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Marine Fighting Squadron 422
VMF-422 Insignia
Active January 1, 1943 - April 7, 1947
Country United States
Branch USMC
Type Fighter squadron
Role Air interdiction
Part of Inactive
Nickname(s) Flying Buccaneers
Engagements World War II
* Marshall Islands Campaign
* Battle of Okinawa
Aircraft flown
Fighter Vought F4U Corsair

Marine Fighting Squadron 422 (VMF-422) was an Vought F4U Corsair squadron in the United States Marine Corps. The squadron, also known as the “Flying Buccaneers”, fought in World War II but is perhaps best known for its role in the worst accident in naval aviation history when they lost 22 of 23 aircraft flying through a storm on January 25, 1944.


VMF-422 was commissioned on January 1, 1943 at Naval Air Station San Diego and initially flew the Grumman F4F Wildcat. Later that month it moved to Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara as the squadron continued to train its pilots. In August, they boarded the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) for transport to Pearl Harbor with follow on movement to Midway Island. The squadron transitioned to the Vought F4U Corsair on December 15, 1943.

On January 25, 1944, 23 of the squadron's 24 aircraft left Tarawa Atoll headed for Funafiti, a flight of 469 miles. A failure of their Commanding General (BGen Lewie G. Merritt) to authorize an escort plane and an outdated weather forecast led them to fly directly into a major storm. Additionally, General Merritt's staff failed to inform Funafiti and the intermediate Nanumea Atoll that a group of friendly aircraft were on their way-thus the incoming planes had no radio signals to guide them on their way. 10 of the aircraft were lost at various times during the flight and the remaining 13 were forced to crash land in the ocean. The survivors spent 3 days at sea in life rafts before being spotted by a Navy PBY Catalina from Navy Patrol Squadron 59. After taking on the survivors, the patrol boat was too heavy to take off and had to radio for help. Later that evening they were met by the destroyer USS Hobby (DD-610) who ushered the men to safety. In all the squadron lost 22 aircraft and had 6 pilots killed. The 2012 documentary film "The Flintlock Disaster"[1][2] recounts the events and losses during that flight.

VMF-422 was quickly reconstituted after the disaster and by mid-1944 they were flying interdiction missions against Japanese shipping in the Marshall Islands.

The Buccaneers operated from Okinawa between May and September 1945, contributing to the defense of U.S. forces in the Ryukyu campaign. In that time the squadron was credited with 15 Japanese planes shot down.

Following the war, the squadron returned to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in November 1945. They later moved to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point but were deactivated April 7, 1947.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "IMDB - The Flintlock Disaster". IMDB - Internet Movie Database. 
  2. ^ Sheldon, Matt. "The Flintlock Disaster". Triple Threat Television. Retrieved 2013-05-28. 
  3. ^ Rottman USMC WWII OOB, p. .


  • Crowder, Michael J. (2000). United States Marine Corps Aviation Squadron Lineage, Insignia & History - Volume One - The Fighter Squadrons. Paducah, KY: 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.