by Ted Edwards
Hardcover, Illustrated, June 15, 2018
“It was just like flying into the void.” –Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa
This riveting biography details how Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa became a World War II naval hero. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, Swede flew an SBD Dauntless dive-bomber and helped sink Shoho, the first aircraft carrier lost by Japan in World War II. The next day, in that same Dauntless, he took off from USS Yorktown and out-flew and out-gunned three Japanese Zeros, making him the only dive bomber pilot to be awarded Navy Crosses for both bombing and aerial combat.
Months later, the day before the Battle of Santa Cruz, Swede was flying an F4F Wildcat fighter off USS Enterprise and had no recourse but to follow orders he knew to be insane. He and his squadron mates flew their predictably empty search legs and beyond, only to discover upon their return to Point Option in the dark, that Enterprise was nowhere to be found. Incredibly, Swede located the oil slick he had noticed seeping from Enterprise during a morning combat air patrol and was able to track it back to the carrier.
After their harrowing return, during the Battle of Santa Cruz, the fate of Enterprise, and by extension Guadalcanal, lay in the hands of that same Swede Vejtasa. He responded by single-handedly downing an unprecedented two Japanese dive bombers and five torpedo bombers attacking the carrier. Skipper Jimmy Flatley recognized that in all likelihood, Swede had saved Enterprise from destruction, and he recommended Swede for the Medal of Honor.