Stanley Winfield Vejtasa was born in Paris, Montana, on 27 July 1914, son of John and Inga (Rinnhagen) Vejtasa. He attended Circle (Montana) High School, Montana State College and the University of Montanan, and while in college participated in athletics (wrestling, basketball and track) and majored in physical education and forestry. Appointed an Aviation Cadet on 5 July 1938, he had flight training at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, was designated a Naval Aviator on 13 July 1939, and was commissioned Ensign in the US Naval Reserve on 11 August 1939. He subsequently advanced in rank to that of Captain, to date from 1 November 1956, having transferred from the Naval Reserve to the US Navy on 19 August 1939.
After earning his “Wings” in July 1939, he was assigned to Scouting Squadron FIVE based on USS Yorktown, and May 1942 was transferred to Fighting Squadron TEN, of USS Enterprise, as Operations Officer. He is entitled to the Ribbon for the Presidential Unit Citation awarded USS Enterprise, and for heroic service during the early period of World War II was awarded the Navy Cross and Gold Stars in lieu of the Second and Third Navy Crosses. Citations follow in order of action for which received:
Gold Star in lieu of Third Navy Cross: “For extraordinary heroism as pilot of a scout bomber in action against enemy Japanese forces at Salamaua and Lae, New Guinea, on March 10, 1942. In the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire, Lieutenant (junior grade) Vejtasa dived and skillfully attacked one of three Japanese aircraft tenders or transports and obtained a direct hit on one of the hostile vessels. By his superb airmanship and outstanding courage he contributed to the destruction of three enemy ships and upheld the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.”
Navy Cross: “For extraordinary heroism and extreme disregard of his own personal safety as pilot of an airplane of a Scouting Squadron in attacks against enemy Japanese forces during the period of May 4-8, 1942…In the face of tremendous anti-aircraft barrage, Lieutenant Vejtasa contributed materially to the sinking or damaging of eight enemy vessels in Tulagi Harbor on May 4 and to the sinking of an enemy aircraft carrier in the Coral Sea on May 7. Again, on May 8, while on anti-torpedo plane patrol, he fiercely engaged the combined attack of enemy bombing and torpedo planes and their heavy fighter support. His conscientious devotion to duty and gallant self-command against formidable odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.”
Gold Star in lieu of Second Navy Cross: “For extraordinary heroism…as the leader of a Combat Air Patrol of four fighters of the USS ENTERPRISE during the engagement with enemy Japanese naval air forces near the Santa Cruz Islands on October 26, 1942. As great numbers of enemy dive bombers and torpedo planes launched a vicious attack upon his carrier, (he) unhesitatingly challenged and shot down two Japanese dive bombers and then gallantly led his patrol in an attack on a group of enemy torpedo planes with such daring aggressiveness that the formation was completely broken and three of the hostile bombers jettisoned their torpedoes as they fled. Lieutenant Vejtasa then personally shot down five of the remaining Japanese planes, making a total of seven enemy aircraft destroyed in a single flight. His superb airmanship and indomitable fighting spirit were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Upon his return to the United States in July 1943, he was ordered to the Naval Air Station, Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he served as Fighter Training Officer on the Staff of the Commander Fleet Air, Quonset Point. He commanded Fighting Squadron NINETY-SEVEN from November 1944 until June 1945, and in both assisted in the development of operational readiness of carrier aircraft fighter squadrons destined for combat service in the Pacific. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, with citation in part as follows:
“For meritorious achievement as Officer-in-Charge, Fighting Squadron Training, under Commander Fleet Air, Quonset Point, from August 1943 to November 1944; and as Commander Fleet Air, Quonset Point, from August 1943 to November 1944 to June 1945. In his capacity as Officer-in-Charge, Fighting Squadron Training and Commanding Officer, Fighting Squadron NINETY-SEVEN (he) was directly responsible for the training of fighter pilots for now and reformed carrier fighter squadron…”
From June 1945, during the latter months of World War II and to October of that year, he served as Commander Air Group FORTY-FOUR and for eight months thereafter commanded Fighter Squadron SEVENTEEN at the Naval Air Stations, Brunswick, Maine and Fallon, Nevada. He was a student at the General Line School, Newport, Rhode Island from July 1946, and in May 1947 was again ordered to sea, serving six months as Navigator of USS Sicily during anti-submarine warfare operations, and from November 1947 to January 1949 as Commanding Officer of Squadrons TEN-A and NINETY-TWO during USS Philippine Sea’s cruise in the Mediterranean.
He next reported for duty at Edwards Air Force Base, Edwards, California, where he served until January 1951 as Navy Liaison Officer and additionally as Officer in Charge of the Naval Station, Mojave, until that Air Station was disestablished. From January 1951 until April 1953 he was Air Officer of USS Essex, during two cruises to Korea. Essex won the Navy Unit Commendation for service in Korean waters during hostilities between the North Korean and Chinese Communist forces. He was personally awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the Second Bronze Star Medal, with Combat “V”. The citation follows in part:
“For meritorious achievement as Air Officer of the USS ESSEX during operations against enemy aggressor forces in Korea from July 31, 1952 to 10 January 1953. Exercising a thorough knowledge of flight and hangar deck operations, (he) ably supervised and coordinated the various supporting functions within the ship and perseveringly strove for the improvement of flight operations, aircraft handling, servicing and arming until they were raised to a high standard of efficiency, contributing immeasurably to the success of the ESSEX and its embarked air group in conducting maximum offensive operations against the enemy…”
Returning to the United States in April 1953, he commanded the Naval Air Facility, Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake, California until April 1955, then was Operations Officer on the Staff of Commander Carrier Division FIVE, in Western Pacific Operations. During the period July 1956 to June 1957 he was a student at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island (Naval Warfare, II). He next had a tour of duty in the Navy Department, Washington, DC, as Head of Air Weapons Systems, in the Bureau of Ordnance’s Research and Development Division.
In July 1959 he assumed command of USS Firedrake (AE-14), then in August 1960, was detached for duty on the Staff of the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet. He was Commanding Officer of USS Constellation (CVA-64), from November 1962 and after a year in that command, was assigned as Head, Air Strike and Carrier Warfare Branch, Strike Warfare Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department. In August 1965 he became Commander Fleet Air, Miramar.
In addition to the Navy Cross with two Gold Stars, the Bronze Star Medal with Gold Star, the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon and the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, Captain Vejtasa had the Commendation Ribbon with star for two Letters of Commendation received, and the following: American Defense Medal, Fleet Clasp; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; American Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal; China Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Korean Service Medal; United Nations Service Medal and Korean Presidential Unit Citation Badge.