VMFA-122

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Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122
VMFA-122 insignia werewolve.png
VMFA-122 Insignia
Active March 1, 1942–present
Country  United States of America
Branch United States Marine Corps
Type Fighter/Attack
Role Close air support
Air interdiction
Aerial reconnaissance
Part of Marine Aircraft Group 31
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Garrison/HQ Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort
Nickname Werewolves (January, 2008-present)
Crusaders (1957-January 4, 2008)
Candystripers (WWII)
Werewolves (WWII)
"The Last Blue Collar Squadron"
Tail Code DC
Mascot Mach Altus
Engagements World War II
* Battle of New Georgia
Vietnam War
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Commanders
Commanding Officer LtCol. Douglas S. Dewolfe
Executive Officer Maj. Stephen N. McClune
Sergeant Major SgtMaj. James R. Hagle
Notable
commanders
Col. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington
MGen. Marion E. Carl
LtCol. John Fogg
Aircraft flown
Fighter F4F Wildcat
F4U Corsair
FH-1 Phantom
F2H Banshee
F6F Hellcat
F9F Panther
FJ Fury
F-8 Crusader
F-4 Phantom
F/A-18A/C Hornet

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 (VMFA-122) is a United States Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet squadron. The squadron, known as the "Werewolves", is based out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina and fall under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 31 (MAG-31) and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW). Their traditional call sign is "Nikel". Their mascot, known as Mach Altus (after the Mach number and the Latin word for high), is a statue of a Crusades-era knight. The mascot of VMFA-122 "Mach Altus" has since been given away by Captain Peters and is currently MIA with all parties claiming ignorance, nulling a greater than 50 year tradition. Mach Altus (official VMFA-122 website)

Mission[edit]

Conduct anti-air warfare and offensive air support operations in support of Fleet Marine Forces from advance bases, expeditionary airfields, and aircraft carriers, and to conduct such other air operations as may be directed.

History[edit]

World War II[edit]

Marine Fighter Squadron 122 (VMF-122) was commissioned on March 1, 1942 at Camp Kearny in San Diego, California. Outfitted with the F4F Wildcat, the squadron, then known as the "Candystripers", saw their first combat tour in October 1942. During this tour they were part of the Cactus Air Force at Henderson Field and also operated out of Espiritu Santo. In April 1943, while under the command of Major Pappy Boyington, the squadron transitioned to the F4U Corsair and accounted for 35½ kills. The squadron's first combat tour ended on July 23, 1943 after which they returned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on August 16. For the next year after their return to the States, the squadron was reorganized and retrained at Marine Corps Air Station El Centro, California.[1]

Squadron logo from WWII

For its second tour, VMF-122's flight echelon embarked upon the escort carrier USS Hollandia in July 1944 while the ground echelon steamed out on the USS Tryon. Beginning in October 1944 both echelons would be reunited when they were reunited and began operating from an airstrip on Peleliu. At times they provided close air support for Marines during the Battle of Peleliu at distances of just over 1000 yards from where they took off. The squadrons ability to provide napalm and rockets, both new weapons systems, greatly aided in the destruction of the last Japanese strongholds on the island.[2] For the remainder of the war they remained on the island conducting combat operations until August 1945.

Following the surrender of Japan, VMF-122 returned home to Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station Oak Grove, North Carolina in January 1946. They remained there for less than two years before being moved to MCAS Beaufort which was followed by another move to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.[3]

1950s[edit]

FJ-2s of VMF-122 on the USS Coral Sea in 1955.

The squadron was reactivated in November 1947, flying the FH Phantom, becoming the first Marine squadron to employ jet-propelled aircraft. During this time, the squadron also fielded the first and only Marine aerial demonstration team known as the "Flying Leathernecks". They toured the country for two years before being disbanded with the transition to the F2H Banshee. In April 1951, the squadron became the first Marine jet squadron to be both day and night qualified for carrier operations. On 15 May 1951, the squadron deployed from Naval Air Station Quonset Point aboard the USS Oriskany to the Mediterranean Sea, returning to the Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point in early October 1951. In 1952, they again transitioned to the F9F Panther and after a Mediterranean cruise in 1953, they were assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 24 at MCAS Cherry Point.

January 1954 again saw the squadron transitioning aircraft, this time to the FJ Fury. The next few years saw a litany of small deployments on board a multitude of aircraft carriers. The squadron relocated to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in September 1957 and in December of that year they became the first squadron in the Marine Corps to fly the F-8 Crusader. It was at this time that they transitioned from being the "Candystripers" to the new nickname of "Crusaders." The squadron became VMF(AW)-122 upon receiving all weather capable F-8Es in 1962. That year they also deployed to Key West, Florida to fly combat air patrol during the Cuban missile crisis.

Vietnam War[edit]

F-4B at MCAS El Toro, 1966

In 1964, VMF(AW)-122 deployed to Naval Air Facility Atsugi for a year and returned to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in January 1965. While at MCAS El Toro they transitioned to the F-4B Phantom and were redesignated VMFA-122. They deployed to the Republic of Vietnam in August 1967 and operated from the airbase at Danang. For the next five months, the squadron flew 2540 sorties and delivered 4800 tons of ordnance. In February 1968, while supporting Marines during the Siege of Khe Sahn the squadron flew 629 sorties and dropped 1300 tons of ordnance. They rotated to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in September 1968 and returned to Vietnam during the summer of 1969, this time operating from Chu Lai.

1970s through 1990s[edit]

VMFA-122 F-4S at MCAS Cherry Point, 1 June 1985.

Following their time in Vietnam, the Crusaders were assigned to MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii in September 1970. They were then ordered to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan as a Joint Chiefs of Staff directive to counter a North Vietnamese offensive against South Vietnam. The squadron returned to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii on 27 December 1972. On August 14, 1974, VMFA-122 was placed in a cadre status in anticipation of becoming the Marine Corps’ first F-14A squadron. With the decision not to accept the Tomcat into the Marine Corps inventory, VMFA-122 was reactivated at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina and refitted with the F-4J in September 1975. On September 25, 1985, VMFA-122 flew its last F-4 sortie, completing 20 years of service as a F-4 “Phantom” squadron.

On January 22, 1986, the squadron began a new era with the acceptance of its first F/A-18A Hornet. Throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and into the 2000s (decade), VMFA-122 conducted multiple training deployments to Europe and throughout the United States.

Global War on Terror[edit]

Squadron logo from 1957 until 2008.
F/A-18 at Al Asad in 2009.

In October 2001, the Crusaders increased their combat capabilities by transitioning to the F/A-18C. The squadron participated in the Unit Deployment Program (UDP), completing eleven deployments to the Western Pacific. From July 2002 to July 2003, the Crusaders completed a year long UDP due to the "stop-move" order implemented by the Marine Corps. This allowed Hornet squadrons from Beaufort to deploy to Kuwait in anticipation of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in January 2003. The Crusaders were dispatched from MCAS Iwakuni to many locations in the Pacific Rim, including Marine Corps Air Facility Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii and Clark AB in the Philippines. In January 2005, the “Crusaders” continued the UDP rotation, deploying to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. In September 2006 the "Crusaders" again returned to MCAS Iwakuni with detachments to Clark AB in the Philippines, Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa, and Khorat, Thailand.

Prior to another squadron deployment in support of OIF later in 2008, the squadron's commander reverted the unit to their older WWII nickname, the Werewolves.[4] The squadron began its first combat deployment in more than 30 years when it left MCAS Beaufort on August 29, 2010 for Kandahar Airfield, KAF.[5][6] The Werewolves returned from their seven month deployment on March 21, 2009.[7] In April, 2012, the new commander of VMFA-122, LtCol Wiegel, decided the squadron would henceforth revert to the "Crusaders" nickname. However, after the nonprofit Military Religious Freedom Foundation threatened to sue the military under the Establishment Clause to forbid the Crusaders name and logo, the Marine Deputy Commandant for aviation directed VMFA-122 to revert the unit identification back to "Werewolves."[8]

Unit awards[edit]

A unit citation or commendation is an award bestowed upon an organization for the action cited. Members of the unit who participated in said actions are allowed to wear on their uniforms the awarded unit citation. VMFA-122 has been presented with the following awards:

Streamer Award Year(s) Additional Info
Streamer PUC Navy.PNG Presidential Unit Citation Streamer 7 August - 9 December 1942 Guadalcanal-Tulagi
Navy Unit Commendation streamer.png Navy Unit Commendation Streamer 15 September 1944 - 31 January 1945 Peleliu-Western Carolines
Streamer NDS.PNG National Defense Service Streamer with three Bronze Stars 1950–1954, 1961–1974, 1990–1995, 2001–present Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, War on Terrorism
Streamer VS.PNG Vietnam Service Streamer

Streamer IQCS.PNG Iraq Campaign Streamer

Streamer gwotE.PNG Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Streamer

Streamer gwotS.PNG Global War on Terrorism Service Streamer 2001–present

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sherrod History of USMC Aviation in WWII, p.457.
  2. ^ Simmons A History, p.166.
  3. ^ Crowder USMC Aviation, p.47.
  4. ^ Hilliard, Dan (January 5, 2008). "Attack squadron changes commanders, moniker". Leatherneck Magazine. 
  5. ^ Donohue, Patrick (August 13, 2008). "Bittersweet: Air Station to welcome home squadrons while others deploy". The Beaufort Gazette. Retrieved 2008-08-24. [dead link]
  6. ^ Donohue, Patrick (August 30, 2008). "A tearful goodbye as squadrons depart for Iraq". =The Beaufort Gazette. Retrieved 2008-08-30. [dead link]
  7. ^ Cpl. Zahn, Christopher (March 27, 2009). "Welcome Home - Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 Werewolves Return". Digital Video and Image Distribution System. Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  8. ^ Huus, Kari (May 24, 2012). "Marine Werewolves transform into Crusaders, and back again". MSNBC. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
Bibliography
  • Crowder, Michael J. (2000). United States Marine Corps Aviation Squadron Lineage, Insignia & History - Volume One - The Fighter Squadrons. Turner Publishing Company. ISBN 1-56311-926-9.
  • Rottman, Gordon L. (2002). U.S. Marine Corps World War II Order of Battle - Ground and Air Units in the Pacific War, 1939–1945’’. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-31906-5. 
  • Sherrod, Robert (1952). History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Combat Forces Press. 
  • Simmons, Edwin (1974). The United States Marines: A History. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-840-2. 
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