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Fighter Squadron 61
Active26 March 1945-15 April 1959
CountryUnited States
BranchUnited States Navy
Part ofInactive
Nickname(s)Jolly Rogers
EngagementsWorld War II
Aircraft flown
FighterF4U-1 Corsair
F6F-5 Hellcat
FJ-3 Fury
F3H-2M Demon
VF-17 F4U-1s in 1943
"Tired member of VF-17 pauses under the squadron scoreboard at Bougainville" February 1944
VF-61 FJ-3s at NAS Oceana c.1955
VF-61 F3H-2M launches from USS Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1957

Fighter Squadron 61 or VF-61 the Jolly Rogers was a Fighter Squadron of the United States Navy. Originally established as VF-17 on 1 January 1943, it was redesignated as VF-5B on 15 November 1946, redesignated as VF-61 on 28 July 1948 it was disestablished on 15 April 1959. It was the first navy squadron to be designated VF-17.[1]

Operational history[edit]

World War II[edit]

VF-17 was established on January 1, 1943 at NAS Norfolk, with Lieutenant Commander John T. "Tommy" Blackburn as its commander. It was the second Navy fighter squadron to receive the F4U-1 Corsair and the most successful of them all.

Blackburn wanted a squadron insignia that had a piratical theme to it to match the F4U's Corsair designation; hence the skull and crossbones were chosen.[2] The original design was developed by Harry Hollmeyer who became an ace pilot. The squadron helped during the development of the F4U Corsair resulting in some design changes, resulting in the F4U-1A. Unfortunately, the Navy still deemed the Corsair unfit for carrier service and instead of joining USS Bunker Hill, VF-17 became a land-based squadron in the Solomon Islands during most of its deployment to the South Pacific.

On November 8, 1943, the squadron Executive Officer, Roger Hedrick, led a flight which intercepted 39 Japanese fighters over Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville. As the Japanese fighters fled back to their base, VF-17 was responsible for downing 3 fighters and damaging 4 others. Though outnumbered, the squadron survived the encounter with no losses. This action was typical of the squadron's land-based service in the Solomon Islands in 1943 and 1944, when it went up against the cream of Imperial Japanese Navy pilots then based at Rabaul.

In its two tours of duty in the Solomon Islands, VF-17 had 152 aerial victories and produced 11 aces. VF-17 finished its combat tour on May 10, 1944 and was equipped with the F6F-5 Hellcat moved to the USS Hornet. The squadron amassed 161 victories, and produced 12 aces. Overall, the two combat tours of VF-17 were credited with 313 victories, the most of any US Navy squadron.


In the postwar period the squadron flew the F4U-4 Corsair, F8F-2 Bearcat, F9F-2 Panther and the F9F-8 Cougar. It was disestablished on April 15, 1959.

Following its disestablishment, two other U.S. Naval Aviation squadrons have used the name and insignia of the Jolly Roger: VF-84 (1955-95) and VFA-103.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fighter Squadron Lineage". Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  2. ^ Blackburn, John (1989). The Jolly Rogers. Pocketbooks Simon & Schuster. p. 48. ISBN 0671694936.