John Lavra Collection

Capt. John Lavra, married to Marolyn and resides in Charlotte Church, VA.

Enlisted US Navy 3 June 1944 Detroit, MI as Seaman Second Class. Combat Air Crewman, Aviation Radioman Striker(ARM).

Boot Camp: First all Aircrew Boot Platoon, NATTC, Jacksonville, Fl. Class A ARM, Class A Radarman School and Class B. Memphis, TN. Free Air Gunnery School, Kingsville, TX, designated Combat Aircrewman, Seaman First Class, (ARM(CA) PBY, Black Cat Sqd, Corpus Christi, TX. Waist Gunner and 2nd Radioman. Selected for Flight Training, Preflight at St. Mary's College, Oakland, Ca. Basic Flight Corpus Christi, TX. First flight in an N2S, 18 July 1946. Advanced Flight: Pensacola, Fl., designated Naval Aviator Commissioned as Ensign USNR 20 October 1947.

Tactical Flight in F4U Corsairs, Jacksonville, Fl. Assigned lst sqd, VA-12 (later and still VA-115) Air Group Eleven San Diego, CA. Assigned to USS VALLEY FORGE, CV-45. Released to inactive duty 3 April 1950 - recalled to active duty 24 October 1950. Assigned to VA-55, Air Group Five, San Diego, two combat tours:

USS PRINCETON CV-37, first shot down by ground fire on 25 June 1951, 14th mission. Crash landed in friendly territory, no injuries. Second time shot down ground fire 20 October 1952, 59 mission. Bailed out 32 miles behind enemy lines, burned to a crisp. Rescued by Navy Helo piloted by Chief Aviation Pilot. A.P. West. He and I were in flight training together. He and his crewman were killed attempting another rescue 2 days later. I was back flying combat about 40 days after my rescue.

Transferred to NAS Pensacola as a flight instructor, formation and combat in early 1953.

Temp duty at NAVMEDCEN Bethesda for plastic surgery, 23 procedures in all.

Next CIC, GCA schools at Glenview, IL and Olathe, KA. All Weather Air Controllers' school Key West, FL and assigned to CIC USS RANDOLPH CVA-15. Assigned to VA(AW)-33 in 1959, short tour- Transferred to VAW-12 'cause of CIC experience. Had the Fleet Introduction Program on the new WF-2(WILLY FUDDS) at Pax River,.MD. Took the first WF-2's to sea in 1960-61 in USS INDEPENDENCE, CVA-62

Assigned to NASGI in 1961, was a LCDR, as VA training officer. Took VA-731 and VA-732 to ACDUTRA in Fallon, NV. Bimidgi, MN, Traverse City, MI., Alpena, MI. Took VA-732 and all support personnel on ACDUTRA to Roosevelt Roads P.R. and made trips to the Dominican Republic and Jamaica at the request of the White House on Press Kennedy's People to People Program.

Went to NAS Olathe, KS. 1965 as Maintenance Officer. Qualified in T-33 and A4's, also qualified as co-pilot C-118 Flew logistics to Da Nang and Chou Li.

Checked out the ARGENTINE AIR FORCE pilots in US Navy A4's.

On to NAS TWIN CITIES as Training Officer. Was there only a year and made Captian and was transferred to NAS Oceana, Virginia Beach, VA as X.O. Was their first four striper X.O. and their only USNR X.O. USNR Officer. cannot command regular Navy Air Station, but when our C.O. was hospitalized, I became acting C.O. That was the end of Reserve Officers serving as X.O. on Regular Navy Air Stations. Retired there 1 November 1970.

Qualified 22 aircraft types, 5,400 hrs. 365 carrier landings.

26 yrs. 4 mos. 24 days service time, 25 yrs. 9 mos 18 days ACTIVE DUTY .

AWARDS: Purple Heart, Air Medal w/2 gold stars, Navy Commendation Medal w/combat "V", Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Good Conduct Medal, Naval Reserve Medal w/bronze star, American Theater Medal, WW 11, Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal w/Asia clasp. China Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal w/Bronze star, Korean Service Medal w/bronze stars/Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Lebanon), Vietnam Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, South Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Korean War Service Medal. ENLISTED COMBAT AIRCREW WINGS.

/s/ Capt. John

Let me tell you about Capt. John Lavra. I was a lowly plane captain on one of VA55s Korean cruises and I had the occasion to observe an incident of real courage. John Lavra was then a lieutenant in the squadron and on a strike his AD4 took a hit from AA. The AD flamed and tumbled but he stayed with it until bail out at a very low altitude. When he was brought back to the ship he was very seriously burned, especially around the lower face and neck area. He could easily have chosen to be sent back for burn treatment to Tripler in Hawaii or Balboa in San Diego, but he stayed with the squadron--on flight status. Every morning he would go down to sick bay to have his burned lips cut apart after they had fused together during the night. He had the Para riggers place foam rubber around the neck of his Mae West to prevent chafing of his carotid arteries which were exposed in the burn scabs. With that precaution, and a silk scarf around his neck, he flew and kept his flight rotation in the squadron. When I hear of a politician being written up as a "profile in courage" when making a decision insecure comfort, I just shake my head. When I think of courage, I think of John Lavra. Wendell L. "Doc" Roy, Ft. Collins, CO.

These are a collection of pictures furnished by Captain John Lavra 2 3 4
5 6 7 8
8 10 Following Photo are of the result of a Wheels up landing of one Grosse Ile's Able Dogs. This one not flown by Captain Lavra. 11
12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19
20 21 The following pictures are of the 2nd time Capt. Lavra was shot down 22
23 24 25 26

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2nd SHOOTDOWN

SURVIVAL REPORT
#2 
30 October 1952

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Revised: October 31, 2005