Jump to content

VMF-124 | "Death's Head" / "Wild Aces" | MCAS Mohave | WWII


Recommended Posts

VMF-124 | "Death's Head" / "Wild Aces" | MCAS Mohave

The first carrier-based Marine fighting squadron in action


Sort of a "home-town" unit to those of us in Los Angeles.


Deployments: Solomons, February-September, 1943 (F4U-1); USS Essex (CV-9) December, 1944-March, 1945 (F4U/FG-1D).


VMF-124 was formed September 7, 1942 at Camp Kearney. In late October they got some of the first F4U Vought Corsair fighters to roll off the assembly line, making them the first squadron to receive the new plane. The squadron left San Diego on January 8, 1943 on the USS Lurline and arrived at Guadalcanal on February 12, 1943. That afternoon they flew their first combat mission, logging 9 hours in the air.


According to Millstein, the original VMF-124 insignia was designed by Lt. William E. Crowe (later an Ace) during the squadron's first overseas combat tour. The numeral "1" over the Marine Corps Eagle, Globe and Anchor ("EGA") signifies that VMF-124 was the first Corsair-equipped squadron to see combat.


Shortly after the unit's first tour commenced, on a single mission on May 13, 1943, the unit's founding commander, Maj. William Gise, and two other pilots were shot down and KIA. The tour was completed with his replacement, Maj. William H. Pace, and on the second tour (1944) the patch design changed. As Millstein explains, the original proposal for the second design to incorporate a checkerboard background, reflecting the unit's Checkerboard Squadron nickname, was substituted with the national emblem (white star and blue background). The checkerboard finally appeared later.


Over all the years I have seen two black wool VMF-124 patches, not included in Millstein, that by their manufacture appear to be made during the war. Although I haven't found a published source that mentions this black wool variety of Type I, it appears correct for a war-time vintage and I believe it is. I wonder if the black wool patch might have been issued during the period following the unit's first tour (based at Guadalcanal) after the squadron's founding commander and two other pilots were KIA on a single mission on May 13, 1943, or shortly thereafter. The tour was completed with an acting commander. By the time the first tour ended in August, 1943 the unit had lost 20 Corsairs against 69 credited victories.


VMF-124 returned to its home at MCAS Mohave in October, 1943 to begin rebuilding itself and remained there until it's second tour in September, 1944. Perhaps during the one-year period stateside the black wool patch, its manufacture typical of American embroidery style of the time, was made in memory of the unit's significant losses suffered on its first tour. Millstein explains it was on the second tour (1944) the design changed.


Thus, my summary of VMF-124's WWII issues is as follow:


Type I | Australian embroidery on red wool.


Type II | American embroidery on black wool.


Type III | American embroidery.


Type IV | American embroidery on white twill.









MCAS Mohave | Marine Corps Air Station Mohave (Barstow, CA)



Pyrography on leather





Assigned along with VMF-213 to Air Group 4, VMF-124 departed the US on September 18, 1944 on the USS Ticonderoga, arriving at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on September 24, 1944. After assignment to the Essex, VMF-124 and VMF-213 participated in actions against Lingayen, Luzon, Formosa, Tokyo, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. There were 54 pilots, 4 ground officers, and 120 enlisted men in the 2 squadrons when they came aboard the Essex. Lt Col William A. Millington was in command of VMF-124 and Major David E. Marshall commanded VMF-213.

Lt Col Millington claimed the first kill by carrier-based Marines during WWII. When Cdr George O. Klinsmann was shot down during the strike on the Pescadores on January 15, 1945, Millington became commander of Air Group 4, the first Marine to command a Navy Air Group. VMF-214 returned home in April, 1945, based at Mohave until the war's end. VMF-124 was credited with downing 78 Japanese airplanes.


Millstein writes: "The squadron again returned to the United States in April 1945 for re-organization and training. Seeking to establish it's own identity for the newly formed squadron, the C.O., Maj. James Johnson, directed William Reynolds to design another insignia. This time the new insignia featured a gunsight centered on the Japanese Home Islands against a checkerboard background with the numeral "1" in the center."


A brief history of the first carrier-based Marine Fighter Squadrons to serve in the Pacific, based on declassified "war diaries", is presented here: http://www.airgroup4.com/marines.htm




Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 years later...

MCAS Mohave


Pyrography on leather | Design by Walt Disney Productions.




Mojave Air and Space Port (MHV) in California

The Mojave Airport was first opened in 1935 as a small, rural airfield serving the local gold and silver mining industry.

With the advent of World War II, the U.S. Marine Corps took over the field in 1942, and expanded it into a training facility known as the Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station (MCAAS) Mojave.

During World War II the field trained thousands of Navy and Marine pilots for combat, using SBD dive bombers and F4U Corsairs.
At least thirty-two United States Marine Corps squadrons are believed to have trained at Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station (MCAAS) Mojave, and a number of squadrons were actually formed there. Several Army Air Force fighter and bomber squadrons also trained there, as well as observation, defense, air warning, and torpedo craft, with thirty-two squadrons under training after 1 January 1943. By early 1944 all tactical squadrons aboard were fighter squadrons flying the F4F Wildcat.



Vought Corsairs on MCAAS Mojave flightline.

More Photos, here.

MCAAS was decommissioned in 1946, and became a U.S. Navy airfield. At the end of 1953, the USMC reopened MCAAS Mojave as an auxiliary field to MCAS El Toro. In 1961, Kern County obtained title to the airport.

Today, the Mojave Air and Space Port and industrial park is home to more than 60 companies engaged in flight development, highly advanced aerospace design, flight test and research, the wind industry, heavy rail industrial manufacturing, and airliner storage and reclamation.

Tenants include the National Test Pilot School, Virgin Galactic, BAE Systems, Orbital ATK, Scaled Composites, ASB Avionics and many more. Related facilities include the Stuart O. Witt Event Center, Monster Fitness and the Voyager Restaurant.

The airport is assigned FAA Identifier MHV, and is located at 2,787 feet above sea level. Runway 12/30 is 12,503 feet in length, 200 feet wide.

More, here, here.


MCAS today, Photo album here



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brian Dentino

Very cool write up and patches Rick. I have gotta say that the type 3 patch you listed is my favorite, but that Barstow patch is a killer! Can't be too many of those floating around out there at all. Very interesting read. Thanks for posting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...