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VA-56 Champions

VA-56 - Champions

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The Champions - 1956
Patch drawn by Bud Southworth

Patch
  • June 1956:
    Attack Squadron FIFTY-SIX (VA-56) inaugurated a superbly designed patch that remained viable throughout the squadron's 30-year history and it's numerous assigned aircraft. A yellow boomerang with a dark blue speed arrow and black electron rings represent the squadron jet attack capabilities using modern electronic equipment. This patch is displayed above.

Handle
  • Boomerangs, 1957 - 1960.
  • Champions, 1960-1986.

Heritage
  • June 4, 1956, Attack Squadron FIFTY-SIX (VA-56), established at Naval Air Station Miramar, California.
  • August 31, 1986, Attack Squadron FIFTY-SIX (VA-56), disestablished at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California.

Home Ports
Date - - - - - - - - - - - - - Location:
  • Jun 1956 - - - - - - Naval Air Station Miramar
  • Jun 1961 - - - - - - Naval Air Station Lemoore
  • Jun 1973 - - - - - - Naval Station Yokosuka/Midway CV 41)*
  • May 1986 - - - - - - Naval Air Station Lemoore
  • * Under the Overseas Home Port Program, VA-56 and CVW-5 were permanently based aboard United States Ship Midway CV-41 and home ported with the carrier at Naval Station Yokosuka, Japan. The homeport was officially changed on June 30, 1973. However, Midway did not arrive in Japan until 5 October. Elements of VA-56, when not operating from Midway, were based ashore at Naval Air Facility Atsugi or Misawa, Japan.

Air Wings
Date - - - - - - Tail code - - - - - Air Wing
  • Jun 4, 1956 - - - S/NF- - - - CVG-5/CVW-5*
  • Jul 1, 1966 - - - NG - - - - - CVW-9
  • Oct 1968- - - - - B- - - - - - COMFAIRALAMEDA
  • Jun 9, 1969 - - - NE - - - - - CVW-2
  • Jun 1, 1970 - - - NF - - - - - CVW-5
  • * Carrier Air Groups were redesignated Carrier Air Wings on December 20, 1963, hence, CVG-5 became CVW-5.
  • CVG-5's tail code was changed from S to NF, probably in July 1957.

Deployments
Departure & Return - - - - - - - Air Wing - Carrier - Aircraft - - Area of Operations:
  • 07/12/57 - 12/09/57 - CVG-5 - CVA 31 - F9F-8 - WestPac
  • 03/06/60 - 10/10/60 - CVG-5 - CVA 14 - A4D-2 - WestPac
  • 05/10/61 - 01/15/62 - CVG-5 - CVA14 - A4D-2 -- WestPac
  • 01/03/63 - 07/15/63 - CVG-5 - CVA 14 - A-4B -- WestPac
  • 04/14/64 - 12/15/64 - CVW-5 - CVA 14 - A-4E -- WestPac/Vietnam
  • 09/28/65 - 05/13/66 - CVW-5 - CVA 14 - A-4E -- WestPac/Vietnam
  • 11/19/66 - 07/06/67 - CVW-9 - CVAN 65 - A-4C - WestPac/Vietnam
  • 01/03/68 - 07/18/68 - CVW-9 - CVAN 65 - A-4E - WestPac/Vietnam
  • 10/14/69 - 06/01/70 - CVW-2 - CVA 61 - A-7B - WestPac/Vietnam
  • 04/16/71 - 11/06/71 - CVW-5 - CVA 41 - A-7B - WestPac/Vietnam
  • 04/10/72 - 03/03/73 - CVW-5 - CVA 41 - A-7B - WestPac/Vietnam
  • 09/11/73 - 10/05/73 - CVW-5 - CVA 41 - A-7A - WestPac*
  • 11/26/73 - 12/22/73 - CVW-5 - CVA 41 - A-7A - WestPac
  • 01/29/74 - 03/06/74 - CVW-5 - CVA 41 - A-7A - WestPac
  • 10/18/74 - 12/20/74 - CVW-5 - CVA 41 - A-7A - WestPac
  • 01/13/75 - 03/18/75 - CVW-5 - CVA 41 - A-7A - WestPac
  • 03/31/75 - 05/29/75 - CVW-5 - CVA 41 - A-7A - WestPac
  • 10/04/75 - 12/19/75 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7A - WestPac/IO
  • 03/13/76 - 04/26/76 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7A - WestPac
  • 05/19/76 - 06/22/76 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7A - WestPac
  • 07/09/76 - 08/04/76 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7A - WestPac
  • 11/01/76 - 12/17/76 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7A - WestPac
  • 01/11/77 - 03/01/77 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7A - WestPac
  • 03/19/77 - 09/02/77 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac†
  • 09/27/77 - 12/21/77 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac/IO
  • 04/11/78 - 05/23/78 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac
  • 11/09/78 - 12/23/78 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac
  • 01/11/79 - 02/20/79 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac
  • 04/07/79 - 06/18/79 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - IO
  • 08/20/79 - 09/14/79 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac
  • 09/30/78 - 02/20/80 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - IO
  • 07/14/80 - 11/26/80 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac/IO
  • 02/23/81 - 06/05/81 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac/IO
  • 06/26/81 - 07/16/81 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac
  • 09/03/81 - 10/06/81 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac
  • 04/26/82 - 06/18/82 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac
  • 09/14/82 - 12/11/82 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - NorPac/WestPac
  • 06/02/83 - 08/13/83 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac
  • 10/25/83 - 12/11/83 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac
  • 12/28/83 - 05/23/84 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - IO
  • 10/15/84 - 12/12/84 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac
  • 02/01/85 - 10/14/85 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - IO/WestPac
  • 11/15/85 - 12/12/85 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac
  • 01/17/86 - 03/30/86 - CVW-5 - CV 41 - A-7E - WestPac**
  • * The squadron and United States Ship Midway CVA 41 arrived at their new homeport, Naval Station Yokosuka, Japan. Since the squadron was permanently forward deployed all future deployments for the squadron will cover only those operations outside the home waters of Japan.
  • † The squadron was shore based at Naval Air Station Cubi Point during the latter part of April to August 1977 undergoing transitional training in the A-7E.
  • **The squadron returned to CONUS in May 1986, ending its overseas basing assignment.

Aircraft Date Type First Received - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Type of Aircraft:
Commanding Officers Assumed Command - - - - - - - Commanding Officer
  • Jun 1956 - - - - - CDR Richard O. Devine
  • Dec 1957 - - - - - CDR C. G. Mitchell
  • Dec 1958 - - - - - LCDR R. L. Walker
  • Dec 1959 - - - - - CDR R. McBride
  • Jan 1961 - - - - - CDR W. H. Hoover
  • Jan 1962 - - - - - CDR James A. Homyak
  • Mar 1963 - - - - - CDR Donald L. Campbell
  • Feb 1964 - - - - - CDR Wesley L. McDonald
  • Mar 1965 - - - - - CDR William G. Nealon
  • Feb 1966 - - - - - CDR Carl Ray Smith, Jr.
  • Mar 1967 - - - - - CDR Peter W. Sherman
  • Jun 1967 - - - - - CDR Ernest R. Seymour
  • Jul 1968 - - - - - CDR John L. Nicholson, Jr.
  • Dec 1969 - - - - - CDR Joseph E. Potosnak
  • Oct 1970 - - - - - CDR John W. Weed
  • Aug 1971 - - - - - CDR Neil L. Harvey
  • Aug 1972 - - - - - CDR Walter Lewis Chatham
  • Aug 1973 - - - - - CDR Charles G. Andres
  • Jul 1974 - - - - - CDR Ronald N. Artim
  • Sep 1975 - - - - - CDR Gary L. Starbird
  • Dec 1976 - - - - - CDR Robert E. Smith
  • Mar 1978 - - - - - CDR Roger P. Flower
  • Jun 1979 - - - - - CDR Leon C. Bryant
  • Aug 1980 - - - - - CDR Charles S. Mitchell IV
  • Dec 1981 - - - - - CDR Edwin E. Shipe III
  • Mar 1983 - - - - - CDR Garold S. McDaniel
  • Jul 1984 - - - - - CDR Paul R. Statskey
  • Jan 1986 - - - - - CDR J. R. Hutchison

Events
  • June 4, 1956:
    Attack Squadron FIFTY-SIX (VA-56), established at Naval Air Station Miramar, California.

  • November 1959:
    "Top Gun" all-Navy -MarCorps Weapons meet at Yuma, conducted by FAGU (Fleet Air Gunnery Unit) stationed at El Centro.

  • June, 1960 VA-56 becomes "Light Attack Bombing Champions" of the Navy. Information provided by Jerry Shelley via Scott Turchin.

  • For a 1960 CVA-14 cruise, off-loaded most all other attack A/C and on-loaded 78 Marine Corp A4D's. This rememberance from Jerry Shelley via Scott Turchin.
    Anyone else have information about this evolution?

  • October 25 through 31, 1961:
    VA-56 Champions participated in Operation Crosstie with HMS Victorious (R-38), conducting flight operations from the deck of Victorious to evaluate the compatibility of USN/RN aircraft, armament, and handling facilities.

  • July 16 through September 15, 1962:
    The Champions were embarked in United States Ship Constellation CVA 64 during her transit from the East Coast, via Cape Horn, to her new home port on the West Coast.

  • Jan. 07, 1963 through July 15, 1963:
    Ticonderoga 07 Jan 1963 to 15 July 1963 with A-4C's modex 40x's.

  • April 14, 1964 through December 15, 1964:
    The VA-56 Champions flying A-4E Skyhawks (modex40x) embarked with Carrier Air Wing 5 on United States Ship Ticonderoga CVA 14 to WestPac and the Champs first Vietnam combat cruise.

  • July 1964:
    VA-56 Champion A-4E Skyhawks participated in special Yankee Team operations, providing aerial refueling support and experimenting with the tactic of employing A-4Es as armed escorts for the RF-8 and RA-3 reconnaissance aircraft flying missions over Laos and South Vietnam to detect Communist military presence and operations.

  • August 2 through 4, 1964:
    During a Desoto Patrol mission (intelligence collection missions begun in 1962) United States Ship Maddox DD 731 was attacked by three motor torpedo boats on 2 August off the coast of North Vietnam. Following this incident, the Champs flew sorties in support of the destroyers on Desoto Patrol.

  • August 5, 1964:
    Champion Skyhawks participated in Pierce Arrow, retaliatory strikes against the North Vietnamese. Along with other aircraft from CVW-5, they were part of the first sortie that struck the antiaircraft gun emplacements at the Vinh oil storage facility. Ninety percent of the complex was destroyed by the sorties flown against this facility. The Champs also participated in strikes against the Ben Thuy naval base, resulting in the sinking and destruction of several torpedo boats.

  • October 10 through 29; November 1 through 5 and 22 through 28, 1964:
    The Champs continued to participate in special Yankee Team operations off the coast of Vietnam.

  • September 28, 1965 through May 13, 1966:
    The VA-56 Champions flying A-4E Skyhawks (modex 46x) embarked with Carrier Air Wing 5 on United States Ship Ticonderoga CVA 14 to WestPac and the Champs second Vietnam combat cruise.

  • April 20, 1965:
    XO Cmdr. Robert E. Tigner perished in A-4C BuNo 150030 in a crash 30 miles north of Twenty Nine Palms on an ordnance training mission.
    Hayward, CA The Daily Review article

  • July 19, 1965:
    Lt(jg). Virgil Jackson Jr. ejected safely from his A-4E BuNo 152026 before it crashed and burned five miles north of Woodlake, CA near Sequoia Park. The aircraft crashed in the front yard of a home owned by Leonard Hanson on Sentinel Butte.
    Long Beach, CA Press-Telegram, Thursday, July 20, 1965.

  • December 5, 1965:
    "While the USS TICONDEROGA is en route from operations off Vietnam to Yokosuka, Japan, an A-4E aircraft of VA-56 loaded with one B43 nuclear weapon goes overboard. The aircraft was being rolled from the number 2 hangar bay to the number 2 elevator when it rolled off the elevator with the pilot LTJG D. M. Webster and the bomb and sank in 2700 fathoms of water. A search fails to find the pilot. The Department of Defense states this accident took place "more than 500 miles from land" when it reveals the accident in 1981. However, Navy documents show the accident occurred about 80 miles east of the Japanese Ryuku Island chain and 250 miles south of Kyushu Island, Japan, and about 200 miles east of Okinawa."
    Quoted from U.S.S. Ticonderoga Site
    Skyhawk BuNo.151022 was the aircraft involved in this incident.

  • February 7, 1966:
    Lieutenant Commander Render Crayton was awarded the Silver Star (in absentia) for his actions while engaged in a combat mission over North Vietnam.

  • 17 April 1966:
    LCDR V.Q. Hough was flying BuNo.151058 when he was struck by AAA. The LCDR ejected from the aircraft and was recovered.

  • November 19, 1966 through August 6, 1967:
    The VA-56 Champions flying A-4C Skyhawks embarked with Carrier Air Wing 9 on United States Ship Enterprise CVAN 65 to WestPac and the Champs third Vietnam combat cruise.

  • June 10, 1967:
    The squadron's commanding officer, Commander Peter Sherman, failed to return from a strike in North Vietnam and was listed as missing in action, presumed dead.
    An update from "Viet Nam Air Losses" by Chris Hobson:
    10 June 1967
    A-4C 145145 VA-56, USN, USS Enterprise
    CDR Peter Woodbury Sherman (KIA)
    The series of raids on the Van Dien SAM support depot continued. CDR Sherman was the CO of VA-56 and was leading an Iron Hand flight in support of a raid on the depot. As CDR Sherman and his wingman reached a point about 10 miles southwest of Hanoi they had to take evasive action to avoid numerous SAMs that had been fired at them. During the maneuvering the wingman lost sight of his leader. No ejection was seen or SAR beeper heard but it was assumed that CDR Sherman's aircraft had been the victim of an SA-2 missile and that he had been killed. The remains of CDR Sherman were eventually handed over by the Vietnamese on 19 January 1991. Pete Sherman had only taken over command of the squadron on 17 March 1967.

  • January 3, 1968 through August 18, 1968:
    The VA-56 Champions flying A-4E Skyhawks embarked with Carrier Air Wing 9 on United States Ship Enterprise CVAN 65 to WestPac and the Champs fourth Vietnam combat cruise.

  • January and February 1968:
    While embarked in United States Ship Enterprise CVAN 65 and en route to Yankee Station, the Enterprise was ordered to the Sea of Japan for operations following the seizure of Pueblo (AGER 2) by the North Koreans on 23 January.

  • May 7, 1968:
    During a rocket attack, A-4E BuNo 152005 was lost to ground fire. Lt. D.A. Lawrence was rescued by USS Jouett (CG-29) HC-7 Seadevils Det. 110 SH‑3A Sea King, 40 miles 160⁰ from Vinh, 19 miles inland.

  • June 19, 1968:
    Lieutenant Commander Crater received the Silver Star for his actions in coordinating the successful night rescue of a downed F-4 Phantom crewman in North Vietnam. This action was part of the rescue operations in which helicopter pilot Lieutenant Lassen received the Medal of Honor for his exploits.

  • November 1, 1968:
    The squadron's last A-4E Skyhawk was transferred and training began for the transition to the A-7 Corsair II.

  • October 14, 1969 through June 1, 1970:
    The VA-56 Champions flying A-7B Corsair II embarked with Carrier Air Wing 2 on United States Ship Ranger CVA 61 to WestPac and the Champs fifth Vietnam combat cruise.

  • April 16, 1971 through November 6, 1971:
    The VA-56 Champions flying A-7B Corsair II embarked with Carrier Air Wing 5 on United States Ship Midway CVA 41 to WestPac and the Champs sixth Vietnam combat cruise.

  • April 10, 1972 through March 3, 1973:
    The VA-56 Champions flying A-7B Corsair II embarked with Carrier Air Wing 5 on United States Ship Midway CVA 41 to WestPac and the Champs seventh Vietnam combat cruise.

  • May 12, 1972:
    United States Ship Midway CVA 41, with the Champs embarked, shifted its operations from the area of An Loc, South Vietnam to targets in North Vietnam. It participated in the mining and interdiction of Haiphong Harbor and North Vietnam's extensive coastal waterway system. This was an extension of operation Pocket Money which was initiated on 9 May by squadrons from United States Ship Kitty Hawk CVA 63 and United States Ship Coral Sea CVA 43. It also participated in operation Linebacker I, the concentration of heavy strikes against targets in North Vietnam to interdict the flow of supplies into the country and reduce its ability to prosecute the war. Linebacker I operations lasted until 22 October.

  • April 29 and 30, 1975:
    United States Ship Midway, including the Champions, participated in operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of American citizens from Saigon, South Vietnam.

  • August 1976:
    VA-56, embarked in United States Ship Midway, operated in Korean waters following the killing of two American officers in the DMZ by the North Koreans.

  • April and May 1979:
    United States Ship Midway, with VA-56 embarked, deployed to the Gulf of Aden to relieve United States Ship Constellation CV 64 and maintain a U.S. carrier presence following the out break of fighting between North and South Yemen and the fall of the Shah of Iran.

  • October 1979:
    As a response to anti-American demonstrations in Iran, United States Ship Midway and its air wing, including VA-56, were ordered to deploy to the Indian Ocean for the second time in 1979.
  • November 1979 through February 1980:
    Following the Iranian seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran and the taking of American hostages on 4 November, United States Ship Midway proceeded to the Gulf of Oman and remained on station until relieved in early February 1980.

  • May and June 1980:
    United States Ship Midway, with VA-56 embarked, operated off the coast of Korea due to the civil unrest in South Korea and the massacre of several hundred people in the town of Kwangju.

  • May 1986:
    The Champions were reassigned to Naval Air Station Lemoore as a result of the change in CVW-5's composition from A-7 and F-4 aircraft to FA-18A. It began the transfer of its personnel and aircraft in preparation for the disestablishment of the squadron on 31 August.
  • August 31, 1986:
    Attack Squadron FIFTY-SIX (VA-56) disestablished at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California.

Awards


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