VFP-63 Eyes of the Fleet RF-8G Crusader


VFP-63VFP-63, nicknamed the Eyes of the Fleet, was a Light Photographic Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron provided a detachment of reconnaissance planes for each of the Carrier Air Wings of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Light Photographic Squadron 63, originally designated Composite Squadron 61, was commissioned January 20, 1949 at Miramar Naval Air Station, San Diego, California and on July 2, 1956 was subsequently redesignated as Light Photographic Squadron 61. Then on July 1, 1959 the squadron was designated as Composite Photographic Squadron 63. It was not until July 1, 1960 that the squadron assumed its present title of Light Photographic Squadron 63.

Though the basic squadron has undergone many title changes, its mission has remained the same since its first deployment during the Korean Conflict, "to provide aerial photographic reconnaissance for the fleet."

In 1968, Light Photographic Squadron 63 merged with its sister squadron Light Photographic Squadron 62 to form a unified oragnization for providing tactical photographic reconnaissance for both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. Three years prior to their merger. Photographic Squadron 63 started flying the RF-8 "Crusader" aircraft which have proved to be "The Eyes of the Fleet."

The squadron was disestablished on 30 June 1982.

26 July 1967—6 April 1968 Detachment 43 USS Coral Sea

On 21 September RF-8G #144623 was lost to AAA fire, the pilot POW MIA Flag Memorial FlagLTCDR Milton Vescelius was listed as missing in action until his remains were returned in August 1985.

Armed Forces Expeditionary Ribbon 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 VFP-63 DET 43 Eyes of the Fleet embarked, operated on station off the coast of Korea following the capture of USS Pueblo (AGER-2) in January by North Korea.

7 September 1968—18 April 1969 Detachment 43 USS Coral Sea

In August 1968, Photographic Squadron 63, Detachment 43 became part of Attack Carrier Air Wing I5 and flew from the decks of Coral Sea. The squadron detachment known as "Betts Bandits" for the Commanding Oticer, LCDR Stanton W. Betts, provided the carrier with up-to-date tactical intelligence enabling the pilots and squadron commanders to determine future targets and extent of bomb damage. A credit to the carrier and the embarked squadrons, "The Eyes of the Fleet–Betts Bandits" carried out their mission enabling the carrier's mission to be completed.