Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-232 [VMFA-232]
The history of the Marine Corps' oldest and most decorated active fighter attack squadron began on Sept. 1, 1925, at Naval Air Station San Diego, California. It was there that its first skipper, Second Lieutenant Clayton C. Jerome, took to the skies in a Vought VE-7 single seat biplane with a shining RED DEVIL insignia clearly visible on the aft fuselage. Shortly after its official commissioning, the squadron began a time honored RED DEVIL tradition; the Westpac deployment. In 1927, Red Devil fighters dominated the skies over Shanghai, China, earning the first of many unit citations. As the years passed, the squadron designation varied and the aircraft became newer and more capable. In 1933, the unit was redesignated as Bombing Plane Squadron 2. In 1941, in response to mounting tension in the Pacific, the Red Devils deployed to MCAS Ewa, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii. It was here the squadron, now designated Marine Scouting Bombing Squadron 232 suffered the loss or severe damage of nineteen of its twenty aircraft during the Japanese attack on Hawaii. On Wake Island, a Red Devil detachment suffered twenty five enlisted Marines killed or captured while assisting in the defense of the doomed island.
In August 1942, the opportunity came to avenge the attack on Pearl Harbor and Wake Island. Flying SBD-3 Dauntlesses from Guadalcanal's 3,000 foot dirt runway, the Red Devils became the first Marine dive bomber squadron to fly against the Japanese. Redesignated yet again as Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron 232, the Red Devils, flying newly acquired Grumman TBF-1 Avengers, continued to pound enemy shipping, airfields, and installations throughout the entire Pacific until the end of hostilities in August 1945. The price of victory did not come cheaply. During its participation in operations throughout World War II, VMTB-232 lost forty nine Marines and seventeen aircraft. On Nov. 16, 1945, the squadron, one of the few to earn two presidential citations, arrived at San Diego, and was temporarily decommissioned.
On June 3, 1948 the Red Devils were reactivated as a reserve fighter squadron at NAS Bennet Field, NY, with the name it currently holds; Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232. With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, the squadron was placed on alert and ordered to MCAS El Toro, California. Here, the squadron received its first delivery of the Chance-Vought F4U-4 Corsair. Although the unit itself did not deploy to Korea, by April 1951 nearly all the original aviators and forty percent of the enlisted Marines in the squadron had been detached and sent overseas for combat duty.
In March 1953, the Red Devils transitioned to the jet age with the receipt of the Grumman F9F-2 Panther. In 1954, homeport for 232 was changed from MCAS, El Toro, to MCAS, Kaneohe Bay, Territory of Hawaii, where they flew the FJ-2 Fury, the "Navalized" version of the F-86 Sabre. In March 1956, the Red Devils, VMF 232 set a "till that time" record of 2558 flight hours and 1571 sorties in one month. A record that must still stand. The Red Devils moved to the final version of the Fury, the FJ-4 from '56-'59. During Carquals, the squadron set a record for one dayof landingaboard the USS Bennington, and became the first Marine Squadron qualified with the Sidewinder and in-flight refueling. VMF 232 was deployed to Westpac on the USS Bennington during the Quemoy Matsu Crisis in the fall of 1958 and hours was stationed at NAS Atsugi. That year the squadron flew over 10,000 hours and was named by the Commandant, the Marine Fighter Squadron of the Year. In 1958 the squadron returned from Japan to transition into the F8U Crusader. 232, for the second year in a row, representing FMFPAC at the Fleet Air Gunnery Meet, winning top honors, in the Day Fighter category, with 1st Lt Gary Davis winning top individual honors. The squadron carqualed on the USS Ranger.
As a result of intensified operations in Southeast Asia, VMF(AW) 232 departed Kaneohe Bay, and became fully operational in DaNang,Vietnam by December 1966. Staying online for the next 290 consecutive days, the Red Devils flew 5,785 sorties and 7,273 flight hours, delivering 6,221 tons of ordnance.
In September 1967, the squadron returned to MCAS El Toro and painted the RED DEVIL insignia on their new McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms. The following year, the unit deployed to Chu Lai, Vietnam, for a 6 month tour. The squadron was then redesignated as Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, and relocated, along with with VMFA 334, to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, as a MIG alert squadron.
In April 1972, the Red Devils proved the meaning of true readiness by redeploying the entire squadron from Japan to Vietnam upon minimum notice to counter the spring offensive of that year. After a three month stay at DaNang, VMFA-232 moved its operations to Nam Phong, Thailand. Here they continued to fly air to ground sorties in addition to playing a key fighter role on Operation Linebacker missions over North Vietnam. The only "last" in VMFA-232's history occurred in September 1973 as the Red Devils became the last Marine squadron to leave the Vietnam War. The squadron remained in Iwakuni, Japan as a force in readiness while participating in numerous training deployments and exercises. In 1974, due to the standard of excellence expected and achieved, the Red Devils received the coveted Robert M. Hanson "Marine Fighter Attack Squadron of the Year" award. This commendation reflected the Esprit de Corps and the professionalism that has served as the cornerstone of RED DEVIL performance in peace and war for the last half century.
In October of 1977, the Red Devils of VMFA-232 returned to MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, after an eleven year absence. This event, in turn, marked the beginning of Red Devils participation in the demanding Westpac Unit Deployment Program. In October 1986, the Red Devils completed their sixth, and last six month tour of the Western Pacific in the venerable F-4 Phantom. In December 1988, VMFA-232 turned in their last F-4 Phantom II to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
In early 1989, the Red Devils began their transition to the F/A-18 Hornet. Aircrew trained at VMFAT-101 in El Toro, California, and the maintenance department at FRAMP in Lemoore, California. In June 1989, with return of aircrew and maintenance personnel to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and receipt of their twelfth Hornet, the Red Devils had completed the transition.
In December 1990, with intensification of Operation Desert Shield, the squadron deployed to Shaikh Isa, Bahrain. On Jan. 17, 1991, the Red Devils were among the first to cross the Iraqi border during Operation Desert Storm. After 41 days of intense combat operations, Kuwait was liberated as the Red Devils completed 740 combat missions and 1,390 hours. For their outstanding performance in Southwest Asia, VMFA-232 received the Navy Unit Commendation. Returning to Hawaii in April 1991, the squadron spent four short months at home before they were again deployed to Westpac.
Upon completion of their Westpac deployment in July 1993, the squadron stopped briefly at MCAS Kaneohe Bay enroute to their new home at MCAS El Toro, California, ending a sixteen year absence. In October of 1993, a significant milestone was reached when members of the Hornet Industry Team presented the squadron with a plaque honoring the Red Devils for achieving 50,000 accident free flight hours. This achievement spans almost 13 years of flying in the F-4 and F/A-18. The most recent first for VMFA-232 occurred in March 1994, when the Red Devils became the first F/A-18 squadron to tactically deploy and operate out of MCB Camp Pendleton. In April 1994, the World Famous Red Devils deployed halfway around the globe to conduct two weeks of training in Kuwait in support of the 11th MEU and the Kuwait Air Force in Operation Native Fury. After completing their Westpac in February 1995, the Red Devils returned to their original home, San Diego California, this time at NAS Miramar. VMFA-232 continued to improve its impressive safety record, and in April 1995 surpassed 60,000 accident free flight hours.
The squadron returned to Iwakuni in February 1996 and began what was to be a most memorable WestPac. While deployed to WestPac, the squadron achieved two impressive milestones. The squadron was honored as it received both the 1995 Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award as they surpassed 66,000 hours and 17 years of mishap free flying, and the 1996 Marine Corps Aviation Association's, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron of the Year Award. VMFA-232 returned to NAS Miramar in August 1996. During a short, 10 month turnaround, the Devils participated in two Scorpion Winds, and one CAX. Maintenance finished the upgrade for the Night Attack retrofit, and also upgraded to the XN-8 mission computers to keep the Red Devils at the forefront of Marine Aviation.
The squadron returned to WestPac in early July of 1997. Shortly after arrival in Iwakuni, Japan, the squadron learned they had received the Marine Corps Aviation Association's award as Marine Squadron of the Year for 1997. During a memorable WestPac, the Devils participated in Southern Frontier, Cope North 98-1, and Beachcrest 98. VMFA-232 returned to MCAS Miramar in January 1998.
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