Marine Attack Squadron 224, 1964 to 1967
This website is primarily about VMA 224 in the years from 1964 through 1967
LtCol, later Col. Tom Mulvihill, commanded the Squadron.
There was never any question about who built and Commanded the Squadron. To this day over forty years later, and twenty five years after he died, Col. Mulvihill, is revered and respected by many, mostly by us, the Squadron he built.
He had as much respect for us as we had for him.
Many Squadrons are proud and won many awards for valor, but this Squadron was different because we were together for three years including our Vietnam War experience. We trained for over a year and a half together and competed in Jet Attack Competitive Exercises, known as “COMPEXES,” from Jan. to June of 1965. We won “Top Gun Awards for all fifteen competitions.
After that we were known as “The Top Gun Squadron.” We had green angled and curved stripes on the tails of our A4 Skyhawks and we were respected by all of Marine Aviation and feared by the Viet Cong.
All of the pilots specifically trained for Vietnam conflict and all were volunteers. A couple of months before deployment into battle, Col. Mulvihill gave us all the opportunity to withdraw, no questions asked and for any reason. No one took advantage of his offer.
We fought well in Vietnam and lived up to our name as “Top Gun Squadron.”
Col. Mulvihill’s main goals were to accomplish our mission and return with all who went over with him. He accomplished both.
BAND OF BROTHERS
After Vietnam duty, we went in all directions. Some of the Lt.s stayed in the Corps for twenty or more years and retired as LtCols. Many of our pilots went into the Reserves and flew with the major airlines, most retiring as Airline Captains. One of us, Dick Hawes retired as a full Col and Jerry Hagen retired as Bgen.
Very few of us were in touch with each other and in 1996 with the use of computers, we managed to find each other and planned the first of our Triennial Reunions, to be held at MCAS Cherry Point in 1997, thirty-six years after splitting up. Cherry point is where we were formed and trained.
Since then we held reunions every three years, at Atlanta, Pensacola, FL, Tunica, Miss. And this year 2009 at Las Vegas.
It is amazing how close we are when in the same room. We feel and act like a “Band of Brothers.’ We don’t talk about Vietnam, because we all know about our experiences there. We joke a little, maybe a lot, but mainly we hold each other in respect and honor as we would our own Brother.
One saying lately was,” We didn’t used to hug so much.
It was decided at our recent Reunion in Las Vegas, to hold these reunions in the future on a biannual basis, the one for 2011 in Ashville, NC. It should be wonderful, with the fall colors, but mainly, we will reunite again.
It was said at our last reunion that we should continue until we only have two of us left and even if we are sitting on a park bench in some small town in Indiana, we will plant our Marine Corps flag and toast our “Top Gun Squadron” and keep it alive. When last man standing, turn our flag and Banners over to the present VMFA(AW) 224 and ask them to display them at their reunions. If no 224 Squadron is active, turn the Banners and Flag over to the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico.
The Spirit of Mulvihill is still watching over us with pride, as we will always remain:
The Top Gun Squadron Mulvihill built with pride and honor.
The following history of VMA-224 is an excerpt from a Wikipedia page on the history of the current VMFA(AW)-224 based at MCAS Beaufort, SC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VMFA (AW)-224).
World War II
Marine Fighter Squadron 224 (VMF-224) was commissioned on May 1, 1942 at Naval Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii. Flying Grumman F4F Wildcats, the Bengals entered World War II as part of the Cactus Air Force stationed on Henderson Field, Guadalcanal. Led by Medal of Honor recipient Maj Robert Galer, the squadron accounted for over sixty Japanese aircraft being destroyed in less than two months. The squadron also conducted close air support (CAS) missions while under constant attack from Japanese naval, air, and ground forces. VMF-224’s contributed significantly to the American victory during the Guadalcanal Campaign, which in turn, helped stem the tide of the Japanese advance across the Southern Pacific and secured a crucial foothold in the long island-hopping campaign against Japan.
Squadron logo when they were VMF-224.
After Guadalcanal, the squadron was refitted with the Vought F4U Corsair and participated in the Marshall Islands Campaign. The spring of 1945 found VMF-224 participating in the last great battle of the Pacific Campaign. During the Battle of Okinawa the squadron operated for the duration of the campaign from the newly captured airfield at Yomitan. Throughout the struggle for Okinawa, the Bengals flew infantry support and counter air missions accounting for an additional fifty-five enemy aircraft being destroyed.
Link to VMF-224's Squadron Scrap Book with a focus on Central Pacific tour, July 1943 through December 1944.
1950s - 1970s
The squadron entered the jet era in 1951 with the acceptance of the F2H-2 Banshee. In 1952, after completing a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the USS Roosevelt, the squadron accepted the Grumman F9F Panther, and was re-designated Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 224.
In September 1956, the squadron became the first Marine unit to field the A4D Skyhawk aircraft. In 1965, the Bengals entered the Vietnam War. For nearly a year the Bengals operated their “Scooters” from the expeditionary field at Chu Lai. On November 1, 1966, the squadron acquired the Grumman A-6 Intruder and was re-designated as Marine All Weather Attack Squadron (VMA(AW)) 224. In 1971, the Bengals deployed to the South China Sea aboard the USS Coral Sea. As part of Carrier Air Wing 15, the squadron completed six line periods on Yankee Station and participated in numerous operations including the historic mining of Hai Phong Harbor.
The Gulf War & the 1990s
The Bengals deployed to Southwest Asia, on August 28, 1990. Operating from Shaikh-Isa Air Base, Bahrain the squadron participated in Operation Desert Shield. From January 16, to February 28, 1991, the Bengals participated in Operation Desert Storm, expending more than 2.3 million pounds of ordnance during 422 combat sorties.
Shortly after their return to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, on May 24, 1992, the Bengals celebrated their 50th anniversary. Less than a year later on March 5, 1993, the squadron was re-designated VMFA(AW)-224 and moved to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina where the Bengals received the multi-mission F/A-18D Hornet.
From April to September 1994 the Bengals deployed to Aviano, Italy, as part of the United Nations force for Operation Deny Flight and Operation Provide Promise in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The squadron flew 1150 sorties for 3485 flight hours including 1150 night hours. The Marines of VMFA(AW)-224 again deployed to Aviano, Italy in September 1995, as part of NATO Operation Deliberate Force and Operation Joint Endeavor.
Global War on Terror
On January 11, 2005, VMFA(AW)-224 deployed to Al Asad Airbase, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). While in support of OIF, the Bengals employed 65,225 lb of ordnance and flew over 2500 sorties and 7000 hours in direct support of Marine, Army and Coalition ground units.
Successfull 2013 Reunion - Quantico, Virginia
Those who could attend gathered at the Holiday Inn in Dumfries, Virginia on October 22 through October 24 for a well-organized reunion hosted by Tod and Mary Lou Eikenbery. Highlights included trip to Marine Corps Museum at Quantico, wonderful roast beef dinner at the Globe and Laurel, and some free time to explore sights like the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and local attractions in nearby Fredericksburg.
At our banquet on Thursday evening, Larry Adkinson read a tribute, Skyhawk Reunion Tribute.
Date and place of next reunion were not set. If you would like suggest a place or you would lke to host a reunion send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put it up on this website for consideration.
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Names of Those Attending
|Tod & Mary Lou Eikenbery|
|Dan & Greta Richards|
|R.C. & Susan Ray|
|Mike & Judy Awe|
|Merle & Jan Thompson|
|Cecil Caviezel & Georgia Caviezel|
|Jim & Dietra Hartman|
|Robert & Ann Sutherland|
|John & Edith Sickels|
|Alan & Ellie Burnaford (Thu dinner only)|
|Larry & Karen Adkinson|
|Grant & Jessica Rutledge|