Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 (VMFA[AW]-242)
The mission of Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 (VMFA-242) is to support the MAGTF Commander by providing supporting arms coordination, conducting reconnaissance, and destroying surface targets and enemy aircraft day or night under all weather conditions during expeditionary, joint, or combined operations.
Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA-242) was originally activated as Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron 242 on 1 July 1943. Upon activation, the Squadron was assigned to Marine Base Defense Aircraft Group 43, Marine Fleet Air, West Coast and began training at El Centro, California. At the time the Squadron was flying the TBF-1 and TBM-1 Avenger aircraft. The Squadron was then deployed to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides in the Southwest Pacific aboard the USS Kitum Bay in February 1944 as part of Marine Aircraft Group 11, Marine Air, South Pacific. Thus began the squadron's long combat history, starting in the Northern Solomons, later shifting to Saipan and Tinian, and finally to Iwo Jima, where the Squadron flew anti-submarine patrols until the end of World War II. During this period the Squadron was reassigned in June 1944 to Marine Aircraft Group, 4th Marine Base Defense Aircraft Wing and then in November 1944 to 4th Marine Aircraft Wing. After returning from service in the South Pacific, the Squadron relocated in November 1945 from Guam to San Diego, California and was subsequently deactivated on 23 November 1945.
On 1 October 1960, the unit was reactivated as Marine Attack Squadron 242 at Cherry Point, North Carolina, flying the A-4D Skyhawk. The Squadron was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, VMA-242 departed Cherry Point on short notice and deployed to NAS Key West, Florida. The Squadron maintained a ready posture until the Soviet withdrawal of offensive weapons from Cuba, at which time the squadron returned to Cherry Point. The Squadron deployed during October 1963 to Iwakuni, Japan, where it was reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.
On 1 October 1964, the unit was redesignated as Marine All Weather Attack Squadron 242 (VMA[AW]-242) and relocated back to MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina in October 1964 where it was reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. VMA(AW)-242 became the first Marine Corps squadron to be equipped with the new A-6A Intruder, an aircraft that had the capability of providing close air support at night, as well as carrying out deep interdiction strikes and armed reconnaissance missions, in all weather conditions.
During October and November 1966, VMA(AW)-242 deployed to Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, where it was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 11, 1st Marine Aviation Wing. By 1 November 1966, the Squadron was participating in combat operations in Vietnam. Initially the Squadron supported allied ground forces, but during April 1967, the Bats were also assigned to the first of many Rolling Thunder missions over North Vietnam. The Squadron, utilizing the unique capabilities of the A-6A Intruder, flew patrols over North Vietnam until the bombing halt in late 1968. From then until the Squadron's departure from Vietnam on 8 September 1970, the Bats continued supporting allied forces in South Vietnam, as well as flying sorties against the Ho Chi Minh Trail in North Vietnam and central Laos. During the Squadron's tour in the Republic of Vietnam, VMA(AW)-242 logged 16,783 combat sorties and delivered 85,990 tons of ordnance.
VMA(AW)-242 arrived at MCAS El Toro, California on 12 September 1970 and was reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group 33, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. There it became the first A-6A squadron in the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. In December 1970, the Squadron was passed from Marine Aircraft Group 33 to Marine Aircraft Group 13, remaining within 3rd MAW. After a post-Vietnam drawdown, a rebuilding program was completed and the Squadron began training to a higher state of readiness. In September 1977, the squadron transitioned to the A-6E aircraft. After 10 years at MCAS El Toro, California, the Bats again deployed overseas to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan as part of the 6-month Unit Deployment Program (UDP), where it was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. During this deployment, the Squadron deployed and trained in such places as the Philippines, Okinawa, Japan, and Korea.
Upon its return to MCAS El Toro on 22 April 1981, VMA(AW)-242 began receiving the latest model Intruder, the A-6E TRAM, in preparation for re deployment to Iwakuni in April 1982. During the Squadron's second Western Pacific UDP deployment, the Bats participated in numerous, highly successful operations in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Western Australia.
During August 1983, VMA(AW)-242 became the first Marine squadron to deploy to the African continent as part of Exercise Eastern Wind '83 in Berbera, Somalia. While in country, the Bats conducted very successful joint operations with the Somali Army Air Defense Force and the United States Navy and Air Force.
In April 1984 and November 1985, the Squadron participated in its third and fourth UDP deployments to the Western Pacific. Returning to El Toro in May 1986, the Squadron was awarded the Lawson H. M. Sanderson Trophy as the Marine Corps' Attack Squadron of the Year for 1986. In April 1987, the Bats made their fifth Western Pacific UDP deployment. While operating in Japan, Korea, Australia, and the Philippines during these UDP's, the Bats participated in such exercises as Bear Hunt, Beach Crest, and the first Cope Thunder to include night, low-level attacks. In October 1987, the Squadron was reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. April 1988 was highlighted by a Squadron deployment to Alaska to participate in Exercise Amalgam Warrior. October 1988 saw VMA(AW)-242 redeploy to Iwakuni, Japan for the sixth and final Western Pacific UDP with the A-6E Intruder.
In August 1990, the Squadron deployed as part of MAG-70 in Operation Desert Shield. Seven aircraft were flown to MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, with 4 aircraft being transferred to VMA(AW)-224 to increase their combat effectiveness in support of Desert Storm. The 3 aircraft were turned over to Medium Attack Tactical Electronic Warfare Wing, Pacific (MATVAQWINGPAC) at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington.
On 14 December 1991, VMA(AW)-242 was redesignated as Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 (VMFA[AW]-242), and the Bats began conversion to the F/A-18D Night Attack Hornet. VMFA(AW)-242 received its first aircraft in February 1991 with the final Hornet being accepted in August of that year. In June 1991, the Bats participated in the first Cope Thunder North exercise held at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Ark, and in November 1991, the Squadron supported the first CAX where the F/A-18D flew in support of Marines on the ground. On 15 September 1992, VMFA(AW)-242 deployed to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan for its first UDP deployment in the F/A-18D Hornet. Also during 1992, the Bats received the Robert M. Hanson Award for Marine Fighter Squadron of the Year.
In September 1993, VMFA(AW)-242 executed the first MAG-11 short-notice strategic mobilization exercise, Exercise Purple Knight. 30 September 1993 was devoted to VMFA(AW)-242's 50th anniversary, which included the hosting of the original World War II cadre. The year ended with the Bats again being recognized for superior performance by receiving the prestigious Lawson H. M. Sanderson Award for Marine Attack Squadron of the Year for 1993.
In early 1994 and late 1995, the Bats deployed to Iwakuni for their second and third F/A-18D UDP's, training in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Okinawa, and Thailand. After their Trans-Pacific to Continental United States (CONUS) in March 1996, the Squadron relocated to NAS Miramar, California, which subsequently became MCAS Miramar. This relocation was part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) plan.
After the relocation, the Bats continued their UDP deployments, and again were fully tasked, participating in 7 major joint/combined exercises and 8 squadron deployments throughout CONUS, Asia, Australia, and Canada, including another UDP to Iwakuni in 1997. During this training cycle, VMFA(AW)-242 was awarded the CNO Safety Award for calender year 1996.
The Squadron was deployed to Iwakuni, Japan as part of a UDP deployments from March 2001 to September 2001 and September 2002 to September 2003. The Unit also deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II from September 2004 to March 2005 and in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 05-07 from September 2006 to March 2007.
In March 2008, the unit completely relocated to Iwakuni, Japan and was reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group 12, replacing VMFA-212.
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