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VMF(N)-543 | "Nighthawks"


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VMF(N)-543 | "Nighthawks"


Established at Cherry Point on April 15, 1944
Deactivated April 11, 1946

INSIGNIA: Nighthawks | Milt Caniff
Approved HQMC 1944

Okinawa -April to August 1945 (F6F-5N)

The "Nighthawks" commissioning skipper, Maj Claude Carlson, was an old timer - he had served in Shanghai in 1939 and commanded VMSB-141 in 1942-43. However, he died in a flying accident at Cherry Point in July 1944, being succeeded by his exec, Maj Claire Chamberlain. "CC" took the squadron to El Centro in September, preparing for departure for Hawaii in January 1945. The squadron's Hellcats landed at Okinawa in April, and five enlisted men were injured when a kamikaze struck the transport USS Achenar (AKA-53) on the 2nd. The ground and flight echelons were reunited at Kadena on April 9, serving in MAG-33.

The "Nighthawks" began night CAPs on April 14, losing 2Lt Bruce Bonmer. Two more planes and a pilot were lost on the 17th - only the unit's fourth night of operations. First blood had come on April 15 when Capt Jim Etheridge shortstopped a "Frank" fighter directly overhead as it descended to attack Kadena. He ignored heavy "friendly fire" to down the intruder, but took six hits in the process. It was the first night kill of the TAF on Okinawa. However, American AA gunners shot up another Night Hellcat so badly that it was surveyed.

After nearly a year in command, Claire Chamberlain turned over to Maj Jim Maguire in mid June.

The squadron's best night's work was July 29 with two "Bettys" confirmed and a probable. The "Night Hawks" closed their victory log on August 7 with two more "Bettys" destroyed, one in the early morning by 2Lt Henry Berck and the last one by Capt Tom Danaher just before midnight. The "Night Hawks" were credited with 15 kills, and as proof of the validity of their training, eight of the 13 successful pilots were second lieutenants.

The squadron took heavy casualties during the Okinawa campaign, suffering 1 1 of the 17 TAF nightfighters known lost during the campaign, including a USAAF P-61 Black Widow. The "Night Hawks" moved to Awase airfield on July 15 but were based at Kadena on VJ Day. They returned to Miramar in January 1946.

Type I | Silkscreened on canvas. "PX" Style | Design by Milt Caniff


Type II | American embroidery on wool.



Original Artwork | Marine Corps Historical Center







Millstein, Jeff. U. S. Marine Corps Aviation Unit Insignia 1941-1946. p 103.

Tillman, Barrett. U. S. Marine Corps Fighter Squadrons of World War II. pp 152-153.


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  • 3 months later...

Another one member of VMF(N)-543 squadron: Stuart C Alley Jr.


Nice squadron patch is visible on his M422a jacket.







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