In 53 years of service, the "Death Angels" of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 235 have served their country and Corps well. In hot and cold wars, the Marines of squadron 235 have lived up to their grim motto "Ride Nunc."

Commissioned on 1 January 1943 at Marine Corps Air Station, El Centro, California, as Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 235, VMSB-235 served four tours in the Pacific during World War II, flying Douglas SBD dive bombers.

After three months' training at El Centro, the squadron embarked on board the USS Kitty Hawk for Hawaii. The squadron arrived at Pearl Harbor on 31 March 1943 and joined Marine Aircraft Group 24, a unit of the 4th Marine Base Defense Aircraft Wing, and was assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station at Ewa, T. H. After two months more of intensive training and familiarization flights between Ewa and Midway and outlying islands, the squadron embarked on 12 June 1943 in the USS Chandeleur (AV-10), USS Chincoteaque (AVP-30), and USS San Pablo (AVP-30). On 1 July the first contingent debarked in the New Hebrides and by the sixth the entire squadron was based at Espiritu Santo.

VMSB-235 arrived at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal on 1 September and three days later flew its first combat mission. Sixteen SBD-5s of the squadron coordinated with those of VMSB-234 and hit gun emplacements at Vila. VMSB-235 planes artillery-spotted for Allied forces on Arundel and New Georgia, and participated with Navy squadrons in attacks on gun emplacements on Balale.

VMSB-235 remained at Henderson Field until 10 October, then moved to Efate, New Hebrides. After a short rest and recreation period in Sydney, Australia, the squadron returned to Efate until near the end of November. Operations for that period consisted mostly of training. The first echelon of the squadron to operate from Munda arrived there on 27 November and made its first strike from that field the same day in support of ground forces in the Empress Augusta Bay area of Bougainville which had been invaded 1 November. All of December the tempo of attacks on Bougainville targets was accelerated - Jaba River and Matchin Bay gun emplacements, bridges along the Kahili-Mosigetta Road, Kieta Harbor installations, and the Jakohina supply area were hit repeatedly. VMSB-235 planes also performed spotting, air-ground-liaison, destroyer-cover, and anti-submarine-patrol missions for our forces at Empress Augusta Bay.

Another combat tour completed 3 January 1944, the squadron left Munda for Bauer Field at Efate and thence to Sydney. The ground echelon arrived at Piva strip, Bougainville the last day of February 1944 and was joined 21 March 1944 by the pilots and gunners of VMSB-235. The camp area of the flight echelon was under frequent fire from enemy artillery just beyond the perimeter.

Among April's more important targets were gun positions around enemy airfields in the Rabaul-Kavieng area, and supply points on New Britain. But enemy artillery positions on the hills surrounding the Empress Augusta Bay perimeter, which continued to fire into the Piva strips and to destroy aircraft, received added attention. Many "Pistol Pete" missions were flown with Army observers as passengers to search for and knock out those guns. Ten to twelve enemy shells fell on the following day. On the thirteenth, 30 to 35 shells were lobbed into the Torokina perimeter at dawn. The last major strikes of the third combat tour occurred 1 May 1944.

By 4 May the flight echelon was en route to Bauer Field, Efate, whence two groups of pilots who had completed their combat tours were returned to the States. Thirty pilots replaces them on 18 May. On 5 June the squadron departed Efate for its fourth combat tour and remained at Piva from 5 through 24 June when the flight echelon was transferred to Green Island. The first mission of the fourth tour was an attack on gun positions at Rabaul. Meanwhile, on 12 June 1944, the ground echelon left Efate by ship for Munda.

All during July, August and September flights against New Britain and New Ireland targets were made, always in the face of heavy AA, but without casualties to personnel. Finally, on 13 September the last mission was flown. It was an 18-plane strike against supply and personnel areas at Pondo Plantation, New Britain. On 26 September 1944 VMSB-235 boarded the MS Bosch Fontein for the States and arrived at San Francisco on 18 October. Two days later it joined Marine Fleet Air, West Coast, at Miramar and on 10 November 1944 was decommissioned.

But in November 1946 the Marine Air Reserve Training Command squadron at the Naval Air Station, Squantum, Massachusetts, was designated VMF-235. In September 1950 the squadron was called to active duty and assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 15 in El Toro, flying the F4U-4 "Corsair."

The Death Angels transitioned to the F9F "Panther" in September 1952. Based now in El Toro VMF-235 continued training in California and in Hawaii. The squadron continued flying the F9F until March 1954 when they received the FJ "Fury." In October of that year they deployed to NAS Atsugi. Assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 11, VMF-235 served in the Far East for just over two years.

In February 1957 the squadron was transferred to MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina. In November that year they were assigned to the Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station (MCAAS), later Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS), Beaufort, South Carolina. Concurrent with this transfer the squadron received the F8U-1 model of the Ling-Temco-Vaught "Crusader." Receipt of these new aircraft began an association with "Crusaders" which was to be continued in the Death Angels for nearly 10 years. The establishment of Beaufort as the home base for VMF-235 also began an association between the squadron and the air station, which was broken only twice in 10 years by overseas tours.

Numerous times in the years 1958 through 1962 the "Death Angels" deployed southward, usually to the NAS, Leeward Point, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for training or to a fleet carrier for pilot carrier qualification training.

In 1959 a gunnery team from the squadron represented the USMC for the "Shoot Out" at NAS El Centro and came away winners. In late 1959 the Death Angels were ordered to functioned as a RAG squadron for all east coast Marine Crusader pilots. They continued in this capacity until January 1961. At that time the squadron began to phase out of their RAG function. As new pilots came through the squadron for F8U familiarization one or two were retained in 235 from each class until the squadron reached full strength.

That year saw a gunnery deployment to Gitmo evolve into a role of escorting commercial aircraft around the eastern end of Cuba and flying CAP over the Bay of Pigs leading up to and during the aborted invasion of Cuba.

On the squadron's return from Guantanamo in July 1961 they found brand new F8U-2Ns waiting for them. The next year was spent in readiness training and included day carrier qualifications on the USS Forrestal and day and night qualifications aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. In February 1962 the squadron was redesignated Marine All Weather Fighter Squadron-235 (VMF(AW)-235).

While preparing for deployment to the Far East, the Cuban Missile Crises necessitated a detachment from the squadron deploying to NAS Key West. The 235 detachment flew escort missions for Navy and Air Force photo reconnaissance aircraft until the crises eased.

In January 1963 VMF(AW)-235 arrived at NAS Atsugi, Japan and spent the year flying out of Atsugi with deployments to Ping Tung, Taiwan, Cubi Point, and Naha. They requalified aboard the USS Coral Sea and later in the year aboard the USS Constellation. The Death Angels were reduced to zero strength in February 1964 and were reestablished under MAG-31 at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. The squadron was now flying the F8U-2NE version of the "Crusader" which had recently been redesignated as the F8E.

By mid-October 1965, VMF(AW)-235 was alerted to anticipate deployment to Vietnam. The capabilities of the squadron's F8Es made it a logical choice for deployment. It spent the balance of the year in preparation for the overseas move, and was completed with the "Death Angels'" arrival at Danang.

VMF(AW)-235 arrive in Vietnam on 1 February 1966 and had pilots in the air flying their first combat sortie less that 24 hours later and had flown 603 sorties by the end of the first month. The squadron's working components smoothed out by March and the pilots established a new monthly operational record of 806 sorties and 1,027.8 flight hours. Keeping busy, the Angels flew 696 sorties in April, 663 in May and 678 in June. On 10 June the squadron set a new record of 41 sorties in a 24-hour period.

During the latter part of April, VMF(AW)-235 was assigned the task of defending the Danang Air Base when the other squadrons were withdrawn during the Vietnamese political/military crisis. Ingenuity and creativity by squadron maintenance personnel effectively protected the parked aircraft on the airstrip, making it feasible for the squadron to remain there where they could best make use of their 20-millimeter cannon in air-to-ground support.

The squadron's missions on its first tour in Vietnam can be divided into five categories: (1) Flying escort and cover for combat and logistical support helicopters; (2) Providing close air support for Marine infantry units in the field; (3) Providing armed escort for Marine convoys traveling Vietnam roads; (4) Providing fighter escort for Marine aerial refueling aircraft; (5) Day/night all-weather bombing under control of a Marine air support radar team.

The only land-based F8E Crusader-equipped squadron in Vietnam in 1966, the squadron hammered the North Vietnamese heavily, flying over 6,000 sorties and encompassing over 7,000 flying hours in support of 22 special operations.


On 15 November 1966 the Angels departed Danang for MCAS Iwakuni, arriving 17 November, where it joined MAG-15 and the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade.

By 15 February 1967 the squadron had returned to Danang under the command of MAG-11. Nearly a year and three months later, on 11 May 1968, VMF(AW)-235 once again departed Vietnam for Iwakuni after a second successful tour in the theater of operations. Concurrently its F8Es were turned in for F8Js which the squadron began operating from Iwakuni on 29 May 1968. VMF(AW)-235 was the last active duty squadron to fly the "Crusader" in the Marine Corps. Angel pilots earned more than 500 air medals while flying a total of over 12,000 combat sorties.

Four months after its arrival in Japan, the squadron was reduced to zero strength, reorganized and redesignated Marine Fighter/Attack Squadron 235 (VMFA-235). The squadron transferred to the Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. On 6 September 1968, VMFA-235 now flying the McDonnell F4J "Phantom II", was established as the principal air arm of the 1st Marine Brigade.

In September of 1977, VMFA-235 became the first fixed wing squadron to participate in the six month Unit Deployment Program flying the F4 to Kadena AB, Okinawa. Ten years later the squadron deployed to WESTPAC for its sixth time over a ten year period. March 1989 was the final chapter of F4 operations as the squadron flew the remaining Phantoms to Cherry Point for disposition.

After months of preparation , in November 1989 the Death Angels began a new chapter in 235 history, ready to meet all challenges with the F/A-18C "Hornets."

After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, the squadron chopped to MAG-70, and arrived in Bahrain 20 days later. Death Angels commenced Combat Air Patrols over the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Desert Shield.

During the early morning hours of 17 January 1991, the Death Angel aircraft were involved in the first wave of air strikes against Iraq as part of Operation Desert Storm. For the next 42 days, VMFA-235 flew every type of mission possible with the F/A-18 strike fighter. Over 2,800 sorties and nearly 6,000 hours were flown in contingency and combat operations. VMFA-235 arrived home to Kaneohe on 6 April 1991, after a nine month deployment that etched a new page in Death Angel history.

1991 was a very productive year for the squadron. VMFA-235 was honored for outstanding maintenance excellence as the recipient of the Department of Defense Maintenance Award. The squadron was presented the prestigious Robert M. Hanson Award designating the Death Angels as the Outstanding Marine Fighter Attack Squadron of the year, for the second time since its inception. The Secretary of Defense Phoenix Award, the utmost in maintenance honors, was received in 1992.

In August 1992, VMFA-235 deployed to Iwakuni, Japan for the first time since 1987. The successful deployment included both Darwin and Perth, Australia as well as Korea and Okinawa. Before returning home to Kaneohe, the Death Angels celebrated their 50th year of service in January of 1963.

After another WESTPAC deployment in 1994 the squadron returned to their new home in MAG-11, 3d MAW at El Toro, California. The move to El Toro was a short but busy stay. CONUS deployments took the Death Angels first to Scorpion Wind 1-95, and then to Eglin AFB, Florida. VMFA-235 sharpened its Close Air Support skills by supporting Desert Fire-Ex, and Combined Armed Exercise 5/6. In the harsh desert environment of ECAX 5/6 the Death Angels dropped over 487 tons of ordnance, on target, on time.

On 1 August 1995 the Death Angels again deployed to MCAS Iwakuni, for their final UDP. They deployed to Korea to support Foal Eagle 95, and finally to Okinawa to participate in Beach Crest 96. While on deployment the Death Angels surpassed 20,000 hours of mishap free flight time.

In February 1996, VMFA-235 moved to NAS Miramar, California for the final chapter in its illustrious history. The squadron was deactivated on 14 June 1996 but its spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of all former Death Angels. As history has proven, it is only a matter of time before the Death Angels answer the call, and once again take to the sky. Ride Nunc.



Col Everett D. Munn • Jan 1943-Feb 1944

Col Glenn L. Todd • Feb 1944-May 1944

Col Edward G. Willard • May 1944-Aug 1944

BGen James A. Freeley • Aug 1944-Sep 1944

LtCol Lawrence A. Morgan • Sep 1944-Sep 1944

LtCol William C. Tassos • Sep 1944-Oct 1944

LtCol Ralph Dorius • Oct 1944-Nov 1944

LtCol Reginald S. Ward • Nov 1944-Nov 1944

LtCol Alvin J. Clark • Nov 1946-Dec 1948

Maj. Edward J. Cameron • Dec 1948-Jun 1949

Capt. Albert E. Hacking, Jr. • Jun 1949-Sep 1950

Maj. E.J. McGee • Sep 1950-Oct 1950

LtCol E.V. Mendenhall • Oct 1950-Nov 1951

Col Arthur M. Moran • Nov 1951-Jan 1952

Col Joe L. Warren • Jan 1952-Nov 1952

Col Cruger L. Bright • Dec 1952-Sep 1953

LtCol Donald H. Sap • Sep 1953-May 1955

Col Robert W. Teller • May 1955-Mar 1956

BGen Jay W. Hubbard • Mar 1956-Oct 1956

Maj. A.A. Lund • Oct 1956-Jan 1957

Col Arvid W. Blackmun • Jan 1957-Aug 1957

Maj. John J. Tooley • Aug 1957-Mar 1958

Col Jack C. Scott • Mar 1958-Feb 1959

BGen Robert F. Conley • Feb 1959-Aug 1960

Col Robert L. Lamar • Aug 1960-Jul 1961

LtCol Harry B. Hanson • Jul 1961-Nov 1961

BGen Robert W. Taylor • Nov 1961-Apr 1962

Col Jesse V. Booker • Apr 1962-Feb 1964

Col Edward Rogal • Feb 1964-Dec 1964

Col George A. Gibson • Dec 1964-Jun 1966

Col Don Mickle • Jun 1966-Nov 1966

Col Edward Rogal • Nov 1966-May 1967

Col Wallace Wessel • Jun 1967-Oct 1967

LtCol Lee E. Blanchard • Oct 1967-Jan 1968

LtCol Carl Lundquist • Jan 1968-Apr 1968

LtCol Tony Blair • Apr 1968-Sep 1968

LtColWilliam A. Tyksinski • Sep 1968-Oct 1969

Col Leroy A. Madera • Oct 1969-Oct 1970

LtCol Fredrick L. Farrell, Jr. • Oct 1970-Jun 1971

BGen George H. Leach • Jun 1971-May 1973

LtCol Larry Whipple • May 1973-Aug 1974

Col Darwin D. Lundberg • Aug 1974-Apr 1976

LtCol Robert Hoffman • Apr 1976-Jun 1978

MGen Jeremiah W. Pearson • Jun 1978-Jul 1981

LGen Duane A. Wills • Jul 1981-Oct 1982

LtCol David J. Watson • Oct 1982-Jun1984

Col Kenneth W. Dewey • Jun 1984-Oct 1985

LtCol P. Skelton • Oct 1985-Dec 1987

LtCol Craig E. Sooy • Dec 1987-May 1989

Col William C. McMullen, III • May 1989-May 1991

LtCol Lynn M. Champagne • May 1991-Mar 1993

LtCol Terrence P. Dugan • Mar 1993-Jul 1994

Col John P. Cushing, Jr. • Jul 1994-Jun 1996