LCDR Paul Buie and VF-16 pilots

VF-16 pilots briefing on USS Lexington

VF-15 pilots on USS Essex

Pilots of VF-15 on USS Essex

F6F Hellcats on USS Enterprise

F6F Hellcats on USS Enterprise

U.S. Navy Fighting Squadrons in WW2

By , Feb. 2000. Updated July 2, 2011.

Few aspects of naval aviation are more confusing than the U.S. Navy's squadron designations. The Navy changes them all the time, from World War Two to the present. Following is a table that presents a selection of the high-scoring WW2 squadrons. Actually, each row of the table shows one squadron during one deployment.

One of the key American strengths during WWII's air war was the excellent training and depth of our combat pilots. By policy, naval pilots served in combat for a finite tour (e.g. 250 combat hours, or six months, or 25 missions, or whatever). Then they rotated back stateside, typically to train other pilots.

Each Navy squadron would usually serve in combat for several months, usually from one carrier or land base, and usually under one commanding officer (CO). This time was called a "cruise," a "deployment," or a "combat tour." Each row in the table corresponds to one of these deployments.

It got confusing when the Navy would then organize another squadron under the same designation, with new fliers and a new CO, and frequently with a new aircraft. So VF-8 flying Wildcats from Hornet in 1942 had little connection with VF-8 in 1944 on Bunker Hill flying Hellcats. "VF" meant "Heavier-than-air Fighting Squadron," nomenclature that arose when the Navy also flew dirigibles.

By far, the highest scoring squadron was VF-15, with 310 confirmed aerial kills. They had skilled fliers (McCampbell, Rushing, Rigg, Strane, Twelves, et al) and they flew off Essex during some the great aerial fights of 1944 - the Marianas Turkey Shoot of June 19, the Formosa strikes of September, and the Leyte Gulf battles of late October.)

All of the information in this table was summarized from Barrett Tillman's excellent U.S. Navy Fighter Squadrons in World War II. Any errors or over-simplifications are my mistakes, not the author's.

Squadron # "Nickname" Start End A/C Carrier/Base Top Ace (kills w/ sqn) CO (kills w/ sqn) Kills #
VF-1   "High Hatters" Nov-43 Aug-44 F6F Yorktown CV-10 Richard Eastmond (9) B.M. Strean 100   3
VF-2   "Rippers" Mar-44 Sep-44 F6F Hornet CV-12 Cdr. William A. Dean (10) 240   28
VF-3   "Felix the Cat" Dec-41 May-42 F4F Lexington CV-2 Butch O'Hare (5) Jimmy Thach 18   1
May-42 Jun-42 F4F Yorktown CV-5 Elbert McCuskey (5) Jimmy Thach 34.5 1
VF-5 Aug-42 Oct-42 F4F Saratoga CV-3 H. M. Jensen (7) Leroy Simpler 78   4
Oct-43 Apr-44 F6F Yorktown CV-10 Robert Duncan (7) Ed Owens (5) 93.5 7
VF-6 "Shooting Stars" Dec-41 Oct-42 F4F Enterprise CV-6 Donald E. Runyon (8) James S. Gray 63   1
VF-6 Aug-43 Feb-44 F6F various CV's Alexander Vraciu (9) H.W. Harrison 37.5 0
VF-7 Sep-44 Jan-45 F6F Hancock CV-19 Lt. Cdr. L. J. Check (10) 72   2
VF-8 Dec-41 Jun-42 F4F Hornet CV-8 Merrill Cook (2) Sam Mitchell 5   0
Mar-44 Oct-44 F6F Bunker Hill CV-17 Cdr. William Collins (9) 156   13
VF-9   "Cat o' Nines" Oct-43 Mar-44 F6F Essex CV-9 Hamilton McWhorter (10) Phil Torrey 116   10 est.
Mar-45 Jun-45 F6F Yorktown CV-10 Eugene Valencia (23) John S. Kitten 129   10 est.
VF-10 "Grim Reapers" Oct-42 May-43 F4F Enterprise CV-6 Swede Vejtasa (7.25) J.H. Flatley 43   1
Jan-44 Jun-44 F6F Enterprise CV-6 Richard Devine (8) William Kane 88   5
Feb-45 Apr-45 F4U Intrepid CV-11 P. L. Kirkwood (8) Walter E. Clarke 87   7
VF-11 "Sundowners" May-43 Jul-43 F4F Guadalcanal Charles Stimpson (6) Charles White 52   2
Oct-44 Jan-45 F6F Hornet CV-12 Charles Stimpson (10) E. G. Fairfax 106   5
VF-12 Sep-43 Jun-44 F6F Saratoga CV-3 John Magda (4)? R.G. Dose 20   0
Jan-45 Jun-45 F6F Randolph CV-15 Lt. Cdr. Frederick H. Michaelis (5) 51   2
VF-13 "Black Cats" Jul-44 Nov-44 F6F Franklin CV-13 Albert Pope (7) Wilson Coleman (6) 86   3
VF-14 "Iron Angels" May-44 Nov-44 F6F Wasp CV-18 William Knight (7.5) R. Gray 146   8
VF-15 "Fighting Aces" May-44 Nov-44 F6F Essex CV-9 McCampbell, Duncan, Rushing, Strane, Twelves James Rigg (11) 310   26
VF-16 "Fighting Airedales" Oct-43 Jun-44 F6F Lexington CV-16 Alexander Vraciu (10) Paul D. Buie (9) 136.5 7
VF-17 "Jolly Rogers" Oct-43 Mar-44 F4U Solomons Ike Kepford (16) Tom Blackburn (11) 152   11
VF-18 Oct-43 Mar-44 F6F Bunker Hill CV-17 Lt. Cdr. Sam Silber (6) 74   1
Aug-44 Nov-44 F6F Intrepid CV-11 Cecil Harris (22) Ed Murphy 176.5 13
VF-19 "Satan's Kittens" Jul-44 Nov-44 F6F Lexington CV-16 William Masoner Jr. (10) T. Hugh Winters (8) 155   11
VF-20 Aug-44 Jan-45 F6F Enterprise CV-6/etc. Douglas Baker (16.33) Fred Bakutis (7.5) 158   9
VF-21 Feb-43 Jul-43 F4F Guadalcanal Ross Torkelson (6) John Hulme 69   3
Jul-44 Oct-44 F6F Belleau Wood CVL-24 Bob Thomas (5) V. F. Casey 40   1
VF-22 Sep-44 Jan-45 F6F Cowpens CVL-25 Clement Craig (12) Thomas Jenkins 49.5 3
VF-23 Aug-43 May-44 F6F Princeton CVL-23 L.H. Kerr (4.83) H.L. Miller 35   0
VF-26 Apr-44 Oct-44 FM2 Santee CVE-29 Kenneth Hippe (6) Harold Funk 31   1
VC-27 Oct-44 Jan-45 FM2 Savo Island Ralph Elliott (9) P. W. Jackson 61   1
VF-27 May-44 Oct-44 F6F Princeton CVL-23 James Shirley (12) Fred Bardshar (7.5) 134   10
VF-28 May-44 Dec-44 F6F Monterey CVL-26 Oscar Bailey (5) Roger Mehle 55   2
VF-29 Oct-44 Apr-45 F6F Cabot CVL-28 Robert Murray (10.3) William Eder (6.5) 113   12
VF-30 Jan-45 Jun-45 F6F Belleau Wood CVL-24 James Reber (11) Douglas A. Clark 110   7
VF-31 "Meataxers" Jan-44 Sep-44 F6F Cabot CVL-28 Cornelius Nooy (19) Bob Winston 165.5 14
VF-32 "Outlaw's Bandits" Mar-44 Oct-44 F6F Langley CVL-27 Lt. Cdr. Eddie Outlaw (6) 44   2
VF-33 Aug-43 Jan-44 F6F Solomons Frank Schneider (7) Hawley Russell 74.5 3
VF(N)-41 Aug-44 Jan-45 F6F Independence CVL-23 William Henry (9.5) T. F. Caldwell 46   2
VF-42 Dec-41 May-42 F4F Yorktown CV-5 Art Brassfield (4.83) Oscar Pedersen 25   0
VF-44 "Crusaders" Oct-44 Feb-45 F6F Langley CVL-27 Cdr. Malcolm T. Wordell (7) 47   3
VF-45 Nov-44 May-45 F6F San Jacinto CVL-30 James B. Cain (8) Gordon Schechter 81.5 6
VF-47 "Fighting Cocks" Mar-45 Aug-45 F6F Bataan CVL-29 Samuel Hibbard (7.33) Albert Clancy 67.5 1
VF-50 "Devil Cats" Apr-44 Jul-44 F6F Bataan CVL-29 Daniel Rehm (6) J.C. Strange 61   4
VF-51 Apr-44 Nov-44 F6F San Jacinto CVL-30 William Maxwell (7) C. L. Moore 50.5 1
VF-60 Nov-43 Oct-44 F6F Suwanee CVE-27 R. Singleton (3.25) H.O. Feilbach 25   0
VF-72 Jul-42 Oct-42 F4F Hornet CV-8 George Wrenn (5.25) Henry Sanchez 38   1
VF-80 "Vorse's Vipers" Nov-44 Jan-45 F6F Ticonderoga CV-14 Patrick Fleming (19) Leroy Keith 159.5 10
VF-82 Jan-45 Jun-45 F6F Bennington CV-20 Robert Jennings (7) Edward Hassell 85   5
VF-83 "Kangaroos" Mar-45 Sep-45 F6F Essex CV-9 Thaddeus Coleman (8) H.A. Sampson 137   11
VBF-83 Mar-45 Sep-45 F4U Essex CV-9 Thomas Reidy (10) Frank Patriarca 91   3
VF-84 "Wolf Gang" Jan-45 Jun-45 F4U Bunker Hill CV-17 Doris Freeman (7) Roger R. Hedrick 137   4

Buy 'U.S. Navy Fighter Squadrons in World War II' at

U.S. Navy Fighter Squadrons in World War II, by Barrett Tillman

If you've read this far in this website, this book is for you. Most of the book consists of short summaries of the USN fighting squadrons that saw combat in WWII. (It unravels the tangled mess of squadron designations, re-designations, and deployments.) Each squadron history includes its deployments, CO's, and top scorer.

The appendices provide tables of Navy aces in every imaginable way: by aircraft type, a complete alphabetical list of aces, top 50 aces in descending order, the first twenty navy aces, Naval Academy aces, and more.

Buy "U.S. Navy Fighter Squadrons in World War II" at