Navy Capt. Vincent Patrick O’Rourke was born on May 19, 1922, in New York City and grew up in nearby Queens. At 17, he was selected from thousands of applicants to receive a national aeronautical engineering scholarship. He enrolled at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, which launched his lifelong pursuit of aviation excellence.
At 20, O’Rourke enlisted in the Navy and was commissioned in October 1943. He served as a Hellcat fighter pilot with Fighter Squadron 74 aboard USS Kasaan Bay in 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 flying a TBM-3 Avenger until the Japanese surrender.
During the war, he was awarded medals for valor including two Navy Cross medals and a Bronze Star. As a lieutenant junior grade, he was awarded his first Navy Cross for his attack on the Japanese fleet at Kobe Bay in 1945. He bombed a large aircraft carrier under heavy anti-aircraft fire and smoke screening. His second was for his role in the sinking of the Japanese cruiser IJN Tone during the 1945 attack on Kure Harbor. He flew 200-plus combat hours on 33 strike missions aboard USS Bataan in five months. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, five Air Medals and the Meritorious Service Medal.
During a 30-year naval career, he was the second Commanding Officer of VF-96 Fighting Falcons; Commanding Officer of fighter squadron VF-142; and Executive Officer of VF-142. During the Vietnam War, he commanded USS Tripoli and USS Rainier and was “Air Boss” and Executive Officer of USS Oriskany. He flew everything from all-weather aircraft to helicopter missions from 19 carriers. His final tours were Commander, Fleet Air Alameda and Chief of Staff, 12th Naval District.
O’Rourke held degrees in Aeronautical Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Human Resources. He graduated from the Naval Test Pilot School and the Armed Forces Staff College. He was married to Harriet Julia Sokal for 63 years until her passing in 2007. They had three children James, Brian and Alice Anne (Skelton).
Upon retirement, they returned to Coronado and never left.