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VMA (AW)-332 MOONLIGHTERS
Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332 was commissioned
in June 1943 at the newly constructed Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS)
Cherry Point, North Carolina. Originally designated as Marine Scout Bomber
Squadron 332 (VMSB-332) the squadron flew SBD Dauntless dive bombers out
of Cherry Point and Bogue Field, North Carolina and Mojave, California
before departing for the Pacific Theatre during World War II. After a
brief stay in Ewa, Hawaii, the squadron located to Midway Island. Its
mission was to escort and provide air cover for all incoming and outgoing
surface craft and submarines. In July of 1944, the squadron relocated
back to Ewa, where it would remain until after the war. On 1 March 1945,
the squadron would make the first of four changes in squadron designations.
Re-designated Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron 332 (VMTB-332), the squadron
transitioned to the TBM Avenger. After the war, 332 relocated to San Diego
in November 1945 for deactivation.
Marine Attack Squadron 332 (VMA-332) was re-commissioned
on 23 April 1952 as part of 3d Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Opa Locka,
Florida flying the F6F Hell Cat and later F4U Corsairs. During the Korean
conflict, Marine Attack Squadron 332 was assigned a combat role operating
from the USS Bairoko, distinguishing themselves as one of the few Marine
squadrons operating from an aircraft carrier. It was at this time the
famous polka-dots, hat, and cane originated. Replacing the VMF-312 "Checkerboards",
who had a black and white checkerboard painted around the engine cowlings,
VMA-332, somewhat mockingly, adopted the red polka-dots on white background.
The design was reminiscent of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker's “Hat
in the Ring” Squadron of World War I. The addition of the hat and
cane was derived from the squadron tail letters of "MR". Being
the abbreviation of mister, and feeling they were gentlemen in every regard,
the hat and cane was adopted as accouterments every gentleman has. It
was then that the squadron picked up the nickname VMA-332 "Polka-dots".
Upon return from the War in 1953, VMA-332 transitioned
to the AD-1 Skyraider. From 1953 to 1957, VMA-332 rotated annually between
the East Coast and the Far East. In 1958, the squadron relocated back
to MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, and entered the jet age transitioning
to the venerable A-4D Skyhawk.
VMA-332 continued its yearly rotation to Japan until
1962. In 1962, VMA-332 was deployed to Udorn, Thailand to support a Marine
Expeditionary Force quelling unrest in that country. Later in 1962, the
squadron would redeploy back home.
On 20 August 1968, the "Moonlighters" transitioned to the A-6
Intruder and was designated Marine All Weather Attack Squadron 332 (VMA(AW)-332).
On 1 March 1975, the squadron received its first A-6E Intruder and in
July 1982, they again upgraded to the A-6E TRAM (Target Recognition and
Attack Multi-Sensor). (It was during this time that the squadron's nickname
was mysteriously changed to the "Moonlighters" and the tail
letters were changed to "EA". Although there are speculations
and colorful rumors, no written explanation exists for the change. ) Each
of these improvements drastically increased the Marine Corps' all weather
close air support capability. The "Moonlighters" flew the A-6
from Cherry Point until 1993, participating in numerous deployments to
the Western Pacific and Northern Europe as well as exercises throughout
the United States.
16 June 1993 began a new chapter for the "Moonlighters"
when the squadron was redesignated Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron
332 (VMFA(AW)-332), moved to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, and transitioned
to the F/A-18D Hornet.