Squadron Flight Log Entry

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VC-4 - NIGHTCAPPERS
Comission Place: NAS Atlantic City, New Jersey

COMPOSITE SQUADRON FOUR {VC-4} / ALL WEATHER SQUADRON FOUR {VF(AW)-4} NIGHTCAPPERS

Composite Squadron FOUR (VC-4) was established at NAS Atlantic City, New Jersey on September 28, 1948. As All Weather Fighter Squadron FOUR (VF(AW)-4) it was decommissioned on August 31, 1959. During the intervening eleven years the officers and men of VC-4/VF(AW)-4 recorded a significant chapter in the history of Naval Aviation. VC-4 adopted their motto: Nox Mea Auxiliatrix Est (Latin: Night is My Ally). Together with their sister squadron on the West Coast (VC-3), they inherited the postwar remnants of the Navy's noble World War II experiment with night carrier operations. Their task was to provide night and all-weather offensive and defensive capability for the fleet as the Navy transitioned from a daylight VFR capability to its present round-the-clock carrier operations. During its existence, VC-4 became the largest operational squadron in the Navy while supplying detachments, usually consisting of 4-5 airplanes, 5-6 pilots and 45-60 enlisted personnel to all Atlantic fleet and selected Pacific fleet aircraft carriers. . They successfully accomplished this mission with dedication and enthusiasm

On 3 December 1948, VC-4 officially reported to Commander, Fleet Air Quonset Point (COMFAIRQUONSET) and Commander, Naval Air Force, Atlantic Fleet (COMNAVAIRLANT). The mission of VC-4 was to "provide the fleet as required, all-weather VF (VFN) and VA (VAN) teams consisting of pilots, planes and personnel who are at such a level of proficiency as to permit both offensive and defensive operations without regard to existing weather conditions". At year end the squadron consisted of 60 officers, 496 enlisted men and 54 airplanes. VC-4's assigned aircraft was composed of 12 AD-1Q's, 2 AD-2Q's, 16 TBM-3E's, 7 TBM-3N's, 13 F6F-5N's, 2 SNJ's and 2 JRB-4's.

Between 1 January and 30 June 1949, the squadron grew to 87 officers, 904 enlisted men and 112 airplanes. The "cats and dogs" on the flight line were augmented by additional F6F-5's and -5N's, 2F8F-2N's, 8AM-1Q's, 4F4U-4's and the introduction of 23 F4U-5N's. Twenty-one cruises were made on board East Coast Essex Class carriers Leyte, Kearsarge and Philippine Sea and the Midway class CVB's Midway, Franklin D Roosevelt and Coral Sea. During the period June through December 1949, VC-4 participated in 13 cruises in six different ships including CVL's Wright and Saipan. At the home base, extensive training activity was underway to bring all pilots up to instrument card proficiency. It is indicative of the instrument flying readiness of the Navy at this point in time to note that only 58 pilots in this all-weather squadron possessed instrument cards of any color at the end of this period. There were three fatal accidents between 1 July 1949 and 31 December 1949 in which four pilots lost their lives. Two were F6F-5N's lost at sea. The squadron fleet grew to 162 airplanes including 29 AD's, 52 Corsairs, 29 Hellcats and 44 TBM'S, plus a handful of F8F-2N's and AM-1Q's. A total of 1187 enlisted personnel and nearly 100 officers were assigned to the squadron.

The first six months of 1950 saw a total of 108 pilots involved in ten cruises on East Coast carriers. This period witnessed three major events in the history of VC-4: the beginning of divestiture of Night Attack mission to VC-33, the start of the Korean War, and the introduction of a jet night-fighter, the F2H-2N. In addition to the shipboard units, VC-4 provided shore-based night resources for Operations PORTREX and SWARMER. Between 1 March and 10 March 1950, twelve VFN type airplanes and crews were detached to the Air Force to provide defensive coverage of Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico from sunset to sunrise. Two airplanes were kept airborne on Combat Air Patrol throughout the period under Ramey GCI control. During 88 missions, totaling 343 hours, the VC-4 detachment was credited with 40 of the 91 aircraft "destroyed" by Ramey forces, while suffering only 3 "losses"; a 93% effectiveness rating! One actual loss occurred when one pilot collided with a mountain while presumably under radar control. In May, 1950, VC-4 was directed to transfer its VAN assets, which included AD-1Q, AD-2Q, TBM-3E TBM-3N aircraft and associated personnel to VC-33, a newly formed squadron at NAS Atlantic City. The F8F-2N's were transferred after they were considered unsatisfactory for the night, all-weather missions. June 1950 saw the permanent transfer of four pilots and four F4U-5N airplanes to the Boxer in the Pacific. A short time later four more F4U-5N's and pilots were assigned to Leyte for temporary duty in the Pacific theater. This was VC-4's first involvement in the Korean War. Perhaps the most significant occurrence during this period was the introduction of the all-weather jet to carrier aviation. The squadron received 12 F2H-2N's, which were essentially a day F2H-2 with an APS-19 radar mounted in the nose. In December of 1950, the squadron received 6 F4U-5NL airplanes specially configured for cold weather operations. These were equipped with an auto-pilot, deicer boots on the wings and tail, propeller anti-icing and a windshield de-icer. In this period there were three fatal accidents resulting in the death of five squadron personnel. Head count on December 31st was 542 enlisted men and approximately 90 officers. There were 74 airplanes in the inventory including 58 F4U-5N's, 6 F4U-5NL's, 8 F2H-2N's and 2 SNB'S.

During the first six months of 1951, VC-4 participated in 14 cruises involving a total of 63 pilots and 284 enlisted personnel on board the aircraft carriers Leyte, Midway, Coral Sea, FDR, Oriskany, Saipan and Tarawa. The second half of 1951 saw much the same squadron activity: nine cruises on seven different ships in addition to supporting a number of Navy and Air Force shore based exercises. The squadron continued to provide five pilots and five airplanes on a standby status from sunset to sunrise under operational control of Headquarters, 26th Air Division of the USAF. There were several developments of significance during this time frame, which included a new generation of all-weather fighter aircraft with vastly improved Al radars, better radio altimeters, TACAN navigation and UHF communications. A new GCI facility was unveiled at Atlantic City during 1951, greatly enhancing the training programs of controllers and pilots alike. In the Fall of 1951, one of its tasks was to provide ground control for a major program assigned to VC-4 by the Bureau of Aeronautics: evaluating the comparative performance of the single place VFN (F2H-2N) and a two place VFN (F3D). Two F3D's (with APS-36 radar in the nose) from VMF(AW)-513 and two F2H-2N (with APS-19 radar in the nose) from NAS Patuxent River were sent to NAS Atlantic City. The F3D's were flown by two highly qualified two man crews with a great deal of intercept experience in F7F's and F3D's; the F2H-2N's were flown by several of the VC-4 pilots The results were somewhat cloudy. Basically, the F3D had better detection range with its radar, but the F2H had much better performance and could generally complete the intercept farther out from Atlantic City. The end result was that the next generation of all-weather fighters were single seated aircraft.

By 1952, the Navy's Korean War buildup was being felt by VC-4. The squadron provided night-fighter detachments to eleven East Coast carriers (Roosevelt, Tarawa, Midway, Siboney, Leyte, Saipan, Wright, Mindoro, Salerno Bay, Coral Sea and Wasp). One detachment (Det 41) was assigned to the USS Bon Homme Richard in Korean waters. The buildup also expanded the squadron's stable of aircraft. F6F-5N's were drawn from mothballs to meet commitments on the smaller carriers, and F3D-2's arrived to augment the F2H-2N fleet. In addition to its all-weather interceptor role, VC-4 was now assigned the task of providing special weapons qualified teams to designated Atlantic Fleet carriers. The delivery aircraft was the F2H-2B which was configured to carry two small atomic weapons. The first F2H-2B team was deployed aboard USS Coral Sea on 19 April 1952. The final six months saw the introduction of the McDonnell F2H-3 to service in VC-4. The F2H-3 was a larger version of the F2H-2N with hydraulics taking the place of most of the electrically actuated systems. It was designed from the ground up as an all-weather fighter with a Westinghouse APQ-41 radar in its nose. 1952 also witnessed a significant transition from props to jets. At mid year there were 52 propeller aircraft and 26 jets. At year end there were 38 props and 41 jet aircraft. The squadron suffered four fatalities during the year. Six airplanes were lost, two F6F-5N's, two F3D-2's, an F4U-5N and an F4U-5NL. Head count was 102 pilots, 15 ground officers and 836 enlisted personnel.

A snapshot on 31 May 1953 mentioned four detachments at sea. These were Det 6 on board Coral Sea with 7 F2H-3 aircraft; Det 7 on board the FDR with 4 F2H-2B's and 3 F2H-3's; Det 32 on board Tarawa with 2 F4U-5NL aircraft and Det 44 on board Lake Champlain in Korean waters with 2 F2H-2B's and 4 F3D-2's. The Det 44 F3D-2 team was detached from the Lake Champlain in June 1953 and sent to join VMF(N)-513's F3D's at K6 airfield near Pyongtaek, South Korea. Their primary mission was to protect the Air Force B-29 bombers on their nightly raids. One of the Det 44 crews, LTJG Bick and CPO Smith, were apparently shot down by enemy aircraft (MiG-15) during this deployment. The F2H-4, physically the same as the F2H-3, but equipped with the Hughes E-10 AI radar was introduced into VC-4 inventory and the first F2H-4 deployed to the Med cruise aboard the Bennington

Another historical snapshot on 31 October 1954 has survived. At this time there were four detachments at sea and one at Leeward Point, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Det 34 onboard Lake Champlain had 4 F2H-4's; Det 38 on Tarawa had 5 F4U-5NL's and 3 F4U-5N's; Det 51 on Leyte had 1 F4U-5NL and 6 F4U-5N's; and Det 52 on Valley Forge had 7 F4U-5N aircraft. The detachment at Leeward Point had 3 F2H-4's and 1 SNB-5. At that time VC-4 owned 8 F4U-5's, 13 F4U-5N's, 15 F4U-5NL's, 31 F2H-4's, 2 TV-2's and 3 SNB-5's. There was no mention of any F2H-2B's; it is assumed that their mission was taken on by the F2H-4's. At the end of the year, the VC-4 head count was approximately 120 officers and over 1000 enlisted men.

During 1955, VC-4 provided all-weather night fighter detachments on CVS (anti-submarine warfare) carriers (Antietam, Tarawa, Leyte, Valley Forge) with F4U-5N's at the beginning of the year which were gradually replaced by AD-5's equipped with the APS-19 radar. The phase out and retirement of the venerable Corsairs was completed with the last Corsair flying to the "boneyard" at NAS Quonset Point in November 1955. VC-4 all-weather night fighter/Special Weapons detachments were deployed aboard the CVA (attack warfare) carriers (Midway, Intrepid, Bennington, Essex) with F2H-4's. 1955 was a year of significant transition in Naval Aviation, which would see the development of all-weather night fighter and Special Weapons capable squadrons within each air group in AIRLANT. It was also the introduction of new fighter aircraft within the Navy (F4D Skyray and F8U Crusader). During the spring, VC-4 started transferring F2H-4's to squadrons designated for the night fighter/Special Weapons roles and received 13 F9F-6 Cougars, which were to be used for a cadre of pilots chosen to gain experience in the swept winged F9F-6, in anticipation of an impending transition to the F4D Skyray. As it turned out, the cadre of VC-4 pilots assigned to the F4D transition became the nucleus that formed VF-74, the first F4D squadron in AIRLANT. Needless to say, the rest of the VC-4 pilots were quite envious and highly disappointed that VC-4 would not transition to the F4D.On 30 June 1955 VC-4 had four detachments deployed. Det 30 was on board the Bennington with 5 F2H-4's; Det 33 was on board Intrepid with 4 F2H-4's; Det 35 was on board Midway with an unreported number of aircraft; and Det 52 was on board Valley Forge with 4 F4U-5N's. The implementation of integral night, all-weather and special weapons capability within each Attack Carrier Air Group was gradually eliminating the Attack Carrier requirements for VC-4 Detachments.

By 1956, The mission of the VC-4 was primarily all-weather day/night fighter protection for the ASW hunter/killer groups in LANTFLT. VC-4 detachments fulfilled this mission for the CVS Carriers (Antietam, Tarawa, Leyte, Valley Forge, Essex) using APS-19 equipped AD-5's. The AD-5's were also used to supplement the "middleman" capability, of the HUK group, providing UHF radio relay for the S2F's and helicopters that were performing the low altitude ASW search and localization at long distances from the surface forces. Official records for 1956 state that on 31 March there were two detachments at sea: Det 30 on board the Bennington with an unknown number of aircraft and Det 50 in the Antietam with 8 AD-5's. Total aircraft assigned to the squadron included 7 F9F-6's, 8 F2H-4's, 26 AD-5's, 3 TV-2's and 2 SNB-5's. The Bennington Det 30 was the last of the F2H-4 deployments aboard CVA's. On July 2, 1956, VC-4 was redesignated as VF(AW)-4. The squadron call sign changed from "Earthquake" for "Cannon" and the tail letters changed from "NA" for "GC". In May, VC-4 was notified that the Antietam would be making a six month "Good Will" cruise to the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean to demonstrate the US Navy ASW capability to friendly foreign Navies. Eight F9F-5 aircraft were assigned to VF(AW)-4 for this deployment. The "Good Will" cruise was modified greatly when the French and British bombed Cairo and Alexandria and closed the Suez canal by sinking some shipping. The "Suez Crisis" caused an immediate cessation of the "Good Will" cruise with a redeployment straight from Rotterdam to the eastern Mediterranean, joining the rest of the Sixth Fleet. The Sixth Fleet altered its disposition a few weeks later when the Hungarian Revolt broke out and there was an immediate deployment of a detachment of AD-5's aboard Leyte in November.

During 1957, the mission of VF(AW)-4 continued to be the all-weather day/night fighter protection of the ASW HUK carrier groups. VF(AW)-4 continued to supply APS-19 equipped AD-5's to the CVS carriers (Tarawa, Leyte, Valley Forge, Essex). The ASW forces were deploying with an underwater nuclear depth bomb (MK-90 "Betty"). VC-4 was assigned the role of the back-up delivery vehicle for the MK-90 in addition to their assignment as the fighter protection. The semi-annual Aviation Historical summaries which were discontinued in 1953 were reinstituted in October 1957. On 1 October 1957 squadron aircraft complement consisted of 22 AD-5's and 2 TV-2's. Detachments were deployed on the Tarawa, Essex Leyte, and Valley Forge. The introduction of newer night fighters and Special Weapons delivery aircraft in the CVA air groups reduced the requirements for the F2H-3's and F2H-4's in the CVA air groups and AIRLANT made the decision to transition VF(AW)-4 to jet fighters for the all-weather day/night fighter protection of the ASW HUK carrier groups. The advent of the MK-101 ("Lulu") nuclear depth bomb, which was capable of being carried by the F2H-3/4 was also key in this decision. During this period of time, the dominate threat to the ASW HUK carrier group was the new Soviet SVERDLOV class cruiser. The only feasible counter to the long range guns and the defenses of the SVERDLOV class cruiser was the F2H-3/4 with a nuclear weapon. On 5 November 1957, 13 F2H-3/4 aircraft were received to commence the transition back to F2H-3/4's. There were 51 pilots, 8 ground officers and 361 enlisted personnel on board.

1958 began with AD-5 detachments aboard three Essex class carriers (CVS): Tarawa, Leyte and Valley Forge. By the end of March 1958, those who were assigned to VF(AW)-4 in early 1958 truly thought that they were going to experience a renaissance and go forward to a more up-to-date all-weather strike/fighter role in protection of the ASW Hunter Killer carrier groups by transitioning to the F2H-3/4's and retiring the AD-5's. The squadron was well into its rebirth as an all-weather jet fighter squadron with 29 F2H-3/4's, 3 TV-2's and 9 AD-5's. On 1 May 1958, the squadron moved from Atlantic City to Quonset Point where the night-fighter concept was first born 16 years earlier. At the end of June only one AD-5 remained while there were 34 F2H-3/4's and 3 TV-2's in the VF(AW)-4 inventory. Carrier qualification in F2H-3/4's commenced in September with a deployment to the Intrepid and then continued on the Tarawa in November. This was called to an abrupt halt due to a spectacular accident, which fortunately resulted in no major injuries. Further carrier qualification attempts were immediately canceled by AIRLANT and the role of the jet fighter aboard the CVS's was reassessed by AIRLANT in light of the fact that they had limited catapult capability with the old H-4B and H-8 hydraulic catapults, a straight deck requiring a paddles LSO with a full cut into a limited deck area with a barricade. In light of all of this and with the potential for a disastrous result from a bad landing, AIRLANT made the decision that they would not operate jets from the Essex class ASW carriers. Thus rang the death knell for VF(AW)-4. At year end there were 30 F2H-3/4 airplanes on board, 2 TV-2's, 48 pilots, 10 non-flying officers and 364 enlisted personnel.

1959 began with a severe reduction in operating funds, resulting in 4 hours per month "proficiency flying" per pilot. There were no VF(AW)-4 deployments aboard carriers in 1959 prior to decommissioning. All Weather Fighter Squadron FOUR was decommissioned on 31 August 1959.


Based on code developed by Richards Consulting Group