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Michael Alexatos ready to enter the cockpit of his Hellcat, probably during his photo-reconnaissance training in Hawaii prior to his deployment on USS Yorktown. Michael Alexatos was able to shoot down two enemy fighters and claim another as probable. The gun camera photo is from his own fighter showing one of his victories. It is not known who his colleague was who tried to steal his victory, but no one else claimed the kill. (Michael Alexatos via Gary Kaizer)

Michael S. Alexatos was born in Titusville, Pennsylvania on August 29, 1919, the son of Peter Alexatos and Kalomoira Potamianos from Kefalonia. He entered the Navy as an Ensign in July 1942. Upon arriving at Corpus Christi he requested the Fleet instead of duty as a flight instructor. After completing flight training, he was assigned to VF-1 which was later based on Tarawa (with strikes against the Marshall Islands), and on the USS Yorktown (CV-10) where he participated in strikes against the Marianas, Bonin Islands, Caroline Islands, and the First Battle of the Philippine Sea, flying the famous F6F Hellcat. He was credited with two Zeros and one more as probable. During the operations in the Pacific, he earned the “MAD GREEK” call sign. He joined VF-7 in 1945 and was with that squadron until the end of World War II. He was then assigned to the Photographic Division under the Bureau of Aeronautics (BUAER) in Washington D.C., where he spent two years after which he was transferred to Villanova College for one year under the Holloway Program. He was next assigned to VF-72 in 1948, and after deployment to the Mediterranean, was transferred to VC- 62 where he made deployments to the Mediterranean and Korea as an Officer-in-Charge of a Photographic Detachment aboard the USS Leyte (CV-32). In 1951 he was assigned back to the Photo Division of BUAER, where he was responsible for the development of Photographic Reconnaissance aircraft, various types of reconnaissance cameras, and associated equipment. He was assigned duty as the Air Plans Officer for Amphibious Group Three in 1954, where he became one of the Pacific Fleet's first Atomic Employment Officers. In 1954 he was transferred to VC-61 as its Executive Officer where he pioneered the use of night photography with jet photographic aircraft using photoflash cartridges.

In 1956 he attended the Line School at Monterey, California as a student and then as Director of the Aeronautical Photographic Experimental Laboratory at Johnsville, PA., where he designed several needed photographic reconnaissance items. After attending the Naval War College in 1959, he was assigned as the Commanding Officer of VF-151 aboard the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43). Due to the "All Attack Carrier Concept", the ship's fighters were based ashore at NAS Atsugi, Japan. From CO of VF-151, he was assigned as the Executive Officer of the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43). After this tour, he had duty with the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities. He then received command of the USS Vesuvius (AE-15) in 1965, which operated off the coast of Vietnam and Yankee Station. Upon the completion of this tour of duty, he was assigned as the J-5 Strategic Policy and Planning Officer for CINCLANT/CINCLANTFLT, Norfolk, VA., where he conducted several studies leading to his being assigned as the Deputy Team Chief of a group that made a study on "The Defense of the Persian Gulf" for the Shah of Iran at the order of then-President Johnson. Shortly after that, he was transferred to Washington to be the Deputy of the Defense Communications Planning Group. He retired from this tour of duty in August 1970. During his career, he logged 5052 flight hours and was awarded 4 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 7 Air Medals, one Presidential Unit Citation, and 2 Joint Chiefs Achievement Medals (non-combat). He passed away on June 18, 2010, honoring with his service both the United States and Greece.

A detailed chapter of more than 45 pages about his career, based on his personal memoirs, his logs, and USN combat diaries, can be found in the Vol. C of the GREEKS IN FOREIGN series of books.

A Hellcat like those Alexatos flew during the invasion in Tarawa in 1943. During that time Fighting One operated early F6F-3s from the decks of the escort carriers USS Nassau (CVE-16) and USS Barnes (CVE-20) before moving to a Tarawa airfield. The squadron’s 24 Hellcats were divided into four divisions, each carrying an identification letter. The fighters operating from USS Barnes used 'F' and 'G' while those on USS Nassau, from which Alexatos flew, used 'E' and 'H', along with an individual aircraft number.  (Copyright Gaetan Marie)