Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-115 [VMFA-115]
The squadron, originally known as VMF-115, was organized July 1, 1943 at Santa Barbara, Calif., under the command of Maj.John S. MacLaughlin. Sixteen days later, the command was assumed by one of the Marine Corps' most famous Aces, Maj. Joseph Foss, holder of a World War II (Marine) record of 26 enemy aircraft shot down. The Squadron quickly picked up the nickname, "Joe's Joker's." In May 1944, the Squadron joined the Pacific campaign flying the legendary F4U-1 Corsair.
VMF-115 distinguished itself during the battle of Leyte Gulf, during the 8th U.S. Army's landings at Mindanao, Philippines, and in the Sulu Archipelago region providing close air support, fighter cover, and deep air strikes against enemy positions despite adverse weather conditions. The Marines of VMF-115 were considered a major contributor to the success of the American victory in the Philippines. During the 16 combat intensive months that followed, VMF-115 flew more than 18,000 flight hours, in 5,856 combat sorties at a cost of 28 aircraft lost, and nine pilots killed in action. For its gallantry, skill, and sacrifices, VMF-115 was recognized with the Presidential Unit Citation, and the Navy Unit Commendation.
At the conclusion of World War II, the Squadron deployed to Peking, China, to protect U.S. interests in that area and support III Marine Amphibious Corps supervising the surrender and repatriation of 630,000 Japanese troops and civilians in North China. This mission proved to be complicated when Communist troops began irregular patterns of hostility, requiring VMF-115 to provide convoy coverage, and the first "Air Presence" missions until its retrograde from the China theater in December 1946, nearly 15 months after the surrender of Japan, and 31 months since VMF-115 initially deployed to the Western Pacific.
In December 1949, VMF-115 became the first Marine Corps squadron to receive a full complement of Grumman F9F-2 Panther jet fighters and during November 1950, was first to serve aboard a carrier, qualifying all 18 pilots without incident aboard the USS Roosevelt.
In February 1952, VMF-115 deployed to K-3 Airfield near Pohang, Korea, for combat operations. During the Korean War, VMF-115 expended more ordnance than any other Marine jet squadron and flew 15,350 flight hours in 9,250 combat sorties at a price of 19 aircraft lost and 14 pilots killed in action. Six of these pilots were lost with their aircraft in a single day. VMF-115 provided decisive close air support during such battles as Bunker Hill, The Hook, Reno, Carson-Elko, Vegas, Berlin and East Berlin, and the famous battle at the Chosin Reservoir. The "Able Eagles" were recognized with their second Presidential Unit Citation, and Navy Unit Commendation, as well as two Korean Presidential Unit Citations.
In the spring of 1957, the Squadron received the Marine Corps' first F4D Skyrays and were designated VMF(AW)-115. During September 1958 the Squadron deployed from Atsugi, Japan, to Pingtung, Taiwan. There they reinforced the island's air defenses during the Formosa Straits Crisis by providing day and night combat air patrols in the defense of Taiwan against Chinese Communist aircraft.
Between 1957 and 1964, VMF(AW)-115 was usually deployed at MCAS Cherry Point, NC. In 1962, the squadron was deployed aboard the USS Independence. Throughout this period, the squadron continued to fly the F4D Skyray. After flying Skyrays longer than any other squadron. VMF(AW)-115 was redesignated VMFA-115 Jan. 1, 1964 and transitioned to the Mach II capable F-4B Phantom II.
The "Able Eagles" were deployed to Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, Oct.14, 1965. From Da Nang, the Squadron provided missions such as interdiction, landing zone preparation, helo escort, and close air support for numerous U.S. Army, Marine, and South Korean ground units proving its determination to support ground forces engaged with the enemy. Serving from bases such as Udorn Airbase, Thailand, to the "Rose Garden" in Nam Phong, the Squadron participated in such battles as the Tet Offensive, Hue City, Khe San, and Task Force Delta.
During the Vietnam War, VMFA-115 flew more than 34,000 combat sorties, at a cost of 14 aircraft lost, 21 aircrew killed in action, and six Marines killed in action, as a result of enemy rocket attacks on the airfield. Despite these losses, the "Able Eagles" accomplished a 10,000 hour accident-free milestone in combat, and were awarded the Hanson Trophy in 1971 by the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Additionally, the squadron was recognized for its third and fourth Presidential Unit Citations, three Navy Unit Commendations, and one Meritorious Unit Commendation for its exemplary and heroic dedication to duty in Southeast Asia from October 1965 to August 1973.
In July 1977, VMFA-115 relocated to 2nd MAW, MCAS, Beaufort, S.C., and in October 1980, the "Fighting Eagles" joined CVW-17 aboard the USS Forrestal. During this cruise VMFA-115 participated in Cold War missions by intercepting and escorting Soviet Union MIG-23 Floggers, MIG-25 Foxbats, and TU-95 Bear aircraft.
International tensions were dramatically illustrated to the Squadron when it began taking part in a peacetime aerial reconnaissance protection mission along the Libyan coastline. The "Fighting Eagles" successfully intercepted numerous sections of MiG-23 aircraft, with a highlight of turning away 22 sections in a single day from the Forrestal Carrier Battle Group. It was a busy year with the Squadron amassing a total of 3,385 flight hours, 1,839 sorties, with 1,375 carrier arrested landings. The Squadron was recognized with a Meritorious Unit Commendation for its work on the USS Forrestal.
After flying Phantoms for more than 20 years, VMFA-115 began the transition to the F/A-18A Hornet on Jan. 1, 1985, and officially stood up with 14 aircraft Aug. 16, 1985. The following year, the Squadron became officially known as the "Silver Eagles", and deployed for peacetime exercises in Western Europe. The "Silver Eagles" conducted flight operations for six weeks, from five bases in four countries, accumulating 1,182 flight hours. These accomplishments were primarily achieved in an austere, expeditionary environment, proving the F/A-18 Hornet was the right choice for the Fighter/Attack community.
In July 1987, VMFA-115 returned to the Western Pacific to participate in the Unit Deployment Program at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. The Squadron was recognized for superior maintenance, receiving the Secretary of Defense's Phoenix Award for Maintenance Excellence for 1987, and earned the Hanson Award as Marine Corps Fighter Squadron of the Year for both 1987 and 1988. This was the first time a Marine Fighter Squadron had won the Hanson Award for two consecutive years.
In 1989, VMFA-115 returned to the Philippines and supported government forces during a coup attempt in that country. The squadron flew armed CAP and escort missions until the situation stabilized. The Squadron's efforts were recognized again as the coveted Hanson Award became a "Silver Eagle" possession in 1990 for the third time in four years.
During 1991 to 1999, the "Silver Eagles" participated in the Unit Deployment Program in the Western Pacific for six month deployments in support of 1st MAW.
During the period of October 2nd through October 5th, Landing Signal Officers (LSOs) from Carrier Air Wing THREE (CVW-3) qualified pilots from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron One-Fifteen (VMFA-115) onboard the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN-73). VMFA-115, the Silver Eagles, replace VMFA-312 and joined CVW-3's other squadrons which include HS-7, VS-22, VF-32, VFA-37, VFA-105, VAW-126, and VAQ-130. As VMFA-115 had not traditionally been a sea-going squadron, the CVW-3 LSOs traveled to MCAS Beaufort to provide administrative support, conduct field carrier landing practice (FCLP), simulators and lectures one month prior to the carrier qualification period.
Since only 3 of 15 pilots had qualified in the past year the CVW-3 LSOs used a modified Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) Syllabus with the concurrence of the AIRLANT LSO. The modified FRS syllabus included all VFA-106 FRS Carrier Qualification (CQ) lectures; a safety seminar discussing recent shipboard mishaps; initial FCLP briefs and all shipboard CQ briefs; four graded simulators with additional unmonitored practice simulators (two given by CVW-3 LSOs and 2 given by VMFA-115 LSO in training); six day and four night FCLP periods minimum, utilizing the night extended and day pattern, at night; as well as two Improved Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System (IFLOLS) periods.
At the completion of the CQ evolution, the LSOs had qualified nine VMFA-115 pilots and three of them as field LSOs, making VMFA-115 self-sufficient for future CQ evolutions. Overall, all nine pilots qualified in superb fashion, exceeding all GPA and Boarding Rate Goals. The VMFA-115 pilots performed fabulously and had no problems operating in the carrier environment even though a few were over 10 years out of currency.
In March of 2002, those pilots of VMFA-115 who had not qualified did so. Carrier Air Wing THREE looked forward to working with VMFA-115 in upcoming training events on deployment, when Carrier Air Wing THREE will once again embarked aboard USS HARRY S TRUMAN (CVN-75).
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