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Subject: 1943 in aviation, 1942 in aviation, Cactus Air Force, Vella Lavella, Kenneth A. Walsh, Munda Airport
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Marine Attack Squadron 124

VMA-124 Insignia
Active 2 September 1942 - 1996
Country United States
Branch USMC
Type Fighter squadron
Role Air interdiction
Nickname Whistling Death
Wild Aces
Tail Code QP
Engagements World War II
* Battle of Guadalcanal
* Solomon Islands Campaign
* Philippines Campaign, 1944-45
* Battle of Iwo Jima
* Battle of Okinawa
Aircraft flown
Attack A-4 Skyhawk
Fighter F4U Corsair
F9F Cougar
FJ-4B Fury

Marine Attack Squadron 124 (VMA-124) was a fighter squadron in the Marine Forces Reserve based out of Naval Air Station Memphis flying the A-4 Skyhawk. They were part of Marine Aircraft Group 42 and were decommissioned in 1996. The squadron is best known as the first Marine squadron to fly the F4U Corsair during World War II and also the first squadron to be based on an aircraft carrier. They were known as the “Wild Aces” and ended World War II with 78 air to air victories against Japanese aircraft.


World War II

VMF-124 was formed on September 2, 1942 at Camp Kearney, San Diego, California. They were declared fully operational on December 28, 1942 even though the squadron’s pilots had only an average of 25 hours each in the plane. They arrived on Guadalcanal on the morning of February 12, 1943 led by their commanding officer, Major William Gise. The squadron flew their first mission before lunch that day, with twelve F4Us escorting a PBY Catalina on a 230 mile mission to pick up two downed pilots at Sandfly Bay, Vella Lavella.[1]

The first F4U pilot to be decorated with the Medal of Honor came from VMF-124 — 1st Lt Kenneth A. Walsh for a mission on August 30, 1943, during which he shot down four Japanese Zeros before ditching his borrowed Corsair. The squadron remained in the Solomon Islands until September 1943, fighting over the Russell Islands, New Georgia and Vella Levella.

Following the fighting in the Solomons, the squadron was disbanded and reconstituted back in the United States where it trained in the Mojave Desert at Marine Corps Auxiliary Airfield Mojave for the next year.[2] When they received their orders for carrier assignments they had 5 combat experienced pilots as their training nucleus[3] VMF-124 left the States again on September 18, 1944, heading to Hawaii. While in Hawaii they were attached to Navy Air Group 4 who were operating off the USS Essex (CV-9). Along with VMF-213, 124 became the first Marine squadron to be based on an aircraft carrier. While deployed aboard the Essex, they took part in fighting over Lingayen, Luzon, Formosa, Tokyo, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. On January 3, 1945 VMF-124 and VMF-213 struck Formosa and the Ryukyu Islands in the first Marine land strike off a carrier.

Reserve activity

The squadron was reformed shortly after the war at Naval Air Station Memphis and were equipped with the F4U-4 Corsair. They were the first squadron in the newly formed Marine Air Reserve Training Command to reach full strength. The squadron was redesignated Marine Attack Squadron 124 (VMA-124) on May 1, 1965 and were subsequently equipped with the A-4 Skyhawk. During the 1970s and 1980s they flew various versions of the A-4 until 1994 when the squadron was moved to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth and redesignated Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 124 (VMFA-124). The squadron existed as a paper squadron only for two years while awaiting F/A-18 Hornets that would never materialize. The squadron existed on paper only until they were finally deactivated in 1997.[4]

Squadron aces

The following members of VMF-124 were credited with at least 5 enemy aircraft shot down during World War II:

See also


  • Marine Fighting VMF-124 and VMF-213 - History and photos of VMF-124 and VMF-213's service aboard the USS Essex (CV-9)
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