Marine Fighter Attack Squadron(All Weather)-332
Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332 was commissioned in June 1943 at the newly constructed Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, North Carolina. Originally designated as Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 332 (VMSB-332) the squadron flew SBD Dauntless dive bombers out of Cherry Point and Bogue Field, North Carolina and Mojave, California before departing for the Pacific Theatre during World War II. After a brief stay in Ewa, Hawaii, the squadron located to Midway Island. Its mission was to escort and provide air cover for all incoming and outgoing surface craft and submarines. In July of 1944, the squadron relocated back to Ewa, where it would remain until after the war. On 1 March 1945, the squadron would make the first of four changes in squadron designations. Redesignated Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron 332 (VMTB-332), the squadron transitioned to the TBM Avenger. After the war, 332 relocated to San Diego in November 1945 for deactivation.
Marine Attack Squadron 332 (VMA-332) was recommissioned on 23 April 1952 as part of 3d Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Opa Locka, Florida flying the F6F Hell Cat and later F4U Corsairs. During the Korean conflict, Marine Attack Squadron 332 was assigned a combat role operating from the USS Bairoko, distinguishing themselves as one of the few Marine squadrons for an aircraft carrier. It was at this time the famous polkadots, hat, and cane originated. Replacing the VMF-312 "Checkerboards", who had a red and white checkerboard painted around the engine cowlings, VMA-332, somewhat mockingly, adopted the red polkadots on white background. The design was reminiscent of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker's hat in the Ring Squadron of World War I. The addition of the hat and cane was derived from the squadron tail letters of "MR". Being the abbreviation of mister, and feeling they were gentlemen in every regard, the hat and cane was adopted as accouterments every gentleman has. It was then that the squadron picked up the nickname VMA-332 "Polkadots".
Upon return from the War in 1953, VMA-332 transitioned to the AD-1 Skyraider. From 1953 to 1957, VMA-332 rotated annually between the East Coast and the Far East. In 1958, the squadron relocated back to MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, and entered the jet age transitioning to the venerable A-4D Skyhawk.
VMA-332 continued its yearly rotation to Japan unitl 1962. In 1962, VMA-332 was deployed to Udorn, Thailand to support a Marine Expeditionary Force quelling unrest in that country. Later in 1962, the squadron would redeploy back home. It was during this time that the squadron's nickname was mysteriously changed to the "Moonlighters" and the tail letters were changed to "EA". Although there are speculations, no written explanation exists for the change.
On 20 August 1968, the "Moonlighters" transitioned to the A-6 Intruder and was designated Marine All Weather Attack Squadron 332 (VMA(AW)-332). On 1 March 1975, the squadron received its first A-6E Intruder and in July 1982, they again upgraded to the A-6E TRAM (Target Recognition and Attack Multi-Sensor). Each of these improvements drastically increased the Marine Corps' all weather close air support capability. The "Moonlighters" flew the A-6 from Cherry Point until 1993, participating in numerous deployments to the Western Pacific and Northern Europe as well as exercises throughout the United States.
16 June 1993 began a new chapted for the "Moonligthters" when the squadron was redesignated Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332 (VMFA(AW)-332), moved to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, and transitioned to the F/A-18D Hornet. Having to ramp up rapidly as a "new" squadron, the "Moonlighters" were called on to support NATO's Operations Deny Flight and Provide Promise in the former Yugoslavian republic of Bosnia, deploying to Aviano Air Base, Italy from October 1994 to March 1995. During the deployment, the squadron led what was the largest NATO air strike to date against the Udbina Airfield as well as participating in several other strikes.
The squadron deployed a second time to Aviano AB, Italy, in March 1996 in support of Operations Decisive Edge and Joint Endeavor and returned home August of that year. The squadron continued to train stateside for the next two and a half years, participating in several Combined Arms Exercises, Missile Shoots and various training deployments.
In May of 1999, NATO again called on VMFA(AW)-332. The squadron deployed to Taszar Air Base, Hungary in support of Operations ALLIED FORCE and Joint Guardian. From 28 May to 7 June 1999, the "Moonlighters" flew 120 combat sorties over the Former Republic of Yugoslavia, performing every type of mission required of an F/A-18D squadron during both day and night, expending 175,000 pounds of ordnance. VMFA(AW)-332 was, along with VMFA(AW)-225, one of the first deployable units flying appropriately configured Hornets for the the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). After the bombing campaign ceased, the "Moonlighters" continued to fly contingency operations in support of NATO peacekeeping forces in Kosovo. During the deployment, the squadron utilized the Advanced Tactical Air Reconnaissance System (ATARS) operationally for the first time ever. The squadron returned to MCAS Beaufort in July 1999 and prepared to deploy once again to the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) six months later.
In January 2000, VMFA(AW)-332 deployed to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, to begin another six month deployment in WESTPAC. The deployment would take the squadron to mainland Japan, Okinawa and Khorat, Thailand. On 1 March 2000, the "Moonlighters" reached the milestone 81,000 mishap free flight hours, a safety record spanning 21 years. Unit Awards include the Asian-Pacific Campaign Streamer, the National Defense Streamer with one Bronze Star, Armed Forces Expeditionary Streamer, and the Navy Unit Commendation for action in Yugoslavia.
In March 2004, about 200 Marines from the unit redeployed home after a six-months deployment to Iwakuni, Japan.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|