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Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 224 was commissioned on
1 May 1942 at Barbers Point, Hawaii. Flying Grumman F4F Wildcats, the
Bengals entered WWII as part of the vaunted 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
infantry support missions while under constant attack from Japanese Naval,
Air, and Ground Forces. VMF-224’s superb performance contributed
significantly to the American victory at Guadalcanal, 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 to Japan.
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. Arriving on Okinawa one week after the battle
had begun, the squadron operated for the duration of the campaign from
the newly captured airfield at Yomitan. Throughout the desperate struggle
for Okinawa, the Bengals flew infantry support and counter
air missions accounting for an additional fifty-five enemy aircraft being
Following the surrender of Japan, the squadron served
in various capacities in the States and overseas. 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-5 Panther, and was re-designated Marine
Attack Squadron (VMA) 224.
In July 1956, the squadron became the first Marine unit
to field the A4D-1 Skyhawk aircraft. In 1965, after two cruises, a year
deployed to Iwakuni, Japan, and numerous other training deployments, the
Bengals entered the Vietnam conflict. For nearly a year
the Bengals operated their “Scooters” from
the expeditionary field at Chu Lai.
On 1 November 1966, the squadron acquired the Grumman A-6A 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.
During the period following the end of US involvement
in Vietnam, the Bengals made numerous deployments to
Europe and the Pacific where they participated in joint and combined exercises.
The squadron received the upgraded A-6E TRAM (Target Recognition and Multi-Sensor)
aircraft in 1974. The squadron was busily preparing for yet another deployment
as part of the Unit Deployment Program (UDP) in the summer of 1990 when
Iraq invaded Kuwait.
The Bengals deployed to the Middle East,
arriving on 28 August 1990. Operating from Shaikh-Isa Air Base, Bahrain,
the squadron conducted deterrent and training sorties as part of Operation
DESERT SHIELD. From 16 January to 28 February 1991, the Bengals
led the way in night combat operations in support of Operation DESERT
STORM, expending more than 2.3 million pounds of ordnance during 422 combat
Following the capitulation of Iraq, the squadron had
little time back in the States before they were once again in Iwakuni,
Japan as part of the UDP. This deployment marked the final involvement
of Marine A-6 aircraft in the Western Pacific Theater.
Shortly after their return to Cherry Point, NC, VMA(AW)-224
achieved a milestone in Marine Corps Aviation History. On 24 May 1992
the Bengals celebrated their 50th anniversary. For 224,
it had been an exciting and rewarding half-century. As their first fifty
years came to an end, the Bengals began their next fifty
with yet another new aircraft. On 6 March 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.