Marine Fighter Attack Squadron(All Weather)-224 [VMFA(AW)-224]
Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 was first organized as VMF-224 in Ewa, territory of Hawaii, on 1 May 1942, Flying F4F "Wildcats" from Barbers Point. The squadron deployed to Guadacanal with the First Marine Aircraft Wing and for its action at Henderson Field, received its first Presidetial Unit Citation. The Marines of VMF-224 later transitioned to the F4U "Corsair" and participated in the Marshall Islands and Okinawa campaigns. As a result of these operations, 224's aircraft flew numerous missions, downing 105 aircraft, thereby earning its second Presidential Unit Citation.
After the War, VMF-224 was stationed at El Toro Califonia, Edenton and Cherry Point, North Carolina, where they transitioned to the F-28 "Banshee" in 1951. While assigned to Joint Marine Aircraft Group 11 in Atsugi, Japan, in 1951 the squadron transitioned to the F9F "Panther" and was redesignated as VMA-224. The squadron returned to El Toro in 1954 and joined Marine Aircraft Group 15. VMA-224 in 1965 received the Marine Corps' first A4D-1 "Skyhawk" returning to Atsugi, Japan for overseas duty and finally to Iwakuni, Japan in October 1957.
VMA-224 joined Marine Aircraft Group 14 in Cherry Point, during December 1958, flying the A4D-2 through April 1960. May 1960 saw the aircraft of VMA-224 deploy aboard the USS Independence for a six month cruise with the U.S. Sixth Fleet.
Following their return to Cherry Point during early 1961, VMA-224 participated in numerous "stateside" deployments in preperation for their next overseas tour. The squadron completed an extended deployment with Marine Aircraft Group 12 in Japan during 1963, and returned once again to Cherry Point. VMA-224, from 1963 to 1964, completed a deployment to Yuma, Arizona and a cruise aboard the USS Saratoga, earning numerous awards for airmanship and professionalism. In October 1965, the squadron began its first Vietnam tour, in Chu Lai. VMA-224 received it's third Presidential Unit Citation for their action in Chu Lai and remained there until their deactivation on 31 October 1966.
On 1 November 1966, the squadron was reactivated as VMA(AW)-224 in Cherry Point and assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 14. The all weather designation came as a result of the squadron's acquisition of the A-6A "Intruder", Gruman's sophisticated attack aircraft. The squadron remained home based at Cherry Point throughout numerous training deployments with their new aircraft over the next four years. In April 1971, VMA(AW)-224 deployed aboard the USS Coral Sea with Carrier Air Wing 15, arriving at "Yankee Station" during December of that year.
VMA(AW)-224 served a total of six line periods on "Yankee Station" from December 1971 though June 1972, and participated in numerous operations, including the historic mining of Hai Phong Harbor. Returning to Cherry Point during July 1972, the squadron received the Commandant's Efficiency Trophy and was awarded the Navy Unit Citation for it's action aboard the USS Coral Sea.
VMA(AW)-224, in June 1974, received the Marine Corps' first A-6E's, and deployed to Europe and throughout the United States, resulting in the squadron receiving it's second Commandant's Efficiency Trophy. In November 1975 VMA(AW)-224 became the first Marine A-6E squadron to deploy to the Far East completing two deployments to Iwakuni, Japan in 1976 and 1979. During these deployments, the squadron participated in the highly successful "Operation Team Spirit" in the Republic of Korea.
In September 1980 the squadron participated in NATO exercise "Teamwork 80" operating from Orland Flying Base Norway and in 1982 particiapted in Exercise "Oceanventure 82". VMA(AW)-224 once again found itself overseas, deployed to NAS Cubi Point, Republic of Phillipines from April to October 1983, participating in two Air Force "Cope Thunder" as well as "Operation Balikatant/tangwnt flash" and Japan's "Annuallex 83". The Bengals, from 1984 to 1987 deployed four more times to WestPac, with detachments to the Phillipines, Okinawa, Australia, and Korea.
VMA(AW)-224, after an absense of 16 years, returned to the decks of the USS Coral Sea to perform three carrier qualification periods in fifteen months. The Bengals surpassed 12,000 accident free flight hours to close out 1988, and was tasked with another day/night carrier qualification evolution, this time at NAS Cubi Point and the USS Constellation in the South China Sea.
The Bengals, in June 1990 made a three week heavy weapons deployment to MCAS Yuma, Arizona in preparation for their upcoming October WestPac to Iwakuni. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, found the Bengals intead preparing for their eminent departure to South West Asia in support of "Operation Desert Shield". The Bengals arrived in country at Shaikh-Isa Air Base, Baharain on 28 August and commenced flight operations in support of I MEF units. From 16 January to 28 Febuary 1991, the Bengals led the way in night combat operations in support of "Operation Desert Storm", expending more than 2.3 million pounds of ordnance during 422 combat sorties. VMA(AW)-224, riding on the high tide of victory, returned home to Cherry Point, North Carolina on 26 March 1991.
October 1991 found the squadron again in Iwakuni, Japan. Historically, this deployment marked the final movement of Marine A-6 aircraft in the Western Pacific Theater. The 20th of March 1992 saw the end of a long and proud era in Marine Corps Aviation as the A-6's of VMA(AW)-224 bid WestPac farewell for the last time.
On May 24 1992, VMA(AW)-224 achieved a milestone in Marine Corps Aviation History as the Bengals celebrated their 50th anniversary. As 1992 came to an end, the Bengals started their transition standdown and began giving their A-6's to the Navy. On 6 March 1993 the squadron was redisgnated VMFA(AW)-224 and moved to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina pending arrival of it's F/A-18D "Hornet" aircraft. Marines are the first service in the world with the multi missioned two seat F/A-18D Night Attack Hornet.
From April to September 1994 the Bengals deployed to Aviano, Italy, as part of the United Nations force for "Operation Deny Flight" and "Provide Promise" in Bosnia-Hercegovina. The squadron flew 1150 soties for 3485 flight hours including 1150 night hours. The Marines of VMFA(AW)-224 again deployed to Aviano, Italy in September 1995, as part of NATO Operations "Deny Flight, Deleberate Force and Joint Endeavor".
On 16 Febuary 1997 the Fighting Bengals returned to Aviano, Italy for the last time. The squadron participated in "Operation Deliberate Guard" and "Operation Silver Wake." During this time the Bengals flew against MiG-29 "Fulcrums" from the re-united German Air Force. The Bengals returned home two months early on 6 June 1997.
The Bengals deployed for a seven month WestPac UDP when the squadron left on 4 January 1999 for Iwakuni, Japan. This was the squadrons first time to WestPac with F/A-18D's. While overseas the squadron participated in "Cobra Gold 1999" in Khorat, Thailand. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets helped maintain freedom in the skies over South Korea while 36th Fighter Squadron F-16s were away at Air Force exercises. Twelve two-seat F/A-18s and approximately 170 maintenance people from Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224, stationed at Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station, S.C., arrived at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, for their 45-day tour 14 Feburary 1999. As part of their unit deployment program, the Marine aircraft flew missions normally flown by aircraft in the 36th FS, which were at Cope Thunder at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, and also at Combat Archer at Tyndall AFB, Fla. The aircraft and personnel had been deployed from MCAS Beaufort to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, where they are on a six-month deployment supporting operations in the Pacific theater. The Bengals returned home on 30 July 1999.
Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 took part in Exercise Desert Talon in December 2004 where its training consisted of providing convoy escort, close air support and urban close air support
The Marines and Sailors of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 departed for the unit's first deployment to Iraq on January 11, 2005. In groups of two, the Bengal's 12 F/A-18 Hornets departed that day, while the squadron's main body departed the next day. The Bengal's first flew into Kuwait and later landed on an air base in Western Iraq. Approximately 54 pilots left with the first wave, while the main body that deployed the following day consisted of 200 Marines.
The Bengal's deployment marked the first East Coast Hornets deployment to Iraq. In Iraq the squadron was to be tasked with direct support of the Marines on the ground for almost seven months. Before going to Iraq the Bengal's prepared for six months. The unit's F/A-18D Hornets arrived at Al Asad Air Base on Jan. 15, 2005.
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