MARINE ATTACK SQUADRON
VMA-214 BLACK SHEEP
The Marine Corps sent me to VMA-214 in 1968 and I was a proud Blacksheep until December 1970. The tour as Operations Officer and then Executive Officer was very rewarding. Flying both the A4C and the A4E in VMA-214 supported by the squadron's highly competent enlisted professionals, superior staff NCOs and spirited officers was the apex of my career. Being at El Toro, we saw Pappy Boyington frequently at ceremonies and events at the Club and we all cherished the memorable times we shared socializing with the greatest of the Blacksheep. I have put the history of the Blacksheep together from various sources to include Douglas Aircraft Company publications. My search for recent records has been less than satisfactory, so the years since 1980 are limited in scope and detail. If modern day Blacksheep have a more informative history of the squadron's past 20 years I welcome your contribution. An email to email@example.com will be appreciated.
Semper Fi, Blacksheep--wherever you are!
Marine Fighter Squadron 214 was commissioned at Ewa Airfield on Oahu, Hawaii in 1942. 214 was relocated to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides Islands in August 1943. Several sick, lame, wounded, unassigned, or disciplined Marine pilots were in a casual status awaiting orders to a tactical squadron. Some were combat veterans with enemy kills to their credit. Eight F4U Corsairs and 27 of the pilots were assigned to 214 under the command of Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington who was fresh out of Chenault's Flying Tigers after flying combat missions in China. Pappy and his misfits chose the name "Blacksheep" for VMF-214. The bar sinister black shield of illegitimacy with a black sheep, a Corsair, and a circle of stars depicted their status and how they were established.
Pappy shown as CO of VMF-214. LLoyd Gailey provided a photo of Mikeyung, the Japanese pilot who downed Pappy.
Pappy molded his pilots and men into a fierce fighting unit in less than a month. After only three months of combat the Blacksheep had damaged or destroyed 197 enemy aircraft. Pappy Boyington accounted for 26 kills of Japanese aircraft. Pappy was later shot down and spent the duration of the war as a prisoner of war. Pappy received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic conduct as Commanding Officer of the Blacksheep.
After World War Two, 214 squadron was decommissioned. However, it was re-commissioned in 1948 at MCAS El Toro, California, again with F4U Corsairs. Over the years, the Blacksheep were stationed many locations and operated several different aircraft. 214 deployed frequently for major exercises, training, carrier cruises and cold war contingencies. The squadron flew combat missions with distinction in Korea and Vietnam. The Blacksheep courage and fighting spirit has prevailed throughout the squadron history.
The Blacksheep played a major aerial combat role in the Inchon Landing during the Korean conflict. Operating aboard the USS Sicily Straits and the USS Boxer, 214 provided valuable close air support to the ground force. VMF-214 was the first Marine Squadron in combat in Korea. The Blacksheep supported the withdrawal of forces from the frozen Chosin Reservoir with distinction. VMF-214 completed two combat tours in Korea. They accounted for heavy damage to the communist forces by destroying troops, tanks, bridges, supply lines, heavy guns and enemy infrastructure. After Korea, 214 returned to MCAS El Toro where they were provided the latest F2H-4 Banshee jets.
Major General Hal Vincent recalls how he joined the Blacksheep at MCAS El Toro in July 1953 following VMA-214's two tours in Korean combat.
"My first squadron after Flight Training was VMA 214, at El Toro, flying the F2H4. I was in it only a few months i.e. 7 to 9/53. When I reported to El Toro, I drove around the field and saw those two week old F2H4s, so I stopped by, stood at attention in front of Major John Piper at the operations officer's desk , and asked to be able to join the Blacksheep. He laughed and said, 'Lieutenant, I like your attitude. Let's go see the Skipper.' The CO was one LtCol Carr, and he said sorry this is an All Weather squadron with only second tour pilots. They had 17 Majors in it. I said 'Sir, there are lots of other new lieutenants coming along behind me. I never took leave and am anxious to get to Korea on a first out basis.' Well he said 'ok' and I got into the squadron. Operations let me fly anyplace, anytime to get 150 hours and on overseas. Perhaps they hoped that I would replace one of those 17 Majors or 3 mustang Lts/Captains and they would not have to go to Korea again. Only point is that they operated the F2H4 Banshee out of El Toro initially and then went to Hawaii. What great history the Blacksheep have. A captain in that squadron was my mentor and helped me a lot. One Herk Roland. What a great pilot and Marine."
In 1953 the Blacksheep relocated to MCAS Kaneohe, Hawaii and again received F2H-4 Banshee aircraft. The squadron was re-designated VMF(AW)-214. After a deployment aboard the USS Hancock in 1957, The Blacksheep received the FJ4B Fury aircraft and in 1958 the squadron was again re-designated VMA-214. John F. Bolt was the Commanding Officer in 1958 and 1959. Skipper Bolt was one of the original Blacksheep with Pappy Boyington in WW2. Lloyd Gailey was in the Squadron under Bolt and submitted the following picture of the pilots in Hawaii.
More than 27,000 flight hours were flown in the Fury. The Blacksheep received the 1961 CNO Safety Award for attack squadrons.
In January 1962 the Blacksheep traded the Fury for the A4B Skyhawk. VMA-214 flew Transpac from Kaneohe to El Toro in March 64 and were given new A4C Skyhawks. After ordnance training for two weeks at Yuma, 214 flew the new Skyhawks back to Kaneohe.
The VMA-214 Blacksheep flew combat missions in Vietnam from June 1965 until March 1967. The squadron flew 3971 combat sorties and 5274 combat flight hours in the first eight months. Following highly successful combat operations in Vietnam, VMA-214 relocated to MCAS El Toro in 1967 and undertook an operational training role in preparing pilots for combat.
The above 1968 photo top row has Gunner Rossner, Capt Gordon Jefferson, Capt Tom Hampton, Capt Dave Habermacher, Maj Martin Linzini, Capt Pete Wyrick, Capt Ed Lord, Capt Dave Good, Capt Dave Bittig, Capt Doug Benton, Maj Steve Sewell, LtCol Joe Went, Maj Darrell Shelor, Maj Tom Watkins. Bottom row: 1Lt Stein, 1Lt Wright, 1Lt Ream, 1Lt Dave Coop, 1Lt Mark Williams, 1Lt Dale Kennedy, 2Lt Frank Norris, Capt Sam Nickle, Gunner Inglet, 1Lt Ron Layton, Maj John Snyder.
Quarterly training deployments sent the Blacksheep TAD to MCAS Yuma and NAAS Fallon for intensive live ordnance air to ground weapons practice in training replacement pilots for combat tours in Vietnam.
The Blacksheep photo above was taken in 1969 with LtCol Bill Smith as Skipper and Maj Bob Reid as XO, Maj Mofak as Ops O and Maj Darrell Shelor as Maint. The Blacksheep deployment to Fallon Nevada during August 1969 set high standards by flying 453 sorties and dropping 77.5 tons of ordnance in 11 days. In March 1970, the Blacksheep began receiving the more sophisticated A4E Skyhawk.
During the years 1971 to 1979 the Blacksheep deployed to sites including Navy China Lake, Kadena Okinawa, Iwakuni Japan and Korea. The squadron flew the A-4M Skyhawk with its 8000 pound payload which included 20mm cannon and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
LtCol Peter B. Wyrick assumed command of the Blacksheep flying A4M aircraft on May 4, 1979.
The squadron implemented the new concept of unit rotation to WESTPAC in 1980 and operated in Japan, Philippines, Okinawa and Korea. The BlackSheep so excelled under Pete's very capable leadership that the squadron was named the primary candidate for the Marine Attack Squadron of the Year for July 1979 to July 1980.
In June 1986 the Blacksheep completed three accident-free years AND 15,000 accident-free flight hours during seven deployments to NAAS Fallon, Hill AFB, Luke AFB, MCAS Yuma, and MCB Twenty-nine Palms. VMA-214 was deployed to the Western Pacific conducting exercises in Okinawa, Japan, Philippines and Korea from December 1986 to June 1987.
VMA-214 moved from MCAS El Toro, Calif., to MCAS Yuma in September 1987. The Blacksheep made a deployment to WestPac from June 1988 to December 1988. The Blacksheep were recognized in 1989 for being the first A-4 squadron to fly 30,000 accident-free hours and achieve six years accident-free flying. The squadron retired the A-4M Skyhawk in June 1989 and then became the first Marine night attack squadron with the AV-8B Night Attack Harrier. The squadron made the first overseas deployment with the Harrier in 1992 to Iwakuni, Japan.
VMA-214 was transferred to the east coast at MCAS Cherry Point, NC where it continued to operate the AV8B Harrier. In 1995, the Blacksheep began receiving the Harrier II with a sophisticated radar capability. After working and deploying from the Atlantic side of CONUS for over 5 years, the Blacksheep Squadron transferred with the Harrier II aircraft back to MCAS Yuma in July 1999. They began extensive radar training in preparation for scheduled deployments. VMA-214 deployed to WestPac operating out of NAF Kadena Okinawa and MCAS Iwakuni Japan from July 2000 until June 2001. They deployed again to WestPac the next year from July 2002 until June 2003 where they operated in night all weather conditions in the Harrier II.
The VMA-214 Blacksheep continue to excel and distinguish themselves through superior performance in Marine Aviation assignments. OooooooohRAHHHH!
Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, the famous CMOH recipient and originator of the Blacksheep, died of cancer at the age of 75 on January 12, 1988. Rest in Peace mighty Warrior! Clink....... glug........Smash!
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