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VMA-311

VMA-311 Tomcats

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Hells Belles - 1943
rovided by John Gabbard

Hells Belles - 1943
Courtesy of Dave Seaney

Provided by John Gabbard - Date Unknown

Sylvester the Pussycat - 1950's
Drawn by Bud Southworth

Courtesy of Jimmie R. Little

The VMA-311 Tomcat pages are dedicated to
Lieutenant Jan H. Nelson, USMC

Patch
  • The first Tomcat patch displayed a Sylvester the Pussycat riding a bomb while flipping the Victory sign with his paw.
  • Shortly after getting F4-U Corsairs in April 1943 a "Hells Belles" patch was used by VMF-311.
  • In the 1950's there was a takeoff on the first Tomcat patch of Sylvester the Pussycat riding a bomb while flipping the Victory sign with his paw -- in this 1950's version, shown above, Sylvester rides a rocket while flipping us the bird.
  • In 1948 VMF-311 acquired the letters "WL" as its tail designator, leading to the nickname "Willy Lovers." This nickname inspired the heart on the squadron patch.

Handle
  • 1942: used "Hell's Belles" handle.
  • 1948: with "WL" as the tail designator VMF-311 became the "Willy Lovers."
  • 1957: VMF-311 took the handle "Tomcats."

Heritage
  • 01 DEC 1942: Established at Cherry Point, North Carolina, as Marine Fighter Squadron 311 (VMF-311).
  • 01 JUN 1957: Fighter Squadron 311 (VMF-311) was redesignated Marine Attack Squadron-311 (VMA-311).

Home Ports Date - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Location:
  • December 1, 1942 - - - - - Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.
  • March 1945 - - - - - - - - Okinawa, Japan.
  • 1946 - - - - - - - - - - - Yokosuka, Japan.
  • December 1950- - - - - - - Pusan, Korea.
  • 1962 - - - - - - - - - - - Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.
  • June 1, 1965 - - - - - - - Chu Lai, RVN.
  • 196? - - - - - - - - - - - Bien Hoa, RVN.
  • January 29, 1973 - - - - - Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
  • ?- - - - - - - - - - - - - Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.
  • June 1988- - - - - - - - - Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.

Air Wings Date - - - - - - - - - - - - Tail code - - - - - - - Air Wing
  • 1948 - - - - - - - - - - - -WL
  • 1963 - Mar 1965 - - - - - - VL- - - - - - - - MAG 31 MCAS Beaufort, SC
  • Jun 1965 - Mar 1966 - - - - WL/WT - - - - - - MAG 12 MCAS Chulai
  • 1966 - Apr 1967 - - - - - - WL/WT - - - - - - MAG 12 MCAS Chulai
  • 1967 - Jul 1970 - - - - - - WL/WT - - - - - - MAG 12 MCAS Chulai
  • Jul 1970 - May 1971 - - - - WL- - - - - - - - MAG 11 DaNang AB

Deployments Departure and Return Dates: - Air Wing - Aircraft - Area of Operations.
  • October 6, 1943, VMF-311 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Deployed to Samoa Naval Air Station.
  • October 8, 1943 - January 1944 VMF-311 - - - - - - - - -Deployed to Wallis Island (French).
  • March 1945 VMF-311 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Moved to Okinawa.
  • At war's end VMF-311 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Moved to Yokosuka, Japan, as part of the occupational force.
  • December 1950 VMF-311 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Deployed to Pusan, Korea.
  • March 1965 VMA-311 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Deployed to Japan with 20 A-4Es.
  • 1965 - Apr 1967- - - - - - - WL/WT - - A-4E- - MAG 12 - & #160;Chu Lai
  • 1967 - Jul 1970- - - - - - - WL/WT - - A-4E- - MAG 12 - & #160;Chu Lai
  • Jul 1970 - May 1971- - - - - WL- - - - A-4E- - MAG 12 - DaNang AB
  • May 8, 1971 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Deployed to Iwakuni, Japan.
  • 17 May 1972 - 29 Jan 1973- - WL- - - - A-4E- - MAG 12 - Bein Hoa AB
  • January 29, 1973 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Deployed to Iwakuni, Japan.
  • June 1988, VMA-311 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Moved to MCAS Yuma.
  • August 11, 1990 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Deployed to King Abdul Aziz naval air base, Saudi Arabia.


Aircraft Date Type First Received: - Aircraft Type.
Commanding Officers Date Assumed Command: - Commanding Officer.
  • 1 Dec 1942 - 31 Jan 1943 - -Maj Ralph K. Rottet
  • 1 Feb 1943 - 4 Feb 1943- - -2d Lt Harry B. Woodman
  • 5 Feb 1943 - 15 Feb 1943 - -2d Lt Roy A. Neuendorf
  • 16 Feb 1943 - 25 Feb 1943- -2d Lt Michael J. Curran, Jr.
  • 26 Feb 1943 - 31 May 1943- -Capt Jack D. Kane
  • 1 Jun 1943 - 22 Oct 1943 - -Maj Harry B. Hooper, Jr
  • 24 Oct 1943 - 9 Feb 1945 - -Maj Charles M. Kunz
  • 11 Feb 1945 - 14 Jun 1945- -Maj Perry L. Shuman
  • 15 Jun 1945 - 25 May 1946- -Maj Michael R. Yunck
  • 26 May 1946 - 11 Jun 1946- -Maj James C. Otis
  • 12 Jun 1946 - 16 Jul 1946- -Capt James W. Baker
  • 18 Jul 1946 - 21 Oct 1946- -1st Lt Rupert C. Wesley, Jr
  • 22 Oct 1946 - 31 Dec 1946- -Maj Francis F. Pierce, Jr
  • 1 Jan 1947 - 3 Mar 1947 - - Capt Joseph F. Davis
  • 4 Mar 1947 - 29 Apr 1947- - Capt Elswin P. Dunn
  • 30 Apr 1947 - 31 Aug 1947 - Maj Otis V. Calhoun, Jr
  • 1 Sep 1947 - 13 Apr 1948 - -Lt Col Harlan Rogers
  • 14 Apr 1948 - 18 Apr 1948- -Maj Michael R. Yunck
  • 19 Apr 1948 - 10 Jul 1949- -Lt Col John P. Condon
  • 11 Jul 1949 - 26 Jul 1949- -Maj Joseph F. Quilty, Jr
  • 27 Jul 1949 - 13 May 1950- -Lt Col Paul J. Fontana
  • 14 May 1950 - 10 Mar 1951- -Lt Col Neil R. Maclntyre
  • 11 Mar 1951 - 27 Jul 1951- -Lt Col John F. Kinney
  • 28 Jul 1951 - 31 Jul 1951- -Maj Frank S. Hoffecker (Actg.)
  • l Aug 1951 - 30 Nov 1951 - -LtCol James B. Moore
  • 1 Dec 1951 - 26 Feb 1952 - -LtColJohn S. Payne
  • 27 Feb 1952 - 2 Jun 1952 - -Lt Col Darrell D. Irwin
  • 3 Jun 1952 - 9 Jun 1952- - -Maj Henry W. Hise
  • 10 Jun 1952 - 25 Jun 1952- -Maj Kenneth D. Frazier
  • 26 Jun 1952 - 23 Sep 1952- -Lt Col William J. Sims
  • 24 Sep 1952 - 30 Sep 1952 - Maj Walter R. Bartosh
  • 1 Oct 1952 - 31 Jan 1953 - -Lt Col Arthur H. Adams
  • 1 Feb 1953 - 20 Apr 1953 - -Lt Col Francis K. Coss
  • 21 Apr 1953 - 31 May 1953- -Lt Col Arthur M. Moran
  • 1 Jun 1953 - 20 Aug 1953 - -Lt Col Bernard McShane
  • 21 Aug 1953 - 28 Feb 1954- -Lt Col Martin E.W. Oelrich
  • 1 Mar 1954 - 20 Jun 1954 - -Lt Col Edward K. Peciersen
  • 21 Jun 1954 - 25 Nov 1954- -Lt Col Michael R. Yunck
  • 26 Nov 1954 - 20 Jun 1955- -Maj Manning T. Jannell
  • 21 Jun 1955 - 5 Jun 1956 - -Lt Col James E. Johnson
  • 6 Jun 1956 - 11 May 1957 - -Lt Col Harold L. Lantz
  • 12 May 1957 - 24 Jun 1957- -Lt Col Murray M. Staples
  • 25 Jun 1957 - 7 Aug 1958 - -Lt Col Robert E. Smith, Jr.
  • 8 Aug 1958 - 8 Jul 1959- - -Maj/Lt Col David D. Rickabaugh
  • 9 Jul 1959 - 20 Jan 1960 - -Lt Col Paul A. Lemarie, Jr
  • 21 Jan 1960 - 29 Mar 1962- -Lt Col Ray D. Rushtow
  • 30 Mar 1962 - 8 Jul 1963 - -Lt Col Harry Hunter, Jr
  • 9 Jul 1963 - 16 Apr 1964 - -Lt Col William L. Walker
  • 17 Apr 1964 - 25 Nov 1965- -Lt Col Bernard J. Stender
  • 26 Nov 1965 - 20 May 1966- -Lt Col Jack W. Harris
  • 21 May 1966 - 5 Dec 1966 - -Lt Col Paul G. McMahon
  • 6 Dec 1966 - 7 Jun 1967- - -Lt Col Roger A. Morris
  • 8 Jun 1967 - 25 Aug 1967 - -Maj Eugene Lichtenwatter
  • 26 Aug 1967 - 21 5tp 1967- -Lt Col EdgarK. Jacks
  • 22 Sep 1967 - 10 Mar 1968- -Lt Col Richard B. Taber
  • 11 Mar 1968 - 24 Sep 196S- -Lt Cot Norman B. McCrary
  • 25 Sep 1968 - 30 Apr 1969- -Lt Col Charles 0. Hiett
  • 1 May 1969 - 24 Nov 1969 - -Lt Col David A. Kelly, USMC
  • 25 Nov 1969 - 31 May 1970- -Lieutenant Colonel A. R. Hickle, USMC
  • 1 Jun 1970 - 10 Oct 1970 - -Lt Col James M. Bannan
  • 11 Oct 1970 - 24 Jun 1971- -Lt Col Jerome T. Hagan
  • 30 Jun 1971 - 13 Mar 1972- -Lt Col Karlton L. Batt
  • 14 Mar 1972 - 6 Sep 1972 - -Lt Col Kevin M. Johnston
  • 7 Sep 1972 - 12 Jul 1973 - -Lt Col J. J. Caldas, Jr., USMC
  • 13 Jul 1973 - 5 Jun 1974 - -Lt Col John H. Miller
  • 6 Jun 1974 - 31 Aug 1974 - -Lt Col Ralph K. Park
  • 1 Sep 1974 - 20 Jun 1975 - -Lt Col Bruce B. Rutherford
  • 21 Jun 1975 - 4 Feb 1977 - -Lt Col Dorsie D. Page, Jr
  • 5 Feb 1977 - ?? ??? ???? - -Lt Col Albert J. Ransom
  • ? Nov 1985 - ? Jun 1988 - -Lt Col Greg Sloan (Last CO while operating A-4s)

Events
  • December 1, 1942:
    VMA-311 was commissioned as a fighter squadron (VMF) at Cherry Point, North Carolina, one year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The squadron, utilizing twelve SNJ Texan trainers, was charged with readying pilots for combat and emphasized fighter tactics, gunnery and night flying. This vital Replacement Training function deterred VMF-311 from entering World War II until 1943.

  • April 3, 1943:
    VMF-311 was relocated to Parris Island, South Carolina, and received the F4U-1 Vought Corsair as replacement aircraft. The Hells Belles then deployed to Miramar, California, prior to entering the Pacific Theater.

  • October 8, 1943:
    VMF-311 arrived at the Wallis Island area in the Pacific via the carrier USS Nassau; and catapulted from the Nassau to their base ashore at Samoa Naval Air Station.

  • March 23, 1944:
    The squadron moved to Kwajalein Island and flew its first combat missions on the arrival day. That day, VMF-311 aircraft attacked the islands of Wotje, Emidj and others within the Marshall Island area. Thus the Hells Belles became the first Marine squadron to utilize fighter aircraft for dive bombing missions and logged over 4,000 hours against Japanese forces in the Pacific. VMF-311's 1943 mission during the campaign across the Pacific, was to isolate Japanese forces on bypassed islands, deny their escape and prevent their use of airstrips.

  • From 1943 to March 1945:
    Following a short sea deployment aboard the carriers USS BRENTON and USS SITKOH BAY, the squadron moved to Yantan Airfield, Okinawa. While there, VMF-311 led its parent organization, Marine Aircraft Group 31, in enemy aircraft kills with seventy-one. Majors Perry L. SHUMAN and Michael R. YUNCK became aces with six and five enemy aircraft destroyed respectively.

  • April 7, 1945
    VMF-311 defending the fleet against Kamikaze attack with combat air patrols (CAP), downed its first aircraft. The CAP was the predominant mission until World War II ended.

  • 1945:
    Following World War II, VMF-311 was assigned to the Far East Air Force Command and flew reconnaissance missions in the Tokyo Bay area. It was then moved to Tsingtow, China.

  • June 1946:
    VMF-311 returned to the United States and after another short stay at Miramar, settled down at Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, California. The squadron was deactivated during July 1946 but quickly reactivated in November 1946.

  • April, 1948:
    The "Tomcats" received the first jet aircraft to be introduced to Marine Aviation. These came in the form of sixteen TO-1's, better known as the P-80 "Shooting-Star".

  • September 1949:
    The TO-1 "Shooting-Star" was followed by the F9F-2 Grumman Panther.

  • April, 1949:
    VMF-311 deployed overseas again to combat in the Korean conflict.

  • December 12, 1950:
    VMF-311 flew the first Marine jet combat mission from K-9 Airfield at Pusan. The squadron later moved to more permanent airfield facilities at K-3, an old Japanese airstrip at Pohang, and compiled a total of 18,851 combat missions by the end of hostilities.
    The "Willie Lovers" provided close air support for the Army at the Chosin Reservoir.
    Captains Ted Williams and John Glenn flew with VMA-311 while in Korea.

  • June 1951:
    During June VMF-311 flew 2,300 combat missions, a record unequalled by any other fighter squadron since that time. "Tomcat" pilots during this period included such famous Americans as Captains Ted WILLIAMS of baseball fame and John GLENN, later to become one of our nations first astronauts.

  • June 1954:
    The squadron took first place in the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing gunnery meet held in Korea.

  • April 27, 1955:
    The "Tomcats" left Korea for El Toro, California. In their initial year at El Toro, the squadron took first place in 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing flight time with 10,266 hours. They later took first place in the rocket phase of the 3rd MAW gunnery meet, and also won the Pacific Flight Safety Award.

  • 1957:
    VMF-311 won the "Attack Trophy" in 1957. It also received the first F9F-8 Grumman Cougar jets in Marine aviation during February of that year.

  • 1958:
    VMF-311 was redesignated as a Marine attack squadron (VMA) and became the first West Coast Marine squadron to receive the A4D2 (A-4B) Douglas Skyhawk. During the same year, the squadron again took the 3rd MAW Rocket trophy, was the first squadron to qualify all pilots in air-to-air refueling, and won the coveted Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award.

  • May 3, 1960:
    1st Lt Neal C. Dadurka was pulled from his burning A4D-2 BuNo 142947. He died in the base hospital May 5, 1960. His Skyhawk landed short of a civilian airport near Lake Elsinore runway after engine failure
    Redlands, CA Daily Facts article

  • June 25, 1964:
    Capt. Phillip C. Light safely ejected from his flaming A-4E BuNo 150099, near Twenty Nine Palms and was picked up within minutes by a Marine Corps helicopter.
    Long Beach, CA, Independent, Friday, June 26, 1964.

  • November 3, 1964:
    USMC Reserve Capt. Philip C. Light ejected successfully from his A-4E BuNo 150108 before it crashed and burned approximately 73 miles east of Yuma.
    Yuma, AZ The Yuma Daily Sun article

  • March 1965:
    In March of 1965, VMA-311 was the first squadron to flight ferry the newer A-4E Douglas Skyhawks across the Pacific to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.

  • May 11, 1965:
    VMA-311 received orders to deploy 8 A-4Es to the advanced Marine expeditionary airfield at Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam. The "Tomcats" arrived at Chu Lai on 1 June 1965 and commenced combat missions against Communist forces that same afternoon utilizing jet assisted takeoffs (JATO) and M-2 arresting gear for landings. This Marine Corps short airfield for tactical support (SATS) consisted of 3,600 feet of aluminum matting and two sets of arresting gear. It was the first such installation ever utilized by any U.S. military forces in combat.

  • October 7, 1965:
    1st Lt. Monty Doyel (Doyle?) ejected safely from A-4E BuNo 151192 after he went off the Chu Lai runway, plowed through the dirt hitting the Morest engine and shearing both mains off and rupturing the wing fuel cell, clipped off parts of the crash truck and ripped a drop tank to pieces before becoming airborne because of mismatched JATO bottles (one A-4 15 degree and one KC-130 30 degree.) He ejected over the bay when the helo arrived on station after which his Skyhawk flew about aimlessly for 12-15 minutes putting on a dangerous airshow over the beach before crashing into the South China Sea despite Maj. Speed Shea’s attempt to shoot it down.
    From Col. J.T. “Birdie” Birdwell and Col. "Speed" Shea.
    A portion of the article written by Birdie follows:
    ... When the bottles were fired during the takeoff roll, a sideways moment was created, sending 1st Lt. Dick Jarrell’s aircraft almost completely off the runway before getting airborne. The pilot radioed the tower and told them that something was terribly wrong, but the word never got passed to the squadrons. Later that evening when it was completely dark, 1st Lt. Monty Doyel had the same thing happen; but that time, the aircraft did go off the runway, plowed through the dirt, hit the landing mirror, clipped off parts of the crash truck and ripped a drop tank to pieces, miraculously becoming airborne while dripping fuel all over the area. The difference in the two takeoffs was literally night and day – the pilot during the day could see and “caught” the relative motion. The pilot at night couldn’t see, and therefore could not react fast enough. After flying around for 15 minutes and almost running out of JP, Lt Doyel was told he had to eject. His words were a discouraged, almost tearful, “Oh no!” He ejected in the dark at sea and was picked up by a helicopter. (The aircraft engine was left running at idle, because there had been a case in which an ejection seat had not fired and a power-on controlled crash landing is a better alternative than an uncontrolled one without an engine.) After his ejection, the Skyhawk continued to fly around aimlessly, and it was quite a dangerous air show for those watching from the beach at Chu Lai. The airplane had everyone looking up and ducking. Maj. Speed Shea was airborne at the time and attempted to no avail to shoot the meandering plane down. The A-4 flew for 12-15 minutes after the ejection, eventually running out of fuel (or stalling) before it crashed in the South China Sea. Needless to say, flight operations ceased that evening until the problem with JATO bottles was figured out.

  • October 28, 1965:
    A-4C BuNo 148595 was destroyed in a Viet Cong raid on Chu Lai.
    Four A-4Cs assigned to VMA-224 and one A-4C assigned to VMA-214 were damaged
    A-4C BuNo 148550 assigned to VMA-225 was heavily damaged and initially listed as destroyed, but was shipped to NAS Atsugi, Japan in 1967 and was rebuilt.
    Morgantown, WV The Morgantown Post article
    US Armed Forces Stars and Stripes article

  • 1965 - 1968:
    VMA-311 deployed twice to Iwakuni during the ensuing two years for short reforming and training cycles. While in Japan, VMA-311 retained its combat capability to support Marine contingency commitments outside of Vietnam.

  • 09 MAR 1966:
    1LT Augusto Xavier, flying an A-4C SKYHAWK from VMA-311, was killed while flying close air support for the A Shau Special Forces Camp. His body has never been recovered. Lieutenant Xavier was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

  • September 16, 1966:
    MAG-12 WL-?? - A-4E BuNo 152020 contacted trees - 1Lt. Thomas Howard Hawking ejected. During a Huey rescue attempt, Hawking slipped from a make-shift sling and perished
    Madison, WI The Capatol Times article

  • July 6, 1967:
    MAG-12 CF ?? - A-4E BuNo 151032 was lost to SAM @2220 Hrs. Maj. Ralph E. Brubaker suffered a dislocated hip but was rescued
    Danville, VA The Register article

  • March 24, 1968
    Capt. Charles W. Porterfield was on a Hot Pad Launch when his aircraft went out of control during takeoff. His A-4E BuNo 152068 veered off the runway and exploded. Even though he ejected, he did not survive the accident.

  • May 5 through 8, 1968:
    VMA-311 flew 240 sorties from Chu Lai, RVN.

  • From May through September 1968:
    The Tomcats had flown 25,000 combat sorties and flown the most combat sorties of any fixed wing squadron in a single conflict of war.

  • August 15, 1969:
    SSGT Boyd L. Whitted, VMA-311 was killed in ground accident.

  • October 17, 1969:
    1st Lt. T.W. Howick was on a CAS mission in A-4E BuNo 150107 with 6 MK82 when he aborted his take off and crashed. He was medically evacuated out of country.

  • December 6, 1969:
    1stLt. Richard Vogelpohl was uninjured when A-4E BuNo 150080 was lost when it blew a tire during takeoff roll.

  • 11 APR 1970:
    1 Lt. Jan H Nelson was killed flying BuNo 152099 near Da Nang most likely due to ground fire.

  • May, 1970:
    In May, the Tomcats logged its 40,000th combat mission in Vietnam, more than any other Marine jet squadron in country. As of 1 June 1970, VMA-311 had dropped more than 75,000 tons of ordnance on the enemy in support of Free World forces in Southeast Asia. The squadron's outstanding safety record was highlighted during October 1969 when it again was awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award for fiscal year 1969 for flying 10,020 consecutive accident-free combat missions.

  • Sept 1, 1970:
    While flying A-4E BuNo 150028, 1st Lt. John David Lawson - KIA. According to Swiss photographer Giancarlo Meyer ... the jet screamed in and there was a deafening explosion. A huge orange and black fireball shot more than 100 feet into the air and pieces of metal flew in all directions. The fully loaded A4 Skyhawk on its first run, had smashed into the hillside killing the pilot instantly.
    Eureka, CA The Times Standard article

  • Sept 11, 1970:
    1Lt. Bernard Herbert Plassmeyer was lost to ground fire while flying BuNo.151165.

  • November 3, 1971:
    An unidentified pilot ejected safely when his A-4E BuNo 151176 crashed in the ocean 15 miles northwest of Naha AB, Okinawa.
    US Armed Forces Pacific Stars and Stripes article

  • January 29, 1973
    VMA-311 left Vietnam having flown a total of 54,625 combat sorties and dropped 105,000 tons of ordnance during the conflict.

    May 6, 1973
    Masaaki Hayakawa

  • March 26, 1973:
    An unidentified pilot escaped injury when his A-4E BuNo 151999 crashed and overturned while landing at Iwakuni.
    US Armed Forces Pacific Stars and Stripes article

  • March 8, 1974:
    Lt. Mike Tenketh ejected safely when his A-4E BuNo 150070 crashed in the sea four miles west of Naha, Japan while on a routine training flight.
    US Armed Forces Pacific Stars and Stripes article

  • July 7 1980:
    1st Lt. Mark Brown ejected safely from his A-4M Skyhawk BuNo 158418 after an in-flight fire while he was on a routine training flight.

  • May 10, 1982:
    Maj. R. L. Barton, during recovery from strafe run at Twenty Nine Palms in A-4M BuNo 160038, experienced loss of power and ejected after unsuccessful attempts to regain power. The A-4M crashed 40 miles east of Barstow. CA.

  • June 13, 1984
    Capt. Leon Doerner ejected with minor injuries, before his aircraft crashed into the Pacific Ocean 10 miles south of San Clemente Island while on a night a training mission.
    The Orange County Register, Friday, June 15, 1984.

  • May 30, 1986
    Capt. Lionel J. Rotelli Jr. in A-4M BuNo 160033 collided with VMA-211 A-4M BuNo 158158 flown by Capt. Steven N. Bixler during in-flight refueling - Both pilots ejected in Pisgah Crate, NE of Ludlow, CA.
    Santa Ana, CA(?) The Orange County Register article

  • January 17, 1990
    The Tomcats were the first Marine squadron to employ the AV-8B Harrier in combat, striking Iraqi positions in southern Kuwait in preparation for the coalition ground offensive.

  • 1990
    During the Persian Gulf War, VMA-311 flew 1,017 combat sorties and dropping 8,000 tons of ordnance on enemy targets.

  • April 9, 1992
    The Tomcats received their first Night Attack AV-8B and VMA-311 was formally assigned as a night attack squadron.

Awards
  • Award - - - - - - - - - Inclusive Dates:
  • 1988 VMA-311 was presented the Lawson H. M. Sanderson Award, qualifying the squadron as the Marine Attack Squadron of the Year.
  • April 1991, VMA-311 was awarded the MCAA's Attack Squadron of the Year.

Photographs


1960: Tomcats Skyhawk BuNo 142943, WL-3, parked on the ramp with 4,500 lbs of high explosive bombs, as six 250 lb bombs are on each of the three MBERs
Naval Aviation News photo

1960: BuNo 142943, WL-3, in-flight with 4,500 lbs of high explosive bombs, as six 250 lb bombs are on each of the three MBERs.
Naval Aviation News photo

VMA-311 taken at NAF China Lake, dated 15 April 1960.

27 JUN 1960:
VMA-311 Tomcats A4D-2 Skyhawk BuNo 142943
, WL-3, MCBR with MK-81's & pilot Bill Fitch.
photo courtesy of LtGEN Bill Fitch.

date unknown:
left side view of VMA-311 Tomcats A-4M Skyhawk BuNo 158193
, WL-00, taxiing in a lo-vis grey scheme.
photo from W. Munzenmaier.

date unknown:
left side view of VMA-311 Tomcats A-4M Skyhawk BuNo 158423
, WL-15, on the taxiway in a lo-vis grey scheme.
photo from W. Munzenmaier.

1963: side in-flight view of Tomcats Skyhawk formation. Top to bottom: BuNo 150029, WL-3, BuNo 150053, WL-6, BuNo 150054, WL-7 and BuNo 150057, WL-9.
Douglas Aircraft

1963-64: Tomcats Skyhawk BuNo 150046, WL-4, parked on the ramp next to an Air Force THUD.
Unknown photographer via W. Mutza

1966 Chu Lai: remains of Tomcats (MAG-12) Skyhawk BuNo 148550 (SOC 28 OCT '65) in the Chu Lai boneyard. The other two Skyhawks are most likely VMA-311 BuNo 147808 (SOC 05 May '66) & VMA-311 BuNo 148595 (SOC Oct '65).
David Prendergast

DEC 1966: Tomcats Skyhawk BuNo 150046, WL-4, awaits repairs from 37mm AAA damage.
Charles Burin

1966: right side view as Tomcat Skyhawk BuNo 150057, WL-9, launches from the MEU land based catapult at Chu Lai for the 1st time in the history of Marine Corp Aviation. Power for the cat was supplied by two J-79 engines.
Naval Aviation News photo

1967:
VMA-311 Chu Lai pictures
Alan Dahi

1967:
BuNo 150053, WL2, and 151140 on the flight line in Chu Lai.
BuNo 152056 WL1 at Chu Lai RVN with MAG-12.
Photos from Alan Dahi

Circa 1967-68:
VMA-311 A-4E BuNo 151038, WL-11, in the foreground & BuNo 151148, WL-5,
in the lead. The A-6 and the other A-4 are unknown.
U.S.M.C. photo.

1968: VMA-311 A-4 with 4 750# bombs with "daisy cutter" fuses, for "troops in the open" Taken at Chu Lai VN.
Douglas Walton

NOV 1968: left side view of USMC Skyhawk BuNo 145119 assigned to Lt.Col. Erin D. Smith parked on the ramp next to a Skywarrior.
Nick Williams

Chu Lai
Looking North at Chu Lai, Vietnam before March 21, 1969. The dual 10,000 foot runways running North / South are visable on picture's west side. The barracks are located along the beach near the top of the picture. Next to the barracks are two small runways used by a Navy OV-10 squadron and an Army helicoper squadron. The Americal Division starts near the top of the picture. Vietnam Highway 1 is to the left of the long runways.
United States Marine Corps photograph from Dave Seaney

Chu Lai - 1969:
Fiscal Year 1969 Accident Free Champs. VMA-311 flew 10,020 missions in 11,267 hours in FY-1969 without an accident while flying in Vietnam. This accomplishment was the result of a well trained and diligent team. Colonel Kelly is centered on the words VMA-311 just behind the sign and Major Melville is third from the fuel probe end, front row (hands touching cement). So, who are the rest of these guys?
United States Marine Corps photograph from Robert H. Melville, Jr.

A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 151046 --- July 15, 1969
VMA-311 "Tomcat" A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 151046 side number WL 15 approaching for landing at Naval Air Station Atsugi, Japan.
Color photograph by and courtesy of Takafumi Hiroe of Yokohama, Japan.

A MAG-12 Tomcats Skyhawk taxies at Chu Lai, So. Vietnam.
F. Nunez.

In 1969:
Major Robert H. Melville Sr. was flying a duty test hop in a Tomcat A-4E Scooter. Experiencing cockpit pressurization difficulties Bob descended to a low altitude on his way back to Chu Lai. Major Melville felt he was flying over an area that was free of Slope heavy weapons. Alas, he managed to find a Soviet 23 mm anti-aircraft site while trolling through the weeds. Bob was unscathed even though the hits were in close proximity to the cockpit.
Top view of Major Melville's stitched A-4E, looking aft from the cockpit toward the tail.
Top close up view of Major Melville's wounded A-4E, looking forward toward the cockpit. Notice the fuel tank filler cap and the close proximity of the fuel tank to the shell holes under the missing cockpit fairing.
The inspection cover is blown away displaying some of the twisted rubble. Notice the shell holes stitching the top of the port air intake area.
The next day aerial recon found a well concealed 23 mm AA unit in a nearby area. Immediately thereafter, Bob and three other Marine Tomcat Skyhawks launched with napalm and attacked the AAA site. A later check of the AAA site displayed no signs of activity and the mission was judged "well done."
United States Marine Corps photographs from Robert H. Melville, Jr.

Major J. L. McManaway, USMC - 1969
has been mentioned in several Faulklands War books. The Major was enlisted by the Brits to provide counter A-4 information during the war.
United States Marine Corps photograph from Dave Seaney

VMA-311 A-4E at Chu Lai - 1969.
A Tomcat A-4E with a combat load leaves the pits for a mission. Note the port oleo is slightly low and needs servicing.
United States Marine Corps photograph from Dave Seaney

VMA-311 A-4E BuNo. 151078 at Chu Lai - 1969.
A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 151078 side number WL 6 is pictured taking off from Chu Lai on a gift run to "dem Cong".
United States Marine Corps photograph from Dave Seaney

BuNo 151036, WL-22, with a centerline refueling package as she taxies by the photographer.
Unknown photographer via W. Mutza

1969: BuNo 150105, WL-19, parked on the ramp. At left is Tomcats BuNo 151050, WL-2.
Weldon Dunlap

1969: BuNo 151050, WL-2, assigned to MAJ Jim McManaway parked on the ramp.
Weldon Dunlap

1969: Skyhawk BuNo 151050, WL-2, assigned to MAJ Jim McManaway parked on the ramp behind BuNo 150105.
Weldon Dunlap

VMA-311 A-4E at Chu Lai - 1970.
A-4E Skyhawk side number 18 is pictured loaded with snake & nape on the Chu Lai hotpad - ready to launch! Right after this picture was snapped, second hotpad aircraft were scrambled to provide cover for a recon team in trouble in the bush.
Photograph by and from Steve Kent

A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 150111
A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 150111 side number WL-3 starts its takeoff roll loaded with bombs and stuff that goes BANG!!!
Photograph by Harry S. Gann and photo scan by Fred Lewis

JULY 1970: BuNo 150085, WL-16, assigned to LT Steve Sanford parked on the ramp with napalm ordnance on the four wing pylons.
Weldon Dunlap

BuNo 150107, WL-18, as she taxies by the photographer.
Unknown photographer via W. Mutza

  JULY 1970: Tomcats Skyhawk BuNo 151165, WL-5, assigned to CAPT Fred Palka parked on the ramp.
Weldon Dunlap

  Tomcats Skyhawk BuNo 151124, WL-9, as she taxies by the photographer with a centerline tank, MBER's with Snakeyes on the inboard wing pylons and napalm on the outboard pylons.
Unknown photographer via W. Mutza

A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 151046 - a year later --- 1970.
"Tomcat" A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 151046 side number WL 15 flying wing on an Airforce A-1H Skyraider (SPAD). Picture taken in 1970 near Da Nang RVN. Please note the Skyhawk slats are partially open -- he's going very slow -- and the angle of incidence on the SPADs wing indicates he's going balls to the wall.
Photograph by Tom Stump USAF SPAD pilot.

VMA-311 A-4E BuNo. 151176 at Da Nang - 1970.
A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 151176 side number WL 1 is pictured in 1970 parked and bombed-up near the Da Nang bunker sheds.
United States Marine Corps photograph from Dave Seaney

A USO Princess Visits the Da Nang Tomcats --- November 1970.
This photo op was probably just for the pretty visitor! Officers and men gather around a USO performer visiting the squadron. Do you know any of these guys?
United States Marine Corps photograph from Steve Kent.

01 March 1971 installation of TDS on an unknown Tomcat Skyhawk.
U.S. Navy Photo.

01 March 1971 installation of TDS on an unknown Tomcat Skyhawk.
U.S. Navy Photo.

01 March 1971 installation of TDS on an unknown Tomcat Skyhawk.
U.S. Navy Photo.

01 March 1971 installation of TDS on an unknown Tomcat Skyhawk.
U.S. Navy Photo.

MAY 1971: Tomcats Skyhawk BuNo 158171, WL-18, manned and ready for taxi.
Nick Williams

Tomcat A-4E on the USS Hornet.
Tomcat A-4E Skyhawks launching from the United States Ship Hornet about 1971.
Photograph from Harry S. Gann

C.O.'s Skyhawk BuNo.151176 --- 1971.
This picture was taken at Bien Hoa, Vietnam before June 1971. TopCat One (probably A-4E BuNo. 151176) is ready for some nasty business. Lieutenant Colonel Bannan, USMC was in command.
Photograph courtesy of Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Dugan (GSE)

Tomcats Return to Lair --- May 17, 1971.
The VMA-311 Tomcats departed DaNang, Vietnam on May 17, 1971 and flew to Naha, Okinawa. After refueling the twenty Tomcat Skyhawk flew home to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. Masaaki Hayakawa was waiting near the runway to take this picture showing the twenty Tomcats in formation approaching the break. The Squadron broke in four plane units, with tight downwind interval to landing.
Masaaki Hayakawa

Topcat One's Return to Lair --- May 17, 1971.
After the break in the above picture Lieutenant Colonel Bannan, Topcat One, in A-4E BuNo. 151176, side number WL 1 approaches touchdown at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, May 17, 1971.
Photograph by Masaaki Hayakawa.

JUN 1972: L to R: VMA-211 CF-03, 211 CF-20, 211 CF-xx and VMA-311 WL-xx. All loaded with ordinance and taxing out.
Donald M. Conner

JUN 1972: VMA-311 BuNo 152070 WL-04 taxing out loaded with ordinance.
Donald M. Conner

THE LAST BOMB - January 27, 1973.
Colonel John Caldas, Commanding Officer of VMA 311, just before he led the last combat sortie of the Viet Nam war on January 27, 1973 --- armistice day from Bien Hoa. The bomb rack was configured such that the painted bomb in the picture was the last one released from the compliment on the A-4E Skyhawk; and the Skyhawk was the last plane in his flight to drop bombs just minutes before the U.S. agreed to end hostilities around 11:45 local RVN time. The target was an old, former French rubber plantation north of Bien Hoa where there was reported enemy activity. The bomb painted by troops in the squadron says: THE LAST BOMB, 9,738.38 tons dropped VMA-311, Bien Hoa, RVN 17 May 72 - 27 Jan 73.
Photograph from Steve Caldas

Sept 1974 BuNo 158168, WL-15, parked on the ramp.
Gary Verver Collection

Apr 1975 BuNo 158169, WL-16, parked on the ramp.
Gary Verver Collection

BuNo.158194 parked on the ramp with a centerline fuel tank and wing mounted MBERs.
Gary Verver Collection

AUG 1976: BuNo 158413, WL-02, assigned to Major Jefferson, parked on the flight line.
Rob Mignard

  AUG 1976: BuNo 159480, WL-01, assigned to LCOL Page, parked on the line next to BuNo 158413, WL-02.
Rob Mignard

BuNo 160029, WL-10, parked on the ramp. Unknown Tomcats A-4M in the background.
Unknown photographer via W. Mutza

  07 MAY 1978: Tomcats Skyhawk BuNo 158169, WL-16, parked on the ramp with a load of Snakeyes.
Ben Knowles

02 Sept 1978 BuNo 158413, WL-02, parked on the flight line.
Gary Verver Collection

BuNo.154973 of VMA-311 in Japan, Oct. 1978.
Photo by Isamu Yatsuhashi and courtesy of Masaaki Hayakawa.

BuNo.154973 of VMA-311 in Japan, Oct. 1978 with "VAQ" insignia.
Photo by Isamu Yatsuhashi and courtesy of Masaaki Hayakawa.

A-4M Skyhawk BuNo. 159473 --- October 8, 1978.
Tomcat WL 460 on static display at a Naval Air Station Atsugi, Japan, open house, October 8, 1978.
Color photograph by and courtesy of Takafumi Hiroe of Yokohama, Japan.

Date unknown:
VMA-311 A-4M BuNo 158173,
WL-17. Name below the canopy is LT "Mouth" Rogers.
Photo came from Jarvis.

08 OCT 1978:
VMA-311 A-4M BuNo 159473, WL-460,
08 OCT 1978 at Misawa.
Photographer unknown from Verver collection.

OCT 1979:
VMA-311 158428,
location unknown.
Photo by Werner Hartman.

1980: BuNo 158194, WL-01, parked on the line and painted in the lo-vis gray scheme.
Unknown photographer via W. Mutza

May 1980 BuNo 159477, WP-23, parked on the ramp with underwing drop tanks and a centerline MBER.
Gary Verver Collection

May 1980 BuNo 159473, WL-11, parked on the ramp with the hook down.
Gary Verver Collection

JULY 1980: Skyhawk line, l-r: BuNo 159780, WL-04; BuNo unknown, WL-12; BuNo 159477, WL-23; BuNo 158416, WL-22; and BuNo 158428, WL-07.
Dave Steinbacker

Oct 1980 BuNo 159780, WL-04, parked on the flight line with a pair of drop tanks.
Gary Verver Collection

Oct 1980 BuNo 160038, WL-02, parked on the ramp.
Gary Verver Collection

BuNo 160032, WL-12 parked on the ramp.

OCT 1980:
VMA-311 160032 parked on the ramp next to WL-02 (possible Yuma). Photographer unknown.

NOV 1980:
VMA-311 159780
parked on the ramp next to 158427 (WL-13). Name below the canopy is Major R.W. Hensley.
Photographer & location unknown.

Nov 1980 left front view of Tomcats Skyhawk BuNo 158194, WL-01, parked on the flight line.
Gary Verver Collection

Nov 1980 Tomcats Skyhawk BuNo 160032, WL-06, and ground crew.
Gary Verver Collection

Nov 1980 SkyhawkBuNo 158158, WL-08, parked on the ramp in a gray on gray camouflage paint scheme.
Gary Verver Collection

Nov 1980 BuNo 158416, WL-22, parked on the flight line with a pair of drop tanks.
Gary Verver Collection

Nov 1980 BuNo 160029, WL-10, parked on the ramp while being attended to by the maintance crew.
Gary Verver Collection

Nov 1980 BuNo 160031, parked on the ramp with a centerline tank.
Gary Verver Collection

Nov 1980 BuNo 160035, WL-00, parked on the ramp with a centerline tank.
Gary Verver Collection

Nov 1980 BuNo 160038, WL-02, parked on the ramp with a pair of drop tanks.
Gary Verver Collection

Nov 1980 BuNo 158427, WL-13, parked on the flight line.
Gary Verver Collection

Mar 1981 BuNo 160028, WL-10, parked on the ramp.
Gary Verver Collection

14 MAR 1981:
VMA-311 160030
taxiing with 160038 (WL-02), location Hill AFB, UT.
Photo by Joe Cupido.

11 JUL 1981:
VMA-311 A-4M BuNo 158416,
WL-22, 11 JUL 1981 at Davis-Monthan.
Photo by M. Campbell from Verver collection.

05 DEC 1981:
VMA-311 160029 taxiing,
location unknown.
Copyright photo by Joe Cupido.

17 Jan 1982 BuNo 158416, WL-22, as she taxies.
Photo by Joe Cupido, G. Verver collection

17 JAN 1982:
VMA-311 158416 (WL-22) take-off
with 158166 (WL-12) at Hill AFB, UT.
Copyright photo by Joe Cupido.

12 FEB 1982:
VMA-311 160022
taxiing at Hill AFB.
Copyright Joe Cupido.

12 FEB 1982:
VMA-311 160029
taxiing at Hill AFB.
Copyright Joe Cupido.

13 FEB 1982:
VMA-311 160032
taxiing at Hill AFB.
Copyright Joe Cupido.

FEB 1983:
VMA-311 159780
parked on the ramp.
Photographer & location unknown.

Feb 1982 BuNo 160035, WL-00, parked on the ramp.
Gary Verver Collection

01 March 1982 Tomcats Skyhawk BuNo 158168, parked on the flight line.
Ted Paskowski, G. Verver collection.

APR 1982: Tomcats Skyhawk BuNo 158196 as she taxies by the photographer.
Dr. C.A. "Sketch" Eddy

03 APR 1982:
Two A-4 Skyhawk aircraft take off simultaneously
during a training exercise. They are VMA-311 Tomcats A-4M BuNo 160022, WL-21, and A-4M BuNo 160029, WL-10.
Photo by Sgt. Bob Cordes.

Circa 1983:
BuNo 158419 WL-05
in formation with 154973, WL-11 and 160022 WL-000.
U.S. Navy from Gary Verver

VMA-311 Tanking during TransPac.
Willam H. "Blacky" Blackburn

Loaded with bombs and rockets.
Pic 1
Pic 2
Photos Willam H. "Blacky" Blackburn

Bombs and Flares!
Bombs on Station 2, mirror check.
VMA-311 A-4M.
Bombs and Flares.
Photos Willam H. "Blacky" Blackburn

158565
158165
Photos Willam H. "Blacky" Blackburn

VMA-311 WL-14 (158191) and WL-17 (160040) with "Psycho" in the cockpit. Pic 1
Pic 2
Photos Willam H. "Blacky" Blackburn

VMA-311 WL-14 (158191) and WL-17 (160040) with "Psycho" in the cockpit with Mount Ranier in the background. Pic 1
Pic 2
Photos Willam H. "Blacky" Blackburn

VMA-311 WL-14 (158191) and WL-17 (160040) with "Psycho" in the cockpit with Mount St. Helen in the background. Pic 1
Pic 2
Pic 3
Pic 4
Photos Willam H. "Blacky" Blackburn

BuNo 159493 VMA-311 WL-05 with bombs (MK82) and rockets.
Photos Willam H. "Blacky" Blackburn

VMA-311 WL-09, BuNo159784, over NorthWest U.S.
Photos Willam H. "Blacky" Blackburn

VMAT-311 WL-00, BuNo 160031, over Death Valley.
Photos Willam H. "Blacky" Blackburn

VMA-311 BuNo 160040, WL-17, over the NorthWest U.S.
Photos Willam H. "Blacky" Blackburn

1983 - 1988
Tomcat WL-03 on the ramp.
Tomcat WL-03 on the ramp undergoing maintenance.
Tomcat watching over his domain. BuNo 159786, WL-18.
WL-18 under tow, BuNo 159786.
Tomcats do not like water, but this one is at the wash rack. WL-11, BuNo 160035, getting a scrub down.
BuNo 160040, Tomcat WL-17 on the ramp.
Tomcat WL-14 preparing to taxi.
Tomcat WL-01 preparing to taxi.
Tomcat driver buckling in.
Tomcat WL-12 sits idle as a plane captain taxies out another.
Tomcat driver going through pre-flight checks.
Keith Guinn

Circa 1985:
VMA-311 Tomcat WL-04 on the ramp.
Keith Guinn

A-4M Skyhawk BuNo. 158177 resting in the Arizona sunshine.
Photo by Roxann Hays

08 April 1984 BuNo 159478, WL-06, parked on the ramp.
Ted Paskowski, G. Verver collection.

28 MAY 1984:
VMA-311 A-4M BuNo 159784, WL-09, 28 MAY 1984 at Luke AFB.

Photo by Brian Baker from Verver collection.

20 JUL 1986:
VMA-311 A-4M BuNo 160031, WL-00, 20 July 1986.
W. Munzenmaier photo.

Jun 1987 BuNo 159477, WL-02, parked on the ramp with a centerline tank.
Photo by J. Wegg, G. Verver collection


Sources:
  • Steve Caldas
  • Daniel Dugan
  • Harry S. Gann
  • Masaaki Hayakawa
  • Takafumi Hiroe
  • Steve Kent
  • Jimmie R. Little
  • Sam Melville
  • Durwood Kirby Schnell
  • Dave Seaney
  • Tom Stump
  • Isamu Yatsuhashi
  • John Gabbard
  • Greg Sloan, LT.COL USMC (Ret)


This page is dedicated posthumously to
Lieutenant Jan H. Nelson, USMC
a VMA-311 Tomcat

Photo courtesy of Dave Seaney

Lieutenant Jan H. Nelson, USMC was killed April 11, 1970 while flying from the Marine facility at Chu Lai, Vietnam.
The loss was mostly likely caused by ground fire during his bomb run.



page | by Dr. Radut