Since its commissioning as a Fighter Squadron 62 years
ago, on 24 June 1941, the Green Knights of Marine All
Weather Attack Squadron 121 have compiled a distinguished history unsurpassed
in the annals of Marine Corps Aviation. The Green Knights
began combat operations operating F4F Wildcats and later F4U Corsairs
as charter members of the Cactus Air Force and throughout Guadalcanal,
the squadron fought from the legendary forward air bases of Espirito Santo
Island, Turtle Bay, Bougainville, and Emirau.
VMF-121 was without equal among Marine Corps Fighter Squadrons during
WWII. During the conflict, the Squadron produced 14 Fighter Aces, more
than any other squadron, including Congressional Medal of Honor winner,
Captain (later Major) Joseph J. Foss. Throughout the war, VMF-121 set
the standard for enemy aircraft destroyed, by downing 209 Japanese aircraft
(165 flying Wildcats and another 44 flying Corsairs) in aerial combat.
After WWII, VMF-121 returned to the United States and Naval Air Station,
Glenview, Illinois where the Squadron designation was changed to Marine
Attack Squadron 121 (VMA-121). The Squadron was flying a variety of aircraft
including F4U Corsairs, F8F Bearcats and AD Skyraiders.
In mid 1951, VMA-121 received orders to activate its reserve members and
departed Glenview, Illinois for Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, California.
After completion of training in the Skyraider, the Squadron was transported
aboard the carrier USS Sikko Bay to Yokosuka, Japan to begin final preparations
for a combat deployment to the Republic of Korea.
VMA-121 deployed to K-6 Airfield at Pyongtaek, ROK to conduct strike missions
in support of infantry operations. Flying missions as long as 14 hours,
the Skyraider could carry 9000 pounds of ordnance, a load which rivaled
that of a seagoing WWII destroyer. The Squadron dropped more bomb tonnage
during the Korean War than any other Navy or Marine Corps squadron, devastating
enemy airfields, supply dumps, bridges, and railroad yards.
During the Korean War the Squadron insignia depicted Al Capp's "WolfGirl"
from the comic strip “L'il Abner.” The feared "Wolf Raiders"
of VMA-121 remained in South Korea for several years after the cease-fire
in 1953. Returning to MCAS El Toro in 1957, the squadron assumed its role
in the Unit Deployment Program with scheduled rotations to Japan and traded
in its AD Skyraider aircraft and joined the jet age with the F9F-8B.
The Cougar equipped with the LABS system for loft bombing, was the first
aircraft flown by the squadron capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
In late 1958, the Squadron traded the Cougars for brand new A-4 Skyhawks.
Spending most of the next year at the likes of Fallon, Yuma, and China
Lake, the "Green Knights" became the first
squadron to complete the entire special weapons delivery syllabus. In
January 1960, the Squadron deployed to Iwakuni, Japan for a scheduled
six month UDP. However, in July the "Green Knights"
were embarked onboard the USS
TICONDEROGA and in October 1960, they transferred to the USS CORAL SEA
(CVA- 43) for six months. Finally ending their 15 month odyssey, the Squadron
returned home to MCAS El Toro.
During November of 1962, the "Green Knights"
deployed their new A-4s to NAS Cecil Field on the coast of Florida in
response to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In August, 1966, the Green Knights were once again called
to battle and ferried their Skyhawks to Iwakuni and ultimately, Chu-Lai
Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. After six months of combat operations,
the Squadron rotated back to Iwakuni, Japan and Naha Air Base, Okinawa
before returning to Chu-Lai for another combat tour in 1968. During the
first six months of that deployment, VMA-121 supported 118 major operations,
providing the eagerly sought "Marine brand" of close air support
to all allied units. In early 1969 the Squadron was reconstituted at MCAS
Cherry Point, North Carolina and newly designated VMA(AW)-121 to reflect
the Squadron's transition to the all weather attack mission with the Grumman
A-6E Intruder. The Green Knights were now capable of
acquiring and destroying surface targets in any weather, day or night,
with a wide variety of ordnance.
After a 12 month deployment to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, during 1977-1978,
the Squadron was reassigned to MCAS El Toro. During this period, numerous
updates and modifications to the A-6 constantly enhanced its capabilities,
as the Green Knights operated from air bases in Sardinia,
Spain, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Okinawa, the Philippines and Korea.
When the Target Recognition and Attack Multisensor (TRAM) version of the
A-6 aircraft was developed, VMA(AW)-121 was proud to be the first Marine
Corps A-6 squadron to receive it.
In November 1985, VMA(AW)-121 was transferred to Commander, Carrier Air
Wing Two (CVW-2), attached to USS RANGER (CV-61). Once again based aboard
an aircraft carrier, the Green Knights brought expertise to CVW-2 in close
air support, while rising to new challenges in areas such as war at sea,
integrated service warfare and tanker support through back-to-back deployments
onboard USS RANGER with CVW-2.
On December 8, 1989 the Squadron was redesignated as VMFA(AW)-121, becoming
the first Marine Corps F/A-18D Night Attack Hornet Squadron.