|Marine Attack Squadron 214|
|Active||July 1, 1942 - present|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Marine Corps|
|Role||Close air support
|Part of||Marine Aircraft Group 13
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
|Garrison/HQ||Marine Corps Air Station Yuma|
|Nickname(s)||The Black Sheep
Swashbucklers (early WWII)
|Engagements||World War II
* Battle of Pusan Perimeter
* Battle of Inchon
* Battle of Chosin Reservoir
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
* 2003 invasion of Iraq
|LtCol Brett McGregor|
|Major Greg Boyington|
|Attack||A-4 Skyhawk (1962–89)
AV-8B Harrier II (1989-present)
|Fighter||F4F Wildcat (1942)
F4U Corsair (1943–53)
F9F Panther (1953)
F2H Banshee (1953–57)
FJ Fury (1957–62)
Marine Attack Squadron 214 (VMA-214) is a United States Marine Corps fighter squadron consisting of AV-8B Harrier (V/STOL) jets. The squadron is based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona and is under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 13 (MAG-13) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW).
The squadron is best known as the Black Sheep of World War II fame and for one of its commanding officers, Colonel Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, whose memoirs also inspired the 1970s television show Baa Baa Black Sheep, later syndicated as Black Sheep Squadron, which dramatized the squadron's exploits during the war.
Provide offensive air support, armed reconnaissance, and air defense for Marine expeditionary forces.
World War II
Marine Fighter Squadron 214 was originally commissioned on July 1, 1942, at Marine Corps Air Station Ewa, on the Island of Oahu. Initially called the "Swashbucklers," they participated in the Solomon Islands campaign, flying out of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. They were disbanded following their combat tour and the squadron designation was given to the Marine command on Espiritu Santo.
In August 1943, a group of twenty-seven young men under the leadership of Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington (who was later awarded the Medal of Honor) were joined together to form the original "Blacksheep" of VMF-214. Major Boyington had just returned from a year's tour in China as a member of the 1st American Volunteer Group (nicknamed the Flying Tigers), and had been credited with multiple kills of Japanese aircraft. The squadron was not assigned any aircraft or ancillary personnel at first and flew to Guadalcanal and later the Russell Islands in borrowed planes that were in less than satisfactory condition.
On the evening of September 13, 1943, the men of VMF-214 gathered in their commanding officer's hootch during which time it was suggested that they needed a nickname. Originally the squadron called itself "Boyington's Bastards" after its new commander, the fact that all of the pilots had been orphans and not attached to a squadron when they got together, and the fact they possessed few reliable planes and no mechanics. The following day, this new label was presented to the Marine Corps public information officer on the island at the time, Captain Jack DeChant, and found to be unacceptable because civilian newspapers would never print it. DeChant then suggested the call sign "Black Sheep" because the expression meant essentially the same thing. The pilots ranged from experienced combat veterans, with several air-to-air victories to their credit, to new replacement pilots from the United States. Major Boyington and Major Stan Bailey were given permission to form the unassigned pilots into a squadron, with the understanding that they would have less than four weeks to have them fully trained and ready for combat. Although they dropped the moniker "Boyington's Bastards," the squadron still retains the black bar of bastardy across its shield. They chose for their badge the black shield of illegitimacy, the bar sinister, a black sheep superimposed, surrounded by a circle of twelve stars, and crowned with the image of their aircraft, the F4U Corsair.
The Black Sheep squadron fought for eighty-four days. They met the Japanese over their own fields and territory and piled up a record of 203 planes destroyed or damaged, produced nine fighter aces with 97 confirmed air-to-air kills, sank several troop transports and supply ships, destroyed many installations, in addition to numerous other victories. For their actions, the original Black Sheep were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism in action. Following their first combat tour, 26 pilots from the squadron left the airfield at Munda for a week of rest and relaxation in Sydney, Australia where they holed up in the Australia Hotel.
The Black Sheep ended their second combat tour on January 8, 1944, five days after Major Boyington was shot down and captured by the Japanese. The original Black Sheep were disbanded and the pilots were placed in the pilot pool in Marine Aircraft Group 11. Exploits of this incarnation of the unit were loosely fictionalized in the 1970s television series Baa Baa Black Sheep, later renamed Black Sheep Squadron, starring Robert Conrad as Boyington.
VMF-214 was reformed on January 29, 1944 at Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara near Goleta, California. They deployed aboard the USS Franklin (CV-13) on February 4, 1945 to join on-going operations on Okinawa. On March 19, a Japanese bomber hit the USS Franklin. The explosion and resulting fire caused 772 deaths aboard the Franklin including 32 Black Sheep members. Many Black Sheep aircraft were launching for a strike on mainland Japan at the time. One, First Lieutenant Ken Linder, was given half credit for shooting down the Japanese bomber that struck the Franklin. This ended VMF-214 involvement in World War II. During the course of the war, the squadron suffered 23 pilots killed in action or missing and lost 48 aircraft to accidents or enemy contact.
In April 1945, the Black Sheep were relocated to Marine Corps Air Station El Centro, California, and then to MCAS El Toro, CA in October 1945. In the next few years, the Black Sheep deployed for operations on board the USS Rendova (CVE-114), the USS Bairoko (CVE-115), the USS Badoeng Strait (CVE-116), and the USS Boxer (CV-21).
When the Korean War broke out, VMF-214 was en route to Hawaii on board the USS Badoeng Strait (CVE-116) hosting midshipmen from the Naval Academy. The squadron's commanding officer, Major Robert P. Keller, was summoned to headquarters in Hawaii where he met with then Colonel Victor Krulak. Krulak bluntly asked, "Major, are you ready to go to war?"
Flying eight F4U-4B Corsairs on August 3, 1950, VMF-214 became the first Marine squadron to see action in Korea, when they launched from the USS Sicily (CVE-118) and executed a raid against enemy installations near Inchon. After the F4Us delivered their incendiary bombs and rockets, they followed up with a series of strafing runs. Flying from the USS Badoeng Strait (CVE-116) and the USS Boxer (CV-21), the Black Sheep completed two combat tours in Korea. They participated in key battles, including the Inchon landing and the UN's defeat and withdrawal from Chosin Reservoir. In these and others battles, they provided nearly continual air cover, interdicting supply and communication lines, and inflicting heavy damage on numerous ground emplacements, and enemy armor.
Late 1950s - early 1960s
Shortly before the close of hostilities in Korea, VMF-214 returned to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. Here they exchanged their Corsairs for F9F Panther jets and began another training program. In the spring of 1953, the Black Sheep traded their F9s for new F2H-4 Banshees, and headed for the Hawaiian Islands. Upon their arrival, they became part of Marine Aircraft Group 13 and the First Marine Brigade.
In January 1956, the Black Sheep again received the order to "get ready." This time, the circumstances were less demanding. In the ensuing fifteen months, the Black Sheep covered all aspects of Marine aviation. On December 31, 1956, the squadron was redesignated Marine All Weather Fighter Squadron-214, flying the Banshee. The buildup included instrument flying, bombing, rocketry, strafing, air-to-air gunnery, field carrier landing practice, high and low altitude special weapon drops, and carrier qualifications. VMF(AW)-214 became the first Marine squadron to be qualified in special weapons delivery, in February 1957.
The period between Korea and Vietnam saw several significant changes for the Black Sheep. VMF was changed to VMA on July 9, 1957, designating the Squadron as "attack" rather than "fighter". In March 1958, the Black Sheep transitioned to the FJ-4 Fury. VMA-214 and VMF-212 became the first squadrons to deploy flying their aircraft across the Pacific. Another aircraft change occurred in January 1959, when the Black Sheep changed over to the newer FJ-4B.
In the FJ-4B Fury jets, the squadron logged over 27,000 hours as an attack squadron. This included a stretch with over 20,000 accident-free flight hours. The Black Sheep were awarded, on August 29, 1961, the CMC safety award for the "most outstanding safety record" achieved among attack squadrons throughout the Marine Corps.
On January 23, 1962, the Black Sheep replaced the FJ-4B Fury with the A-4B Skyhawk. This began a 27-year association between the Black Sheep and follow-on versions of the Skyhawk. In the fall of 1963, VMA-214 was selected as the first Marine Corps squadron to provide a detachment ("N") to deploy on a Westpac cruise aboard the USS Hornet (CVS-12). The detachment was assigned to intercept Russian "Bears" and "Badgers" flying toward the anti-submarine naval task force in the Sea of Japan. They returned home to MCAS Kaneohe Bay in April 1964.
In May 1965, the Black Sheep were reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, and relocated to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. On June 21, 1965, the first Black Sheep division flew into Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam, landing on 4,000 feet of SATS runway. The Black Sheep rotated out of Vietnam in February 1966 to pick up new pilots and personnel. In April 1966, the Black Sheep deployed back to Chu Lai where combat missions were again flown in support of the Republic of Vietnam. The Black Sheep Squadron flew 14,000 hours in combat, 13,000 sorties, and dropped more than 10,000 tons of ordnance. For their service VMA-214 was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation with Bronze Star.
VMA-214 returned from Vietnam in April 1967, relocated to El Toro, and was reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group 33, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. Once in El Toro, the unit became recognized as an operational training squadron for attack pilots, many of whom were replacement pilots bound for Vietnam. During December 1970, the Black Sheep were reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group 13.
The 1970s and 1980s
During the late 1970s, and into the 1980s, the squadron participated in the Unit Deployment Program, rotating between Marine Aircraft Group 12, Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, Japan, and Marine Aircraft Group 13 at MCAS El Toro, California. In October 1982, the Black Sheep were awarded the Lawson H.M Sanderson Award for Attack Squadron of the Year. In September 1987, the Black Sheep squadron once again relocated, this time to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. On October 17, 1987, the Black Sheep made history by becoming the first squadron to win the prestigious Sanderson award for a second time.
Two significant events occurred in 1989. During the year, the Black Sheep completed 30,000 accident free hours and six years of accident-free flying. Also, in June 1989, the Black Sheep introduced single-seat fixed wing "Night Attack" aircraft to the Marine Corps with the first operational squadron of AV-8B Night Attack Harrier IIs.
Marine Attack Squadron 214 became the first squadron to introduce the Night Attack capability into the Unit Deployment Program in October 1991, by deploying 20 Night Attack Harriers to Iwakuni, Japan, for seven months. Continuing in their traditions as pioneers, in July 1993, the Black Sheep conducted a dedicated "Night Systems" deployment to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twenty-Nine Palms, California. Ultimately, sorties were conducted throughout the night until shortly before dawn over a period of three weeks. It also resulted in the gathering of original medical data on night flying and its effect on pilot performance.
From December 1993 to July 1994, Marines of VMA-214 deployed aboard the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) and participated in contingency Operation Restore Hope and Operation Quick Draw off the coast of Somalia. Also during this deployment, VMA-214 Det B participated in Operation Distant Runner in Burundi and Rwanda.
In October 1994 a detachment from Marine Attack Squadron 214 embarked aboard the USS Essex (LHD-2) to support the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU). While deployed, the detachment supported Operation Southern Watch in Southwest Asia and Operation United Shield off the coast of Somalia.
During April 1996, Marine Attack Squadron 214 again deployed a detachment aboard the USS Tarawa (LHA-1) in support of the 13th MEU. The detachment supported Operation Southern Watch off the coast of Kuwait and Operation Desert Strike in Northern Iraq.
In August 1997, the Black Sheep were recognized for the third time with the Lawson H.M. Sanderson Award for Attack Squadron of the Year. In 1998 and 1999, the Black Sheep Squadron prepared for and deployed aboard the USS Boxer (LHD-4) heading directly to the North Persian Gulf to take part in Operation Desert Fox. It was on this deployment that the Harrier community had its first operational use of Night Vision Devices for shipboard activities to include working with helicopters on a shared deck.
Global War on Terror
Immediately following an extended fleet-wide grounding of all Harrier activities, the Black Sheep split the squadron and deployed simultaneously in support of two separate Marine Expeditionary Units. The Squadron (-) deployed to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, while Detachment Bravo sailed in support of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard USS Tarawa (LHA-1). During this deployed period, the Marines of VMA-214 participated in humanitarian operations in East Timor and Indonesia. One month later, Det Bravo was off the coast of Yemen with the 13th MEU(SOC) participating in Operation Determined Response - the recovery of the USS Cole (DDG-67). During this operation, Black Sheep Marines trained in the region and helped provide stability with a constant fixed wing presence.
VMA-214 has twice deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The first time was for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and again from February to August 2004, where they were based out of Al Asad. The squadron deployed to Afghanistan in May 2009 as part of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. They returned to MCAS Yuma in November 2009 having flown some 3,000 hours during their six-month tour. During the deployment, they were based out of Kandahar International Airport as part of Marine Aircraft Group 40 and provided close air support and aerial reconnaissance. They were part of the 17,000 troop increase announced by President Obama in mid-February 2009.
Beginning in May 2009, a detachment from VMA-214 deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151) with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. During the deployment they supported the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in southern Afghanistan and counter piracy operations off the coast of Africa. The Black Sheep were recognized for the fourth time with the Lawson H. M. Sanderson Award as the 2010 Attack Squadron of the Year as a result.
The following Marines from VMA-214 have been credited with five or more victories:
- Gregory "Pappy" Boyington - 28.0
- Robert M. Hanson - 25.0
- Christopher L. Magee - 9.0
- William N. Case - 8.0
- Don H. Fisher - 8.0
- Alvin J. Jensen - 7.0
- Robert W. McClurg - 7.0
- Paul A. Mullen - 6.5
- John F. Bolt Jr. - 6.0
- H. Allen McCartney Jr. - 5.0
- Edwin L. Olander - 5.0
- Hartwell V. Scarborough - 5.0
- Stanley T. Tynar - 5.0
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to VMA-214.|
- Cactus Air Force
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- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
- Boyington claimed six kills, but is officially credited with 3.5 kills. Wokuvits, Black Sheep, p. 89
- Reed, Lost Black Sheep, p. 41.
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- Walton, Frank E. (1986). Once They Were Eagles: The Men of the Black Sheep Squadron. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-0875-6. NB: Walton served as the Air Combat Information Officer (ACIO) for the VMA-214.
- Wokuvits, John F. (2011). Black Sheep: The Life of Pappy Boyington. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-977-0.