June I bagged six Judy dive-bombers in eight minutes in what has become known as the Marianas ‘Turkey Shoot’. Not many fighter pilots get a-once-in-a-lifetime occasion like this. The following day I shot down a Zero, my last enemy kill, and damaged another while flying escort for bomber and torpedo planes on a record, long-range strike against the Japanese fleet in the First Philippine Sea Battle.

My luck ran out early this time on December 14th 1944 when I was shot down by anti-aircraft fire on my second mission while strafing near Clark Field, Luzon, Philippines. After parachuting to safety, I spent the next five weeks with the USAFFE guerrillas and was given the honorary rank of Brevet Major while with them. For the final week of this episode, I found myself in command of 180 men, dodging Japanese to meet General McArthur’s advancing Americans. I marched into an American camp sporting a Luger and carrying a Japanese sword. Forced to return home due to regulations, I would not be able to make the first Tokyo raid.

After surviving service on six carriers, two of which were torpedoed, two ditchings and two parachute jumps—to be known as Grumman’s Best Customer-—my war was over. I was the U.S. Navy’s one-time leading Ace for three months in 1944 and ended World War II as the fourth-ranking Naval Ace, having shot down 19 enemy aircraft and destroyed 21 more on the ground. For the last few months of the war I served as a test pilot at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland, helping evaluate tactical performances of U.S. and enemy aircraft.

After post-war staff duty in the Navy Department. Naval Post-Graduate School and shipboard duty, I received the ultimate desire of all fighter pilots-command of my own squadron. As Commanding Officer of Fighter Squadron 51, I won the High Individual Air-to-Air competition in 1957 Naval Air Weapons Meet at El Centro, California, outshooting all Naval and Marine pilots for the top honor. I received the following message from CINCPACFLT: I am delighted to hear that you are top gun in jets in peace as you were with hellcats in war. Congratula­tions and well done, Adm Stump.

Throughout the war I flew the Grumman F6F Hellcat, which was designed to counter the Japanese Mitsubishi Zero, the dominant plane early in the Pacific war. The Hellcat gave us not only the speed, range and climb to compete successfully against the Zero, but it could dictate the rules of combat. It had a rugged dependability, a solid and stable gunnery platform, and distinctly was more of a pussycat than a Hellcat in its carrier operations. What better success could be attributed to the F6F than to acknowledge its kill-to-loss ratio of nineteen to one.









ROBERT COATS and ALEX VRACIU Signature Ensemble (US Navy: Wildcat: Hellcat: Pacific Theater)@vbader.com

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