Marine Attack Squadron-214 [VMA-214]
Marine Attack Squadron (VMA)-214 is one of four AV-8B Harrier squadrons assigned to Marine Aircraft Group-13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Its mission is to provide close-air support, conduct armed reconnaissance and limited air-defense for Marine expeditionary forces.
VMA-214 was originally commissioned as Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF)-214 early in 1942 at Ewa on the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. In August of 1943, 27 young men under the leadership of Maj. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington (who was later awarded the Medal of Honor) formed the original "Blacksheep" of VMF-214. In the early part of World War II, from island to island in the South Pacific, there occasionally cropped up flyers who were unattached and who were separated from their squadrons by reason of illness or breakup of their organizations. They had been left out of it somehow in the shuffle and had no way to get back into the fight. Some were veteran combat pilots with several kills to their credit; others were pilots newly arrived from the United States as replacements. All were eager to join a squadron and see action against the Japanese, but their efforts were met with refusals and orders to sit and wait. This was the situation at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, when finally the persistent campaigning of Maj. Boyington and Maj. Stan Bailey (who was later named executive officer) was rewarded when wing headquarters gave them permission to form the stragglers into a squadron, with the understanding that they would have less than four weeks to mold themselves into a fully trained, completely coordinated Marine squadron. This was accomplished by flying every day and night with their eight Corsairs. The "Blacksheep" fought their way to fame in just 84 days, piling up a record 197 planes destroyed or damaged, troop transports and supply ships sunk, and ground installations destroyed in addition to numerous other victories. Boyington was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1945.
After being decommissioned at the end of World War II, VMF-214 was recommissioned in 1948 and spent most of its time aboard various carriers operating in the waters off the West Coast of the United States, training Marine pilots for carrier operations. At the outbreak of the Korean Conflict, VMA-214 was again given short notice to "get ready". By August of 1950, the Blacksheep were aboard the USS Sicily Strait, en route to Korean waters and into the fight. Another chapter in the illustrious history of the Blacksheep squadron was being written as the "Fighting 214th" was the first Marine squadron to see action in Korea.
In January 1956, the Blacksheep again received the order to "get ready". This time, however, they were given more time to prepare. In the ensuing 15 months, all aspects of Marine aviation were covered by the Blacksheep of the newly designated Marine all-weather fighter squadron. January 1959 saw the Blacksheep transition to the famed FJ-4B Fury with which the squadron logged more than 27,000 hours as an attack squadron. The squadron was presented the Commandant of the Marine Corps' Safety Award for the most outstanding safety record achieved among attack squadrons throughout the Marine Corps on Aug. 29, 1961. Jan. 23, 1962, saw the Blacksheep turn another page in Marine history when their FJ Fury jets, the last in an active Marine squadron, were flown away. In their place came the squadron's first A-4 Skyhawks. In 1965, VMA-214 flew attack missions in support of the III Marine Amphibious Force and the Republic of Vietnam in South Vietnam. The squadron remained in Vietnam for eight months and flew 3,971 combat missions totaling 5,274 combat hours. In February 1966, the Blacksheep rotated out of Vietnam to pick up new pilots and personnel. In May 1966, '214 returned to Chu Lai, Vietnam, where it again flew combat missions in support of operations in Vietnam. VMA-214 returned from Vietnam for a final time in April 1967. The Blacksheep flew 14,000 hours in combat, 13,200 sorties, and dropped more than 10,000 tons of ordnance. August 1969 saw the Blacksheep in Nevada, flying 453 sorties and dropping 77.5 tons of ordnance in 11 days.
From 1971 to 1979 the Blacksheep deployed on numerous occasions to China Lake, Kadena, Iwakuni and Korea. The A-4M Skyhawk has a payload of 8,000 pounds of ordnance, including, a 20mm cannon and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. June 1986 marked the third accident-free year for VMA-214 and 15,000 accident-free hours. The Blacksheep also demonstrated an impressive record of operational readiness for those three years in seven deployments to NAS Fallon, Nev.; Hill AFB, Utah; Luke AFB, Ariz.; MCAS Yuma, Ariz.; and Twentynine Palms, Calif. From December 1986 to June 1987, the squadron was deployed to the Western Pacific taking part in exercises at Iwakuni, Kadena, Cubi Point, and Pohang, Korea.
In September 1987, VMA-214 relocated from MCAS El Toro, Calif., to MCAS Yuma.
January 12, 1988, was a sad day in the history of the Blacksheep Squadron. Its famous leader, Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, whose combat exploits were dramatized in the television series "Baa Baa Blacksheep," died of cancer at 4 a.m. at the age of 75.
In June, the Blacksheep left another deployment to WestPac, before returning to Yuma in December. 1989 was another historic year for the squadron. The Blacksheep were the first A-4 squadron to fly 30,000 accident-free hours and achieved six years accident-free flying. The squadron retired the A-4M Skyhawk in June and formed the first night attack squadron with the AV-8B Night Attack Harrier, marking another milestone of the world famous Blacksheep. The squadron completed the first overseas deployment of the Night Attack Harrier to Iwakuni, Japan, in 1992.
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