VF-151 Vigilantes F-4B Phantom II
VF-151, nicknamed the Vigilantes, was a Fighter Squadron of the U.S. Navy. VF-151 was one of only two F-4 fighter squadrons to transition to the F/A-18 Hornet and be designated a Strike Fighter Squadron. The squadron was re-designated Strike Fighter Squadron 151 (VFA-151) on June 1, 1986.
From 1965 to 1973 the Vigilantes participated in every major operation of the Vietnam War. The Vigilantes, along with companion squadron VF-161 Chargers, made 7 deployments and spent 927-days on the line — including the longest deployment of the Vietnam War (331 days on Coral Sea) and the longest line period of the Vietnam War (208 days on Midway).
VF-151 fly F-4B aircraft on a 3rd Vietnam Combat Cruise
The squadron made its third deployment of the war aboard USS Coral Sea from July 1967 to April 1968.
October 24, 1967: CDR C.R. Gillespie, the squadron's commanding officer, and LTJG R.C. Clark, his RIO, were shot down by a surface-to-air missile over North Vietnam. CDR Gillespie became a POW and was not released until May 1973; LTJG Clark died in captivity.
November 19, 1967: Two Vigilante aircraft were assigned to protect a strike group being launched from the USS INTREPID. While over the target they were attacked by enemy MIG aircraft. Both aircraft were shot down. The VF-151 Vigilante aircrews:
- LCDR Claude D. Clower – Aviator LTJG Walter O. Estes – RIO
- LTJG James E. Teague – Aviator LTJG Theodore G. Stier – RIO
Armed Forces Expeditionary Operations
During late February 1968 there was snow and ice on deck while conducting Operation Formation Star cold weather training in the Sea of Japan. This operation prepared men and machines for duty in March 1968 while USS Coral Sea (CVA-43), with VF-151 Vigilantes embarked, operated on station off the coast of Korea following the capture of USS Pueblo (AGER-2) in January by North Korea.
Vigilantes deploy on thier 4th Vietnam Combat Cruise
The squadron deployed again in September 1968 with Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) aboard Coral Sea again following a short turn-around period. The squadron had no aircraft or aviator losses this cruise.
VF-151 & CVA-43 deploy on thier 5th Combat Cruise
In September 1969 when the USS Coral Sea and CVW-15 left for another Vietnam Combat Cruise, I was left ashore TAD (Temporary Assigned Duty) at NAS Alameda, CA, to be processed out to the Naval Reserve from active duty due to my enlistment expiration coming up in October. During this cruise aboard Coral Sea the squadron flew more than 2,100 combat sorties, more than any other Navy squadron in FY 1970.
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