69 Years of Excellence (1943-2012)
VMF-115 was organized on 1 July 1943 at Santa Barbara, California under the command of Major John S. MacLaughlin. Sixteen days later, the command was assumed by one of the Marine Corps' most famous Aces, Major Joseph Foss, holder of the World War II Marine Corps record of twenty-six enemy aircraft shot down. The squadron quickly picked up the nickname, "Joe's Joker's." In May 1944, the squadron joined the Pacific campaign flying the legendary F4U-1 Corsair.
At the conclusion of World War II, the squadron deployed to Peking, China to protect US interests in that area and support the III Marine Amphibious Corps supervising the surrender and repatriation of 630,000 Japanese troops and civilians in North China.
In December 1949, VMF-115 became the first Marine Corps squadron to receive a full complement of Grumman F9F-2 Panther jet fighters and, during November 1950, was first to serve aboard a carrier, qualifying all 18 pilots without incident aboard the USS Roosevelt. In February 1952, VMF-115 deployed to K-3 Airfield near Pohang, Korea for combat operations. VMF-115 provided decisive Close Air Support during several battles including the famous withdrawal at the Chosin Reservoir.
In the spring of 1957, the Squadron received the Marine Corps' first F4D Skyrays and were designated VMF(AW)-115. After flying Skyrays longer than any other squadron, VMF(AW)-l15 was re-designated VMFA-115 on 1 January 1964 and transitioned to the Mach II capable F-4B Phantom II.
The "Able Eagles" were deployed to Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam on 14 October 1965. During the Viet Nam War, VMFA-115 flew more than 34,000 combat sorties, participating in such battles as the Tet Offensive, Hue City, Khe San, and Task Force Delta, and was awarded the Hanson Trophy in 1971 by the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
In July 1977, VMFA-115 relocated to MCAS Beaufort, SC, and in October 1980 joined Carrier Air Wing (CVW)-17 aboard the USS FORRESTAL. During this cruise VMFA-115 participated in Cold War missions such as intercepting and escorting various Soviet aircraft.
After flying Phantoms for more than 20 years, VMFA-115 began the transition to the F/A-18A Hornet on 1 January 1985, and officially stood up with 14 aircraft on 16 August 1985. The following year, the squadron became officially known as the "Silver Eagles.”
In July 1987, VMFA-115 returned to the Western Pacific to participate in the Unit Deployment Program at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. The squadron was recognized for superior maintenance, receiving the SECDEF Phoenix Award for Maintenance Excellence, and earned the Hanson Award as Marine Corps Fighter Squadron of the Year for both 1987 and 1988. This was the first time a Marine Fighter Squadron had won the Hanson Award two consecutive years.
In 1989, VMFA-115 returned to the Philippines and supported government forces during a coup attempt there. The squadron flew armed combat air patrol and escort missions, helping to stabilize the situation. The squadron’s efforts were recognized again as the coveted Hanson Award became a “Silver Eagle” possession in 1990 for the third time in four years. During the years from 1991 to 2000, the “Silver Eagles” conducted numerous six-month deployments in support of 1st MAW as part of the Western Pacific Unit Deployment Program.
Nearing the end of 2001, the squadron was once again designated a carrier squadron. This coincided with the first delivery of the F/A-18A+ aircraft modification. After qualifying all personnel for carrier operations the squadron deployed with CVW-3 aboard USS HARRY S TRUMAN in October 2002. In March 2003, the Silver Eagles fought against Iraqi forces as part of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, delivering more than 150 tons of ordnance. In October 2004, the squadron again deployed with CVW-3 aboard TRUMAN for Operation Iraqi Freedom II, providing close air support and overhead security in support of Iraq’s historic democratic elections.
In July 2006, the Silver Eagles returned to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan for the first time in seven years as part of the Unit Deployment Program. VMFA-115 deployed to Okinawa and the Republic of Korea. The squadron was presented with the Chief of Naval Operations’ Safety Award while in Japan.
In Mar 2008, the Silver Eagles deployed to Al Asad, Iraq for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The squadron was the first single seat FAC-A hornet squadron in theater providing close air support and overhead security across Iraq.
VMFA-115’s achievements have highlighted the history of Marine Corps aviation; the squadron has seen extensive service in nearly every conflict in which Marines have fought. During the past sixty years, it has carried out its assigned missions with distinction in the South Pacific, Philippines, North China, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand and the Middle East. Even during peacetime, whether training in the Western Pacific, the United States, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, or Western Europe, VMFA-115 has set a standard of excellence for other fighter-attack squadrons to follow.
The squadron’s record of exceptional performance is recognized by numerous citations and awards. Today’s VMFA-115 Marines may look back on the squadron’s proud history of accomplishment, and look forward to an even more promising future for the squadron and Marine Aviation. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 has received the following awards: