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Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-122 [VMFA-122]

Commissioned on March 1, 1942, VMF-122 was originally called the "Candystripers." The squadron was organized and trained at Camp Kearny, Calif. under the direction of its first commanding officer, Maj. E. E. Brackett. Outfitted with the F4F "Wildcat" the squadron embarked on its first overseas tour in October of 1942.

On October 13, 1942, VMF-122 entered World War II when it departed for Noumea in the New Caledonia Islands. The squadron provided combat patrols, close air support and air cover for Army B-24 and B-25 bombers in the New Hebrides Islands. VMF-122 transferred to Henderson Field, Guadalcanal on January 17, 1943. The squadron continued its distinguished record with participation in the Rendova and Munda campaigns. April 1943 saw the transition to the F4U-1 "Corsair". Under the command of Maj. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, the Squadron accounted for 35 1/2 kills.

In August 1943, VMF-122 returned to Marine Air Depot Mirimar, Calif. Embarking on the USS HOLLANDIA for its second overseas tour in the Western Pacific, the squadron was outfitted with 24 new Goodyear F4G-1A aircraft at Peleliu, engaging in missions over the Northern Palaus before returning in February 1945 to MCAS Cherry Point, N.C. VMF-122 received the first FH-1 "Phantoms" in November 1947 becoming the first operational Marine Corps Squadron to employ jet-propelled aircraft. Using the FH-1, the squadron formed the Marine Corps first and only aerial demonstration team. Known as the "Marine Phantoms" or "Flying Leathernecks," this group toured the country for almost ten years. The team was disbanded with the introduction of the F2H-2 "Banshee".

In October 1950, the squadron deployed from NAS Quonset Point aboard the USS ORISKANY. In October 1951, the squadron became the first Marine jet squadron to be both day and night qualified for carrier operations. Due to the grounding of the F9Fs, the squadron received ten F6F-5 "Hellcats" as interim aircraft. In July 1952, the squadron finally received the F9F-4s. Later they were re-equipped with the F9F-5 "Panther" and began intensive training at Roosevelt Roads for a second cruise aboard the USS CORAL SEA. Following this Mediterranean cruise in 1953, the Squadron was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 24 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. In January 1954, VMF-122 was the first Marine Corps Squadorn equipped with the FJ-2 "Fury". It was during this time that the squadron adopted the distinctive "Candystriper" insignia and tail markings. In preparation for another carrier cruise, it became the FIRST Navy or Marine Corps squadron to qualify in the "Fury." Upon its return to Cherry Point, the squadron re-eqipped with the FJ-3.

In December 1957, the squadron became the fastest squadron in the Marine Corps with the delivery of the first five F-8U-1s (F-8A) "Crusaders" by Chance Vought. A new patch was designed to go with the new aircraft and VMF-122 became known as the "Crusaders." In September 1959, VMF-122 became the first Marine F-8U Squadron to qualify aboard a carrier, the USS INDEPENDENCE.

In October 1962, the "Crusaders" received the first F-8E aircraft on the East Coast, where they were redesignated "All Weather." The squadron was ready when the Cuban Missile Crisis arose and deployed to Key West, Florida for strip alert and combat air patrols until December 1962 when they returned to Beaufort, S.C. to prepare for deployment to Atsugi, Japan.

In January 1965, VMF(AW)-122 returned after cross-training with the US Air Forces 40th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Yakota AB, Japan. Reformed at MCAS El Toro, Calif. for the transition to the F-4B "Phantom". In the interim phase, the squadron flew F-8Bs. On July 1, 1965, VMF(AW)-122 was redisignated a Marine Fighter Attack (VMFA) squadron. The "Crusaders" served as a replacement training squadron until the first TRANSPAC to the Republic of Vietnam in August 1967. During operations from Da Nang Air Base, the "Crusaders" flew their first combat sorties September 1, 1967. During the next five months, the squadron flew 2,540 sorties and delivered 4,800 tons of ordnance. During the Khe Sahn siege which followed the Tet Offensive, they accrued 745 flight hours on 629 combat sorties and dropped 1,300 tons of ordnance in February 1968 alone. On September 1, 1968, VMFA-122 rotated from Da Nang to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. The "Crusaders" redeployed to Vietnam in the summer of 1969 reporting to the Marine Air Base, Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam. In May 1970, VMFA-122 flew 770 combat sorties. On a single day, May 24, 1970, the Squadron delivered 107.2 tons of ordnance on targets while flying 50 combat missions.

The "Crusaders" were assigned to MCAS Kaneohe Bay, HI., in September 1970. The "Crusaders" were then ordered to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan by a Joint Chief of Staff Directive to counter a North Vietnamese offensive against South Vietnam. The squadron returned to Kaneohe Bay, HI., September 27, 1972.

On August 14, 1974, VMFA-122 was placed on CADRE status in anticipation of becoming the Marine Corps' first F-14A squadron. When the decision was made not to accept the "Tomcat" into the Marine Corps inventory, VMFA-122 was reactivated at MCAS Beaufort, S.C. and refitted with the F-4J. VMFA-122 completed 20 years of service as a F-4 "Phantom" squadron and in 1986 became the second operational Marine F/A-18 squadron on the East Coast. Since that time, the squadron has completed seven unit deployments to the Western Pacific.

The first movement of 1995's WESTPAC was to Yechon Air Base, Republic of Korea. Here the "Crusaders" participated in Operation Freedom Banner. In October 1995, VMFA-122 arrived at the Royal Australian Air Force Base, Darwin, Australia for participation in Operation Southern Frontier 95-1. VMFA-122 once again packed up to deploy north to the colder temperatures of Misawa Air Base, Japan. Participating in Exercise Cope North, it involved members and aircraft from the Navy, Marine Corps, Japanese Air Self Defense Force and some Air National Guard Units. VMFA-122 redeployed to MCAS Beaufort, S.C. from WESTPAC during January 1996.

During 1996, the "Crusaders" supported various exercises in the United States, Marine Division Tactics Course in February and July, CAPEX, Hornets Nest 96-2, Combined Joint Task Force Exercise, Weapons and Tactics Instruction Course 2-96 and 1-97 and SATEX. The squadron deployed to NAS Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico during May 1996 for a missile shoot in support of HMLA-169, 2d ANGLICO and the British Royal Marines of HMS REARLESS in Operation Rum Punch 96. During August 1996, the squadron was on the road again to Twenty Nine Palms, Calif. to support CAX 10-96. Upon the redeployment, the squadron prepared for a WESTPAC departure in January 1997.

The "Crusaders" landed at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan during January 1997. The Squadron remained busy in supporting TOPGUN 2-97 at NAS Fallon, NV., WTI 2-97 in Yuma, AZ., Exercise Cope North at Misawa Air Base, Japan and Tandem Thrust 97 in Brisbane, Australia. The entire squadron deployed to Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea to support the Air Force for their Combat Employment Readiness Inspection and participated in Dissimilar Aircraft Combat Tactics (DACT). The squadron returned to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan in May 1997. During June 1997, two "Crusaders" became Aviation Combat Tactics Instructors and the squadron participated in a Smart Weapons shoot at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. During July 1997, the Squadron flew over the Pacific Ocean to redeploy to its present location, Marine Corps Airstation Beaufort, S.C.

On 22 January 1986, the "Crusaders" began a new era with the acceptance of its first F/A-18A "Hornet". Throughout the 1980's, 1990's, and into 2000, VMFA-122 conducted multiple training deployments to Europe and throughout the United States. The squadron participated in the Unit Deployment Program (UDP), completing ten deployments to the Western Pacific. In October 2001, the "Crusaders" increased their combat capabilities by transitioning to the F/A-18C. The "Crusaders" continued in the UDP rotation, deploying in July 2002 to Iwakuni, Japan. The squadron surpassed 70,000 Class A mishap free flight hours in November 2002. At present, the "Crusaders" remained deployed to the Western Pacific.

VMFA-122 returned to Beaufort, SC on July 23, 2003 following a six month deployment to Iwakuni, Japan.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:19:34 ZULU