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VF-32 Swordsmen


The VF-32 Swordsmen originated on 1 February 1945 as VBF-3, when VF-3 was split to form two sister squadrons. VBF-3 was assigned to Carrier Air Group 3 onboard USS Yorktown (CV-10) operating in the Pacific theater. Flying F6F-5 Hellcats, VBF-3 pilots became the first Navy carrier-based pilots to strike the homeland of the Japaneses Empire on 16 February. During the heavy action on that day, the squadron totaled 24 airborne kills of Japanese aircraft for which the Swordsmen were awarded the Preseidential Unit Citation. In 1946 VBF-3 transitioned to F8F-1 Bearcats and was redesigntaed VF-4A. Finally, in August 1948 the squadron was redesignated VF-32, the designation that it still bears today.
At the outbreak of the Korean conflict, piltos of VF-32 were flying F4U-4 Corsairs aboard USS Leyte (CV-32). From October 1950 to January 1951, VF-32 participated in strikes against Korean targets including Wonsan Harbor, Puckchong, Chonjin, and Chosin Reservoir. Notewrothy during this period was an incident that occurred during a strike against the Chosin Reservoir on 4 December. ENS Jesse L. Brown, the first black Navy fighter pilot, was hit by anti-aircraft fire and forced down in North Korean territory. A squadron mate, Ltjg Hudner, landed his aircraft alongside ENS Brown and attempted to rescue him. His efforts were in vain. For his heroic effort, Ltjg Hudner was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and ENS Brown was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. After ooperations in Korea, the squadron returned to the East Coast where they became the first operational unit to fly the Grumman F9F-6 Cougar, the Navy's first swept wing jet fighter. VF-32 made subsequent deployments aboard USS Tarawa (CV-40) in 1953 and USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) in 1955.
In 1956 VF-32 became the first US Navy squadron to receive the F8U-1 Crusader, in the process becoming the first supersonic squadron in the Navy. Nine years with the Crusader followed, till in 1965 VF-32 moved to the F-4B Phantom II. Finally in July 1974 VF-32 began to transition to the F-14A , the first East Coast squadron to make the change. Their first deployment with their new mount began in June 1975. During this cruise the squadron received the Adm. Joseph Clifton Award, signifying them as the best squadron in the Navy, an impressive achievement after only so short a time with their new equipment.
1979 saw VF-32 setting another record, the 19th of October saw the squadron complete 10 years of accident free flying and 17,000 accident free hours in the F-14. On these and almost all subsequent deployments VF-32 was partnered by VF-14. While the partner squadron was fairly consistent the air wing assignment changed several times:- on it's first cruise (and two subsequent) ones VF-32 was part of CVW-1 onboard USS John F.Kennedy (CV-67). In 1982 they moved to USS Independence (CV-62) for a cruise, after which the squadron started to receive the TARPS pod and suitably wired F-14's. This capability was extremely useful in the next cruise, again onboard USS Independence (CV-62), when it was used to provide high quality photo intelligence to support US forces in both Grenada and Lebanon. For this second cruise onboard USS Independence both VF-32 and VF-14 were moved to be part of CVW-6. A third Independence cruise was made between October 1984 and February 1985. At this point VF-32 moved air wings again, rejoining CVW-3 for a cruise onboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67). One notable event during this cruise was the first night barrier engagement by an F-14, presumably after the bird suffered problems with it's arrestor hook. The 1989 cruise onboard Kennedy saw the Swordsmen thrust into the limelight when two of their F-14A's engaged two Libyan MiG-23 Floggers. The 4th of January saw AC-202 (BuNo.???) and AC-207 (BuNo.159610) on Combat Air Patrol (CAP). The MiG-23's took off from Al Bumbaw airfield, Tobruk and began to close on the two F-14's. For several minutes the MiG's tried to maintain a bearing that would enable them to engage the F-14's, while the F-14's strove to disengage themselves without being forced to leave the area. However after several manoeuvres and confirmation that the MiG's were armed (using the F-14's Television Camera System (TCS)) it was decided the Libyans had shown hostile intent (although they had not actually fired) and so the Tomcats were cleared to engage. AC-202 turned in and fired a AIM-7 Sparrow, which failed to track. His wingman, in AC-207, also fired a Sparrow, which tracked and destroyed one of the MiG's, it's pilot successfully ejecting. AC-202 then closed to within AIM-9 Sidewinder range and managed to maintain a firing position. Once fired the Sidewinder continued to track and hit the MiG-23's rear fuselage. Again the pilot managed to eject successfully. With two MiG's splashed the F- 14's continued their patrol.
The squadron's next call to combat was as part of the 1991 Gulf conflict, as part of CVW-17 onboard Kennedy. Once again the squadron's TARPS capabilities proved invaluable, providing pre and post strike pictures. One of the squadron's crews had the distinction of being the last Navy crew over Baghdad, five days after the cease-fire.
Since Desert Storm VF-32 resumed Mediterranean deployments, at first with VF-14, later on by itself, after VF-14 was detached from CVW-17. The squadron has added air to ground missions to it's repertoire over the last few years. The Swordsmen's next deployment, onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), began in late November 1996 and saw the first time that the Navy deployed digital cameras onboard carrier aircraft. The new cameras are fitted in the squadron's TARPS pods, replacing the KS-87 camera. These new Pulnix cameras can take up to two hundred digital images, being able to store them onboard or transmit them to appropriately equipped ground or sea based recievers at ranges of up to 300km. This new equipment gives the Tomcat a near "real- time" reconnaissance capability. As well as the new TARPS cameras the deployment has had VF-32 flying LANTIRN equipped F-14A's, only the second squadron to take this new Tomcat variant out to sea.
With the recent need to withdraw many F-14A's from service VF-32 has now upgraded to the F-14B Tomcat. As of late 1997 VF-32 are based at NAS Oceana, working up for their next carrier deployment. In late July 1998 VF-32 embarked onboard USS Enterprise and the carrier battle group set sail for the western Atlantic. As part of COMPUTEX 98 (Combined Unit Training Exercise) VF-32 flew from the ship. Unfortunately the squadron suffered it's first loss in several years, when on the 8th August an aircraft was lost. Thankfully both crew were rescued safely by the destroyer Thorn, after around 15 minutes in the water.

Click here for high quality Squadron Prints

F-14A, 1974

F-14A, 1997

F-14B, 2004

All graphics Copyright © Torsten Anft

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