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VF-71 | Fighting Squadron 71


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VF-71 | Fighting Squadron 71

Established as VB-7 (7 Jul 39)
Redesignated VF-71 (1 Jul 40)
Disestablished (7 Jan 1943)

Deployment: Wasp (CV-7) Dec 41-Sep 42 | Wasp | F4F-3, -4

Combat record: 7 victories. Lost 4 officers, 8 enlisted.


Silkscreened on leather. The squadron existed for a brief two years, deployed only nine months with heavy losses (the Wasp was sunk), which perhaps explains why this is a very rare patch.





Fighting 71 was ashore on 7 December, awaiting F4F-4s. Heavily reinforced with transfers from three other fighting squadrons, the unit built up to 29 aircraft and 37 pilots well before any other VF squadron.

In March 1942, when Wasp sailed to Britain for brief service in the Mediterranean, most of the air group went ashore at RNAS Hatston. Though 47 RAF Spitfires were loaded aboard for delivery to Malta, 19 Wildcats were kept by VF-72. The British fighters were flown off 20 April, and upon return to the U.K., VF-71 relieved Fighting 72 for the next Malta trip.







VF-71 F4Fs and Spitfires on the deck of USS Wasp in April 1942




Back in Norfolk by June, Wasp proceeded to San Diego via the Panama Canal, then on to Hawaii and points west. The air group's first genuine combat came on 7 August, covering the Guadalcanal landings. Court Shands' pilots strafed Japanese floatplanes at Tulagi, but Wasp's two SBD squadrons claimed seven aerial victories before either Wildcat outfit had a chance. VF-71 's initial shootdown was a patrol plane splashed 27 August, followed by a second on 15 September, but the ship was torpedoed and sunk that day. Many of the squadron's aircraft were lost in the sinking.

Temporarily based at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, VF-71 began reinforcing the hard-pressed VF-5 on Guadalcanal. Lt. Pat Rooney's detachment flew with Lt.Cdr. Roy Simpler's squadron, gaining five more confirmed and two probable victories in October. When VF-5 departed "Cactus," the Fighting 71 contingent joined the Marines of VMF-121. Wasp's displaced orphans finally left Guadalcanal by 3 November.


Tillman, Barrett. U. S. Navy Fighter Squadrons in World War II. 1997.




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