Coronado’s “Avenue of Heroes” … Capt. Vincent Patrick O’Rourke, USN | News from the city of Coronado

Captain Vincent Patrick O’Rourke was born May 19, 1922 in New York City and raised in neighboring Queens. At 17, he was selected from among thousands of applicants to receive a national aeronautical engineering scholarship. He enrolled at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, which launched his ongoing quest for excellence in aviation.

At age 20, O’Rourke enlisted in the Navy and was commissioned in October 1943. He served as a Hellcat fighter pilot with Fighter Squadron 74 on board. USS Kasaan Bay at the Mediterranean theater. Transferred to the Pacific, he served with the Fast Carrier Task Force where he flew with Torpedo Squadron 47 on USS Bataan piloting a TBM-3 Avenger until Japanese surrender.

During the war he was awarded medals for bravery, including two Navy Cross medals and a Bronze Star. As a junior lieutenant he received his first Navy Cross for his attack on the Japanese fleet at Kobe Bay in 1945. He bombed a large aircraft carrier under intense anti-aircraft fire and a smokescreen. His second was for his role in the sinking of the Japanese cruiser IJN tone during the 1945 attack on the port of Kure. He carried out more than 200 hours of combat during 33 strike missions on board USS Bataan in five months. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, five Air Medals and the Meritorious Service Medal.

During a 30-year naval career, he was the second-in-command of VF-96 Fighting Falcon; Commander of the VF-142 fighter squadron; and general manager of VF-142. During the Vietnam War, he commanded USS Tripoli and USS Rainier and was “Air Boss” and General Manager of USS Oriskany. He has flown everything from all-weather planes to helicopter missions of 19 aircraft carriers. His last tours were with the Commander of Fleet Air Alameda and the Chief of Staff of the 12th Naval District.

O’Rourke held degrees in aeronautical engineering, industrial engineering, and human resources. He is a graduate of the Naval Test Pilot School and the Armed Forces Staff College. He was married to Harriet Julia Sokal for 63 years until her death in 2007. They had three children James, Brian and Alice Anne (Skelton).

Upon retirement, they returned to Coronado and never left.

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