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World War II

Marine Fighter Squadron 223 (VMF-223) was commissioned on May 1, 1942 at Marine Corps Air Station Ewa, Oahu, Hawaii. The "Bulldogs" first operational aircraft was the Brewster F2A Buffalo. They left Hawaii for combat equipped with the Grumman F4F Wildcat. VMA-223 became the first fighter squadron committed to combat during the Battle of Guadalcanal when they landed at Henderson Field on August 20, 1942. Upon arriving, the squadron became part of the Cactus Air Force and for the next 2 months slugged it out with Japanese pilots, based out of Rabaul, for control of the skies over Guadalcanal. VMF-223 left the island on October 16, 1942 having accounted for 1101/2 enemy aircraft shot down. The two leading aces in the squadron were the commanding officer, Major John L. Smith, with nineteen confirmed shoot downs and Marion E. Carl who was creditied with sixteen[1]. Smith was to be awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism and Captain Carl would win the first of his two Navy Crosses for these actions.

After being equipped with the new Chance-Vought F4U Corsair, the "Bulldogs" continued to fight in such places as the Philippines and Okinawa. Two Presidential Unit Citations were awarded and affixed to the squadron's battle colors during the war. Following transfer from Marine Corps Air Station El Toro to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in 1948, VMA-223 became a carrier squadron. The squadron deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in 1949 aboard the USS Leyte (CV-32).

The "Bulldogs" entered the Jet Age in July 1950, receiving their first jet aircraft, the F9F Panther. In August 1957, the squadron was equipped with the North American F4B Fury. A relatively short time later in January 1961, the Fury was replaced by the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.

Vietnam War

In December 1965, the "Bulldogs" once again were called upon for combat duty in the Far East, this time at Chu Lai, South Vietnam. Supporting allied ground forces they flew more than 32,000 flight hours. In May 1967, the squadron flew a record 1,234 combat sorties, by far the greatest monthly total for any attack squadron operating in Vietnam. In February 1970, after nearly 5 1/2 years in the Far East, the "Bulldogs" were reassigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and returned to MCAS El Toro.

Post Vietnam & 90s

In May 1975, the squadron received the new A-4M Skyhawk aircraft. During July 1976, VMA-223 transferred from MCAS Yuma to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. During August 1977, VMA-223 returned from Japan and joined the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, stationed at Cherry Point, North Carolina. During the late 1970s until transition in 1987 VMA-223 flew the A-4M Skyhawk. VMA-223 operated the last production A-4M aircraft painted in a special commemorative paint scheme with the flags of all nations who had operated the A-4 Skyhawk on the dorsal hump of the aircraft. In October 1987, VMA-223 transitioned to the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II.

March of 1990 marked the second Sixth Fleet Deployment for the "Bulldogs" aboard the USS SAIPAN (LHA-2) in support of the 22 MEU. This detachment participated in Operation Sharp Edge, flying armed combat air patrol missions in support of the non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO) over Liberia. In January of 1991, the "Bulldogs" deployed a six-plane detachment to Naval Station Rota, Spain for operations in support of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. The detachment remained at Rota through February, training with Spanish Forces.

Global War on Terror

VMA-223 deployed to Iraq late in the summer of 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During a combat mission over Iraq on February 10, 2006 the squadron surpassed the 60,000 Class A mishap-free hours mark. This milestone is even more impressive considering the maintenance and safety issues associated with the AV-8B aircraft.


Photo courtesy of Kevin Scott

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