Ionel P. Teja

  • Ensign
  • WW II


Ionel “Nel” Pandely Teja was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island on 13 October 1921. He was the son of Pandely and Evanthia Teja. He was a 1938 graduate of Woonsocket High School. Nel was an outstanding scholar and was a member of the football, basketball and track teams, along with a strong interest in drama and music. Nel entered Rhode Island State College (RISC) in September 1938, with the class of 1942. He was a member of Theta Chi Fraternity and participated in the Army ROTC program for two years. Nel graduated from RISC with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry in June 1942.

After graduating from RISC, Nel enlisted in the U.S. Navy Aviation Cadet Program. He attended air cadet training at Floyd Bennet Field, New York; aviation training at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida; advanced aviation training at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, Texas and Advanced Carrier Landing Training Group, Norfolk, Virginia. He was commissioned an Ensign, U.S. Navy Reserve in 1943.

Ensign Teja was assigned to the US Navy Bombing Squadron on board the U.S. Naval Aircraft Carrier U.S.S. Hoggatt Bay (CVE-75). The Hoggatt had been operating in the Pacific since March 1944. The ship arrived at Ulithi on 28 October 1944 and sailed on 10 November to provide air support for the developing campaign in the Philippines. The voyage through the Philippines during December 1944 was a perilous one, as the Japanese attacked with their last desperate weapon, the suicide plane. The Hoggatt Bay sent her carrier planes in to support the landings at Lingayen Gulf to destroy strong points on the island.

On December 15, 1944, Ensign Teja was returning from a successful strike action directed against the enemy installations on Lingayen. Ensign Teja made a good landing on the Hoggatt Bay; and after being released from the arresting gear, he started to taxi forward. His plane suddenly made a violent 90 degree turn. It appeared that that the plane’s brakes malfunctioned; and the plane went over the side of the ship, struck the water upside down and broke in half. The aircraft sank within a few seconds. No trace of Ensign Teja was seen in the water, and he was declared Killed in Action.

Ensign Ionel Pandely Teja was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal; and his name is on the Tablet of the Missing at the Manilla American Cemetery, Philippines. Ensign Ionel Pandely Teja’s courage and devotion to duty contributed to the success of our forces in defeating the Japanese and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. Ensign Teja answered the call to service during World War II and gave his life in service to the State of Rhode Island and our country. He was another member of the “Greatest Generation.”