chapter 6 page 2 - US Marine Corps
US Marine Corps
Unit designations and markings of the Marines Crusader squadrons were similar to those of the Navy, as they are to this day. In unit designations the letter M is added to signify it as a Marine unit, so if a Navy fighter squadron is a VF, the Marine counterpart is a VMF. Many Marine fighter squadrons had their designations changed when all-weather capable Crusader variants were introduced, VMF's becoming VMF(AW)'s instead.
With the Marines, tailcodes were (and still are) assigned to individual units, not to an Air Wing as a whole. There seemed to be no real system in assigning them, the two letters were picked randomly, as long as they didn't conflict with those used by the Navy. When the Marine Reserves became more independent from their Navy counterparts the typical 7x (a 7 followed by a letter denoting the air station assigned to) was changed to 5x. Later these tailcodes were dropped in favour of codes similar to those of the regular units.
Headquarters and Maintenance Squadrons (H&MS) were tasked with performing tactical, logistical, maintenance and administrative support for units attached to the Marine Air Group. Although these squadrons had their own complement of aircraft (often a mix of transports, fighters and helicopters) they were also given custody of aircraft temporarily while awaiting reassignment. Therefore the aircraft were frequently operated in the previous user’s markings. Of the four H&MS units known to have operated the Crusader, there is only photographic evidence of one. Crusaders of the other three squadrons probably never adopted the appropriate markings.
VMCJ-1 "Golden Hawks"
Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron One received F8U-1P’s while stationed at MCAS El Toro, California, in 1958. The squadron deployed to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, in September 1959 with nine photo-Crusaders on strength. VMCJ-1 deployed to Da Nang AB, South Vietnam, in April 1965, and flew many reconnaissance missions from both shore bases and carriers. Operating a mix of Douglas EF-10B Skynights and RF-8A’s, the latter were replaced with RF-4B Phantom II’s in early 1967. Disestablished in 1975. Tailcode: RM.VMCJ-2 "Playboys"
F8U-1P Crusaders replaced the ageing Grumman F9F-8P Cougars at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, in 1959. Together with VFP-62 the squadron was highly active during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, carrying out continuous overflights of Cuba. With the escalation of the Vietnam war VMCJ-2 began training replacement pilots for to south-east Asia deployed VMCJ-1. During 1965 the squadron was flying no less than four different types of aircraft: RF-4B Phantom II’s began replacing the RF-8A’s, while EA-6A Intruders arrived to take the place of their EF-10B Skynights. The last Crusader left the squadron in 1966. Disestablished in 1975. Tailcode: CY.
VMCJ-3 "Eyes and Ears of the Corps"
Based at MCAS El Toro, California, VMCJ-3 began receiving F8U-1P’s in 1960. RF-4B Phantom II’s had replaced all Crusaders by 1966. Redesignated VMFP-3 in 1975 from the assets of decommissioned VMCJ-1, -2 and –3, deactivated in 1990. Tailcode: TN.
Initially based at NAS New Orleans, Louisiana, Marine Reconnaissance Squadron Four was the only reserve photo squadron in the Marine Corps. Crusader operations began when four RF-8A’s arrived in 1966. On 1 May 1967 the squadron relocated to NAS Olathe, Kansas, now fielding five photo-Crusaders. In 1969 the RF-8A’s were replaced by RF-8G’s, with the squadron once again relocating a year later, this time to NAS Dallas, Texas, when the reserves were reorganised. Operations seized in 1973. Tailcode: 7X, from 1967: 7K, from 1969: 5K, from 1970: 5D, from 1972: MJ.
Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron Eleven at NAS Atsugi, Japan, received their first F8U-1 in 1960, and had four by the end of that year. These were used for about a year, together with at least one F8U-1E, which was the only Crusader on strength on 31 December 1961. This aircraft left the squadron midway during 1962 and Crusaders did not again join the squadron’s inventory until 1964 when no less than nineteen F-8D’s were operated for about a year. H&MS-11 relocated to Da Nang AB, Vietnam on 7 July 1965. Crusader operations continued with various models until 1970. To this author’s best knowledge, no photographic evidence exists of Crusaders in H&MS-11 markings. Disestablished in 1994 as MALS-11. Tailcode (if ever worn): TM.
Stationed at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, H&MS-13 received its first F8U-1 in 1960. A year later four F8U-1’s and a single F8U-1E were on hand. The F-8A’s were replaced during 1962 with six F-8B’s, these were phased out by early 1964. Disestablished in 1994 as MALS-13. Tailcode: YU.
Little is known of Crusader-operations by this unit, it is believed they operated Crusaders from MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, from approximately 1959 to 1965. Certain is only that an F8U-1 lost on 26 July 1959 was on H&MS-32’s strength. Disestablished in 1993 as MALS-13. Tailcode (if ever worn): DA.
VMF-111 "Devil Dogs"
Marine Fighter Squadron One One One was part of the Air Reserves stationed at NAS Dallas, Texas, until 1965. VMF-111 shared its aircraft with sister squadron VMF-112 and Naval Air Reserve squadrons VF-701 and VF-703, with F-8A’s arriving in January 1964. Deactivated on 22 October 1965 with the reorganisation of the Marine Air Reserves, all of VMF-111’s assets were turned over to VMF-112. Tailcode: 7D.
Initially operated as VMF-111’s sister squadron at NAS Dallas, Texas, but became more independent in October 1965 with the reorganisation of the Marine Air Reserves, flying F-8A’s. F-8K’s had been received by 1970, which in turn were replaced by F-8H’s in 1971 and 1972. The reserves at NAS Dallas were also known as the "Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment Dallas (MARTD Dallas) and some aircraft were noted with these markings. The squadron was redesignated VMF(AW)-112 in 1972. Tailcode: 7D, from 1968: 5D.
Marine Fighter Squadron (All Weather) One One Two came into being at NAS Dallas, Texas, in 1972 from a redesignated VMF-112, flying F-8H’s. As with VMF-112, the reserves at NAS Dallas were also known as the "Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment Dallas (MARTD Dallas) and some aircraft were noted with these markings. Redesignated VMFA-112 in 1976 when F-4 Phantom II’s replaced the Crusaders. Currently flying the F/A-18 Hornet. Tailcode: MA.
VMF-113 "Whistling Devils"
Stationed at NAS Olathe, Kansas, Marine Air Reserve squadron VMF-113 shared aircraft with co-located sister-squadron VMF-215. F-8A Crusaders arrived in April 1964 but the squadron was deactivated on 22 October 1965, after which the squadron’s assets were transferred to VMF-215. Tailcode: 7K.
Marine Fighter Squadron One Two Two at MCAAS Beaufort, South Carolina, became the first Marine squadron to receive F8U-1’s, in December 1957. In 1959, after a period of intense training VMF-122 also became the first Marine Crusader squadron to carrier qualify. On 1 October 1962 the squadron was redesignated VMF(AW)-122 with the introduction of the F-8E. Tailcode: DC.
When VMF-122 at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, traded in their F-8A’s for F-8E’s the squadron was redesignated as an all-weather squadron on 1 October 1962. Due to a temporary shortage of F-8E’s some F-8B’s were used instead to replace the F-8A’s until enough F-8E’s became available. Having just finished transitioning the squadron was deployed to NAS Key West, Florida, until December 1962 in response to the Cuban missile crisis. VMF(AW)-122 moved to NAS Atsugi, Japan, in January 1964 for a full year deployment. On return to the US in January 1965 their F-8E’s were left behind in Japan for use by VMF(AW)-312 and VMF(AW)-122 moved to MCAS El Toro, California, for transitioning to the F-4 Phantom II. Some F-8B’s were (once again) employed by the squadron during the transitioning phase but this ended on 1 July 1965 when the squadron was officially redesignated a F-4 squadron as VMFA-122. Currently flying the F/A-18 Hornet. Tailcode: DC.
Based at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, VMA-212 was redesignated a fighter squadron on 1 July 1963 when F-8B’s replaced their FJ-4 Fury’s. Precisely a year later the squadron had re-equipped with the F-8D and was redesignated VMF(AW)-212. Tailcode: WD.
VMF(AW)-212 came into being on 1 July 1964 at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, when VMF-212 transitioned to the F-8D and was redesignated an all-weather squadron. In January 1965 the squadron once received F-8E’s, in preparation for the Marines’ only F-8 combat carrier cruise, which lasted from April to December 1965 aboard the USS Oriskany. The commander of Oriskany's Air Wing, the "CAG", was Cdr. Jim Stockdale who was shot down and became one of the most famous of the POW's. The commander of VMF(AW)-212, Lt. Col. Chuck Ludden, was the next senior aviator and, as such, became the acting "CAG". He finished the cruise commanding Air Wing 16, it is believed that he is the only Marine to ever command a Naval Air Wing. After return to MCAS Kaneohe Bay the squadron reverted back to flying F-8D’s until 1 March 1968 when F-4 Phantom II’s replaced the Crusader. Currently flying the F/A-18 Hornet. Tailcode: WD (the squadron retained its own tailcode while attached to USS Oriskany’s air wing).
VMF-215 "Fighting Corsairs"
Reserve squadron VMF-215 shared its aircraft with sister squadron VMF-113 at NAS Olathe, Kansas. First F-8A’s arrived in April 1964, later (1969?) replaced by F-8K’s before the squadron was deactivated in 1971 with the reorganisation of the reserves. Tailcode: 7K, from 1968: 5K.
VMF-232 "Red Devils"
Based at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, VMF-232 received F8U-1’s in 1959. Later that year the squadron underwent gunnery training at MCAS Yuma, Arizona, with borrowed F8U-2’s. The squadron’s own F8U-1’s were replaced by F8U-1E’s in 1960. These in turn were replaced by F-8D’s in 1965. Thanks to the (limited) all-weather capabilities of this model the squadron was redesignated VMF(AW)-232 on 1 March 1965. Tailcode: WT.
VMF(AW)-232 "Red Devils"
Marine All Weather Fighter Squadron Two Three Two was established at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, on 1 March 1965 from a redesignated VMF-232, the change in designation reflecting the (limited) all-weather capabilities of the F-8D. By December 1966 the squadron had converted to the bomb-capable F-8E and had deployed to Da Nang AB in Vietnam. This deployment lasted until 30 August 1967, after which the squadron moved to MCAS El Toro, California, arriving on 1 September. Seven days later VMF(AW)-232 was redesignated VMFA-232 and F-4 Phantom II’s replaced the Crusaders. Currently flying the F/A-18 Hornet. Tailcode: WT.
VMF-235 "Death Angels"
Relocated to MCAAS Beaufort, South Carolina, VMF-235 began receiving F8U-1’s in December 1957. In February 1962 F-8D’s replaced the F-8A’s and the squadron was redesignated VMF(AW)-235 to reflect the all-weather capabilities of this model. Tailcode: DB.
VMF(AW)-235 "Death Angels"
VMF(AW)-235 came into being in February 1962 at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, from a redesignated VMF-235, flying F-8D’s. The squadron was reduced to zero strength on 24 January 1963, and was re-established at NAS Atsugi, Japan, eight days later. A busy year was spent in the far-east but on 1 February 1964 the squadron was once again reduced to zero strength and re-emerged at MCAS Beaufort soon after, this time equipped with F-8E’s. VMF(AW)-235 spent their first combat tour in Vietnam with F-8’s at Da Nang AB from 1 February 1966 until 15 November 1966, after which the squadron once again relocated, this time to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. A second long combat tour was spent at Da Nang AB from 15 February 1967 until 11 May 1968. After return to MCAS Iwakuni the F-8E’s were traded in for F-8B’s pending the arrival of F-4 Phantom II’s. The squadron began flying their F-8B’s on 29 May 1968 and was the last active Marine squadron to fly the Crusader. Four months later the squadron was once again reduced to zero strength, and was re-established at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, as an F-4 squadron, redesignated VMFA-235. Disestablished in 1996. Tailcode: DB.
FJ-4 Fury-equipped VMF-251 transferred to MCAS El Toro, California, on 28 April 1958, and immediately re-equipped with F8U-1’s. The squadron departed by ship to Japan on 16 October 1959, arriving at NAS Atsugi on 1 November. The next year VMF-251 transitioned to the F8U-1E and in addition spent the first half-year of 1960 at NAS Cubi Point in the Philippines. The squadron transferred to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, on 1 January 1961, leaving its F8U-1E’s behind at NAS Atsugi to equip its replacement squadron VMF-312. In a clean swap VMF-215 took over VMF-312’s twelve F8U-1’s and ten F8U-1E’s. The squadron was redesignated VMFA-251 on 31 October 1964 while transitioning to the F-4 Phantom II. Currently flying the F/A-18 Hornet. Tailcode: DW, during 1962: AK.
MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, based VMF-312 received F8U-1’s in June 1959. The squadron arrived at NAS Atsugi, Japan, for a one-year deployment in January 1961, taking over VMF-251’s F8U-1E’s in the process. On return to the United States in January 1962 the squadron relocated to MCAS El Toro, California. Redesignated VMF(AW)-312 on 1 August 1963. Tailcode: DR.
With the introduction of the F-8D, VMF-312 at MCAS El Toro, California, was redesignated as an "all-weather" squadron on 1 August 1963. Later that year or early 1964 the F-8E was introduced. The squadron once again relocated to Japan on 1 February 1965, in anticipation of a deployment to the Republic of Vietnam. Such deployment eventually did take place on 19 December 1965 when the squadron began offensive operations from Da Nang AB. This deployment proved to be a very short one however, VMF(AW)-312 was disestablished at Da Nang on 31 January 1966. Re-established at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, the following day as an F-4 Phantom II squadron, redesignated VMFA-312. Currently flying the F/A-18 Hornet. Tailcode: DR.
VMF-321 "Hell’s Angels" / "Black Barons"
Based at NAF Washington (Andrews AFB), Maryland, Marine Air Reserve Fighter Squadron Three Two One shared aircraft with co-resident Naval Air Reserve squadrons VF-661 and VF-662 (VF-11A1 from 1968 onward). Introduction to the Crusader began for these three squadrons in January 1965 with the arrival of the F-8B. In March 1967 F-8A’s were added, later all were replaced by F-8L’s. 1970 saw the Naval Air Reserves being reorganised, before that happened VMF-321 had already become more and more independent from the Naval Air Reserve squadrons. True independent status was acquired with the reorganisation of the Marine Air Reserve in 1971, with VMF-321 officially receiving nineteen Crusaders (often quoted as F-8B’s, but at least some if not all were F-8L’s) from the Naval Air Reserves at Andrews. Shortly after the squadron transitioned to the F-8K a new colour scheme was adopted, which in this author’s humble opinion was the best looking paint job applied to a Crusader ever: very dark blue dorsal spine and vertical stabilizer covered with white stars. At the same time the squadron’s nickname also changed to "Black Barons". In December 1973 VMF-321 transitioned to the F-4 Phantom II and was redesignated VMFA-321. Currently flying the F/A-18 Hornet. Tailcode: 6A, from 1971: 5A, from 1972: MG.
VMF-323 "Death Rattlers"
Marine Fighter Squadron Three Two Three transitioned to the F8U-1 at MCAS El Toro, California, in 1959, two years later to be replaced by F8U-2’s. In July 1962 the squadron deployed to NAS Dallas, Texas, where they traded in their F8U-2’s for F8U-2NE’s. With the introduction of the new model the squadron was redesignated as VMF(AW)-323. Tailcode: WS.
VMF(AW)-323 "Death Rattlers"
Owing to the all-weather capabilities of the F8U-2NE, VMF-323 based at MCAS El Toro, California, was redesignated as an all-weather squadron mid 1962. On 18 June 1963 the squadron started a trans-Pacific flight of 18 Crusaders from NAS El Toro to NAS Atsugi, Japan, but a string of abortions and two serious accidents prevented the squadron from reaching Japan by air, instead they went by ship! The deployment at Atsugi lasted one year, after which the squadron ceased Crusader operations. On 1 July 1964 the squadron was redesignated VMFA-323 and relocated to MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, as an F-4 Phantom II squadron. Currently flying the F/A-18 Hornet. Tailcode: WS.
VMF-333 "Fighting Shamrocks"
On 6 November 1959, MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, based VMF-333 became the first Marine squadron to receive the F8U-2. The squadron finally transitioned to the F-8E in 1965 and was redesignated VMF(AW)-333 on 1 February 1966. Tailcode: DN.
VMF(AW)-333 "Fighting Shamrocks"
With the introduction of the F-8E, VMF-333 at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, was redesignated as an all-weather squadron on 1 February 1966. Later a number of F-8D’s were added to the squadron. On 20 June 1968 the squadron was redesignated VMFA-333, flying F-4 Phantom II’s. Disestablished in 1992. Tailcode: DN.
Marine Fighter Squadron Three Three Four at MCAS El Toro, California, became the first West Coast Marine squadron to be equipped with the F8U-1 in January 1958. In 1961 the squadron was re-equipped with F8U-2’s, these remained in the inventory until June 1967 when the squadron transitioned to the F-4 Phantom II and was redesignated VMFA-334. Disestablished in 1971. Tailcode: initially WV, almost immediately after introduction of the F8U-1 replaced with WU.
This NAS Atlanta, Georgia, based Marine Air Reserve squadron shared its aircraft with co-located Naval Air Reserve squadrons VF-672 and VF-673 (VF-31B2 and VF-31B3 from late 1968 onward). First F-8A’s arrived in February 1965, followed by F-8C’s a year later. Some F-8L’s were added in 1969. When the Naval Air Reserve was reorganised in 1970, VMF-351 became an independent squadron. That same year the F-8K became the primary equipment of the squadron. Disestablished in 1975. Tailcode: 7B, from 1970: 5B, from 1972: MC.
Marine Fighter Squadron Four Five One at MCAS El Toro, California, received F8U-2’s in 1960. In mid 1961 the squadron transitioned to the F8U-2N, with the squadron-designation being changed to VMF(AW)-451 on 1 July 1961. Tailcode: VM.
With the introduction of the F8U-2N, VMF-451 at MCAS El Toro, California, was redesignated as an all-weather squadron on 1 July 1961. On 4 January 1962 the squadron departed El Toro for a 7,000-mile ferry flight to NAS Atsugi, Japan, starting a one-year deployment. On return the squadron relocated to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, arriving there on 1 February 1963. From 24 August 1965 through 7 April 1966 VMF(AW)-451 was part of USS Forrestal’s air wing. In 1967 the squadron transitioned to the F-8E, but soon after the F-4 Phantom II began arriving and the squadron was officially redesignated VMFA-451 on 1 February 1968 as an F-4 squadron. Currently flying the F/A-18 Hornet. Tailcode: VM, while assigned to the USS Forrestal: AJ.
Based at NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, Marine Air Reserve squadron VMF-511 shared its aircraft with co-located Naval Air Reserve squadrons VF-931 and VF-932. First F-8B’s arrived in 1964, supplemented by F-8A’s from 1968 on. In 1970 the Naval Air Reserves were reorganised, at which time VMF-511 became an independent squadron. Although F-8L’s had found their way to the Naval Air Reserve squadrons a year earlier, VMF-511 did not officially transition to the F-8L until 1970, with F-8K’s replacing these a year later. Disestablished in 1973. Tailcode: 7W, from 1970: 5W, from late 1972: MK.
Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment Dallas
Some F-8’s flown by VMF-112 (which see) from NAS Dallas, Texas, were noted marked as such.
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