U.S.S. Constellation

Attack Squadron 65 (U.S. Navy)

Attack Squadron 65 (VA-65), nicknamed The World Famous Fighting Tigers was an attack squadron of the United States Navy established in 1945 and disbanded in 1993.

Other Forms of Name

  • VA-65
  • ATKRON-65
  • WFFT
  • World Famous Fighting Tigers

Known as "The World Famous Fighting Tigers", VA-65 was one of the last medium attack squadrons to fly the A-6 Intruder and the A-1 Skyraider.

The final home base of VA-65 was NAS Oceana, Virginia [full name Apollo Soucek Field, a Master Jet base]. The squadron occupied the spaces of Hangar 122, port side. Hangar 122 is located next to the water tower and field identifier revolving light. These spaces included maintenance areas on the hangar deck, office spaces on the second floor, and offices plus ready room on the top floor.

VA-65 is in US Navy nomenclature, a shortened acronym for ATKRON-65, this stands for Attack Squadron-65, VA is broken into V for fixed-wing, A for attack. Also called the Bombing 65th, as it was an attack [bombing squadron]. VA-65 was fleet based, meaning attached to an aircraft carrier for deployments. Their last cruise was during Desert Storm /Desert Shield in 1990-1991 aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). As was common during the Gulf War, many squadrons painted "nose art" on at least one airplane. VA-65 painted a caricature of comic strip cat Garfield, with a large stick and flight helmet, with the caption, "TR's Big Stick"

VA-65 was scheduled to take part in a UNITAS cruise [started in 1959 UNITAS has been instrumental in improving working relationships among U.S. and Latin American naval forces] around the horn of South America [with multiple stops] on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the summer of 1993. Unfortunately the squadron received word it would disestablished before the cruise.

Reasons were budgetary in nature, as the VA-65 Tigers were flying the venerable, yet very old A-6 Intruder which was being phased out in the early 1990s, and was completely removed from service in 1997. At the time, VA-65 had just won the Atlantic Fleet Battle E Award for best Attack Squadron.


The final VA-65, from around the time of Desert Storm to the bitter end in 1993, had a very strong JOPA group. JOPA stands for Junior Officer Protection Association. A group only open to Lieutenants and below that are commissioned officers. Voting in secret sessions, the officers would decide on any thing, from parties to how they were going to act towards certain policies in the Navy and squadron life itself. One of the slogans of JOPA is "No Major Problems" meaning that they do not allow any Lieutenant Commanders or above in the group, as the officer insignia for an LCDR and CDR (Commander) are identical to that US Army, Air Force, and Marine: Major and Lieutenant Colonel's oak leaf. The last Carrier Air Group VA-65 belonged to was CAG-8, and there was a JOPA edition of the CAG patch [later banned by a subsequent CAG].

Even civilians have had some contact with VA-65. On the final cruise, a "final checker" was sucked into an engine inlet, and was caught on the carrier close circuit TV. Subsequently, this video was shown on multiple TV video shows. the crew member survived, as his shoulder jammed into the "bullet" of the engine, and due to the quick thinking and training of the aircrew (pilot LT. Bill Gilchrist..B/N not known) and deck crew, they were able to shut down before he was sucked down through the blades. His cranial and radio equipment were sucked in, and destroyed the engine. Later that night bandaged and bruised he appeared on the closed circuit TV station (TR TV) on the USS Theodore Roosevelt with the boat's CO, and discussed his ordeal.

At one point VA-65's tactical call sign [used when flying, for example "Tiger 06"] was something not so tactical ... it was "cupcake". Suggested by the wife of the VA-65 commanding officer after tiger cubs were born, and one was named "cupcake". The name actually came back to haunt the squadron after one of its members [LTjg Tracy Thorne] declared he was a homosexual on Ted Koppel's news show, "NightLine". This was one of the first fights over gays in the military, a battle that still rages today, under the policy of "Don't ask, don't tell" set forth by the Clinton administration.


  • Established as a Torpedo Squadron VT-74 on 1 May 1945
  • Redesignated Attack Squadron VA-2B on 15 November 1946
  • Redesignated Attack Squadron VA-25 on 1 September 1948
  • Redesignated Attack Squadron VA-65 on 1 July 1959
  • Disestablished on 31 March 1993, at NAS Oceana, Virginia

Aircraft Flown

Logo and History

The squadron’s first insignia was approved by CNO on 9 August 1945. During the time when the squadron’s insignia was approved, VT-74 was flying the SB2C which was nicknamed "The Beast". Consequently, the squadron’s insignia took on the shape of a beast riding a torpedo. There is no record of the colors used for this insignia.

After VT-74 was redesignated VA-2B, it continued to use the old insignia until 17 April 1947 when CNO approved a new insignia for the squadron. The insignia adopted by VA-2B reflected the squadron’s new attack mission. The horsehead chess piece was designed to relate the squadron’s power to that of a medieval knight and the fleur-de-lis represented integrity. Colors for the insignia were: a yellow background; red scroll with yellow lettering, black banner with a black and white pole; white knight with a yellow collar; a white lightning bolt; and the Fleur-de-lis was red with a black band. The Knight insignia continued as the official insignia for the squadron following its redesignation to VA-25 on 1 September 1948. A new insignia for VA-25 was approved by CNO on 4 April 1950. The new insignia was a front view of a tiger on the prowl. Colors were: yellow background; brown tiger with green eyes, and white teeth, whiskers and claws; and a red tongue and mouth. When VA-25 was redesignated VA-65 in 1959 the tiger insignia was retained and remained VA-65’s insignia until its disestablishment. Nickname: Tigers, 1950–1993.

Chronology of Significant Events

  • 7 Nov 1945: Squadron embarked in Midway (CVB 41) (see link USS Midway for her shakedown cruise. The squadron had originally been established for the purpose of being part of the Midway Air Group.
  • Jul–Aug 1948: The squadron participated in operation CAMID III, close air support for amphibious landings. During this operation the squadron became the first VA unit in the Atlantic Fleet to fire Tiny Tim rockets.
  • 23--24 Jun 1952: Attacked the Sui-ho Dam and other North Korean hydroelectric plants as part of a massive joint service operation
  • 1–20 Jun 1961: Following a four-hour notice for an emergency deployment, VA-65 deployed to the Caribbean Sea aboard USS Intrepid due to unsettled conditions in the Dominican Republic following the assassination of General Trujillo.
  • 3 Aug–11 Oct 1962: VA-65 was aboard for the maiden cruise of the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise during her deployment to the Mediterranean Sea.
  • 19 Oct–6 Dec 1962: VA-65 was back at sea aboard Enterprise one week after returning from a Mediterranean cruise and headed for the Caribbean Sea due to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The squadron participated in the naval quarantine of Cuba.
  • 31 Jul–3 Oct 1964: The squadron participated in Operation Sea Orbit as part of CVW-6 aboard Enterprise. This operation was an around-the-world voyage of a task force composed of all nuclear powered ships. The sixty-five day cruise was accomplished without logistic support, which demonstrated the capability of these ships to steam to any area in the world and project power without support.
  • 15 Jun 1966: VA-65 conducted its first combat sortie.
  • 1 Jul 1966: VA-65’s aircraft joined other CVW-15 aircraft in attacking and sinking three North Vietnamese patrol vessels that were approaching USS Coontzat high speed.
  • 25–31 Oct 1966: Due to the inclement weather, the squadron’s all-weather A-6As were used to the maximum. During this period VA-65 flew 37 percent of all Yankee Team sorties in North Vietnam.
  • 29 Jul 1967: VA-65 personnel were among those killed or injured when a flight deck explosion and fire occurred on USS Forrestal during operations on Yankee Station.
  • Jul–Dec 1967: Due to the fire on the Forrestal and her departure from combat duty on Yankee Station, VA-65 sent a detachment (Det-64) to the USS Constellation to augment VA-196 for the remainder of the ship’s 1967 combat tour in Vietnam.
  • May–Jun 1969: USS Kitty Hawk , with VA-65 aboard, relieved Enterprise in the Sea of Japan. Enterprise had been ordered to operate in the area as a result of the shoot down in April of an unarmed Navy EC-121 reconnaissance aircraft by North Korean MiGs. VA-65 conducted operations in the area during this two month period.
  • 9 Sep–5 Oct 1970: VA-65 operated from USS Independence on Bravo Station off the coast of Israel as a result of the crisis in Jordan and the hijacking of three commercial airliners.
  • 7 Oct–3 Nov & 9–21 Nov 1973: After the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War (Arab-Israeli War of 1973), VA-65 operated from Independence in an area southwest of Crete and provided tanker support to fighter aircraft escorting Air Force One on Secretary of State Kissinger’s mission to Israel as well as tanker support for A-4 Skyhawks being ferried to Israel from the

United States.

  • 4–22 Aug 1974: Independence, with VA-65 embarked, operated between Crete and Cyprus in

response to the crisis in Cyprus and the death of the American Ambassador to Cyprus at the hands of anti-American demonstrators.

  • 12 Mar 1975: During exercises in the Caribbean Sea, VA-65 conducted cross-deck operations with HMS Ark Royal.
  • Nov 1975: During the NATO exercise Ocean Safari in the North Altantic, the squadron once again conducted cross deck operations with HMS Ark Royal.
  • 15 Apr 1980: VA-65 deployed aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower to the Indian Ocean after Iranians took the American Embassy personnel hostage.
  • 22 Dec 1980: VA-65 returned from its deployment that included only one port visit of five days in duration and a total of 246 days at sea.
  • 24 Jun 1982: VA-65 provided support during the evacuation of American and foreign civilians from Beiruit, Lebanon.
  • 7 Mar 1985: VA-65 and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower cut short a port visit to Palma, Spain and departed on a high speed transit to the Eastern Mediterranean due to the increased tension in Lebanon. The squadron operated in the vicinity of Lebanon until early April.
  • 1 Sep 1986: VA-65 was assigned to CVW-13 and USS Coral Sea as part of the Coral Sea Concept whereby two A-6 Intruder squadrons would be part of the air wing and share a common aircraft maintenance department. The concept was intended to reduce the number of personnel needed to support the squadrons.
  • 29 Sep 1987: VA-65 deployed to the Mediterranean Sea aboard Coral Sea as the first Night Vision Goggle (NVG) capable A-6 squadron.
  • Aug–Sep 1989: Coral Sea, with VA-65 embarked, was ordered to operate off the coast of Lebanon following terrorist claims to have killed an American hostage, Lieutenant Colonel William R. Higgins, and the capture of Sheik Obeid from Lebanon by Israeli forces. The unstable situation in Lebanon ultimately led to the evacuation of the American Embassy. Squadron aircraft flew missions in support of the evacuation.
  • Jan–Feb 1990: The squadron was embarked in USS Abraham Lincoln for her shakedown cruise.
  • Jan–Feb 1991: The squadron participated in Operation Desert Storm, the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi forces. Squadron aircraft struck targets in Iraq, Iraqi forces in Kuwait, and Iraqi naval units. The squadron was credited with the destruction (sinking) of 22 Iraqi naval vessels during the conflict.
  • Apr–May 1991: VA-65 participated in Operation Provide Comfort, flying close air support sorties over Northern Iraq in support of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s mission to aid the Kurdish refugees in Iraq.
  • 26 Mar 1993: On a dreary and very rainy day...perfect as a tribute to the all-weather A-6, the men of THE WORLD FAMOUS FIGHTING TIGERS held a disestablishment ceremony (official ceremony followed by a wake at the Officer's Club) at NAS Oceana, it was officially disestablished on 31 March 1993.

Home Ports

Location Assignment Date

Commanding Officers

Name Date Assumed Command

LCDR Howard U. Bush 01 May 1945

LCDR John J. Hilton 05 Oct 1945

LCDR J. C. Micheel 16 Nov 1946

CDR K. W. Caffey 09 Apr 1947

CDR Arthur B. Sweet 11 Jun 1948

LCDR William W. Jones (Acting) 07 Sep 1949

CDR Arthur M. Ershler 10 Nov 1949

CDR Ray C. Tylutki 31 May 1951

LCDR Jean C. Mills 27 Oct 1952

CDR Thomas H. Stetson Sep 1953

CDR Roy P. Gee Feb 1955

CDR William G. Weber Apr 1956

LCDR John R. O’Neil, Jr. 25 Nov 1957

CDR Leland B. Cornell 17 Dec 1957

CDR William D. McNair 11 Sep 1959

CDR Maurice O. Rishel 16 Nov 1960

CDR W. F. Offtermatt 23 Oct 1961

CDR Harry W. Swinburne, Jr. 19 Oct 1962

CDR William J. Whitney 04 Jul 1963

CDR Norman E. Larsen 01 May 1964

CDR William N. Small 30 Nov 1964

CDR Robert C. Mandeville 30 Jun 1966

CDR Frank Cramblet Jun 1967

CDR St. Clair Smith 14 Jun 1968

CDR Michael F. Andrassy 16 Jun 1969

CDR Peter B. Easton 19 Jun 1970

CDR William P. Lyons 10 Jun 1971

CDR Thomas E. Shanahan 23 Jun 1972

CDR Paul F. Hollandsworth 29 Jun 1973

CDR Charles D. Hawkins, Jr. 25 Jun 1974

CDR George H. Strohsahl, Jr. 27 Jun 1975

CDR Donald L. Hahn 14 Sep 1976

CDR William R. Needham 16 Dec 1977

CDR Herbert A. Browne, Jr. 23 Mar 1979

CDR Joseph W. Prueher 20 Jun 1980

CDR Dickey P. Davis 25 Sep 1981

CDR Robert E. Houser 07 Dec 1982

CDR William J. Fallon 03 May 1984

CDR Robert L. Leitzel 06 Sep 1985

CDR Stephen H. Baker 13 Feb 1987

CDR Michael C. Vogt 12 Aug 1988

CDR Ralph H. Coon 23 Feb 1990

CDR Thomas J. Ross 12 Aug 1991

CDR James K. Stark, Jr. 04 Sep 1992

Major Overseas Deployments

Departure Return Air Wing Carrier Aircraft Area of Operation

29 Oct 1947 11 Mar 1948 CVBG-1 CVB 41 AD-1 Med

03 May 1949 25 Sep 1949 CVG-2 CVB 43 AD-1 Med

10 Jan 1951 18 May 1951 CVG-6 CVB 42 AD-4 Med

09 Jan 1952 05 May 1952 CVG-6 CVB 41 AD-4 Med

26 Aug 1952 08 Oct 1952 CVG-6 CVB 41 AD-4 NorLant

01 Dec 1952 19 May 1953 CVG-6 CVA 41 AD-4 Med

04 Jan 1954 04 Aug 1954 CVG-6 CVA 41 AD-6 Med

09 Oct 1955 30 Apr 1956 CVG-6 CVA 39 AD-6 Med

03 Sep 1957 21 Oct 1957 CVG-6 CVA 11 AD-6 NorLant

12 Feb 1959 30 Aug 1959 CVG-6 CVA 11 AD-6 Med

04 Aug 1960 17 Feb 1961 CVG-6 CVA 11 AD-6 Med

03 Aug 1961 01 Mar 1962 CVG-6 CVA 11 AD-6 Med

03 Aug 1962 11 Oct 1962 CVG-6 CVAN 65 A-1H Med

19 Oct 1962 06 Dec 1962 CVG-6 CVAN 65 A-1H Carib

06 Feb 1963 04 Sep 1963 CVG-6 CVAN 65 A-1H Med

08 Feb 1964 03 Oct 1964 CVW-6 CVAN 65 A-1H Med/World Cruise

12 May 1966 03 Dec 1966 CVW-15 CVA 64 A-6A WestPac/Vietnam

06 Jun 1967 15 Sep 1967 CVW-17 CVA 59 A-6A WestPac/Vietnam

30 Dec 1968 04 Sep 1969 CVW-11 CVA 63 A-6A/B WestPac/Vietnam

23 Jun 1970 31 Jan 1971 CVW-7 CVA 62 A-6A Med

16 Sep 1971 16 Mar 1972 CVW-7 CVA 62 A-6A/KA-6D NorLant/Med

21 Jun 1973 19 Jan 1974 CVW-7 CV 62 A-6E/KA-6D Med

19 Jul 1974 21 Jan 1975 CVW-7 CV 62 A-6E/KA-6D Med

15 Oct 1975 05 May 1976 CVW-7 CV 62 A-6E/KA-6D NorLant/Med

31 Mar 1977 21 Oct 1977 CVW-7 CV 62 A-6E/KA-6D Med

16 Jan 1979 13 Jul 1979 CVW-7 CVN 69 A-6E/KA-6D Med

15 Apr 1980 22 Dec 1980 CVW-7 CVN 69 A-6E/KA-6D IO

20 Aug 1981 07 Oct 1981 CVW-7 CVN 69 A-6E/KA-6D NorLant

05 Jan 1982 13 Jul 1982 CVW-7 CVN 69 A-6E/KA-6D Med

27 Apr 1983 02 Dec 1983 CVW-7 CVN 69 A-6E/KA-6D Med

08 May 1984 20 Jun 1984 CVW-7 CVN 69 A-6E/KA-6D Carib/NorLant

10 Oct 1984 08 May 1985 CVW-7 CVN 69 A-6E/KA-6D Med

08 Jul 1985 22 Aug 1985 CVW-7 CVN 69 A-6E/KA-6D Carib

29 Sep 1987 28 Mar 1988 CVW-13 CV 43 A-6E Med

31 May 1989 30 Sep 1989 CVW-13 CV 43 A-6E Med

28 Dec 1990 28 Jun 1991 CVW-8 CVN 71 A-6E Med/Red Sea/Persian Gulf

Air Wing Assignments

Air Wing Tail Code Assignment Date

  • CVG-74 01 May 1945
  • CVBG-1* M 15 Nov 1946
  • CVG-2† M 01 Sep 1948
  • CVG-6 C Aug 1950
  • CVG-6 AF‡CVG-6/CVW-6§ AE§ RCVW-4 AD 01 Jan 1965
  • COMFAIRNORFOLK 05 Jun 1965
  • CVW-15 NL 20 Feb 1966
  • COMFAIRNORFOLK 03 Dec 1966
  • CVW-17 AA 22 Dec 1966
  • COMFAIRNORFOLK 15 Sep 1967
  • CVW-11 NH 1968
  • CVW-7 AG Feb 1970
  • CVW-13 AK 01 Sep 1986
  • CVW-8 AJ 30 Oct 1989
  • CVG-74 was redesignated CVBG-1 on 15 November 1946.
  • † CVBG-1 was redesignated CVG-2 on 1 September 1948.

‡ CVG-6’s tail code was changed from C to AF in the latter part of 1957. The effective date was most likely the beginning of FY 58 (1 July 1957). § CVG-6’s tailcode was changed from AF to AE sometime in the latter part of 1962. Carrier Air Groups (CVG) were redesignated Carrier Air Wings (CVW) on 20 December 1963, hence, CVG-6 became CVW-6.

Unit Awards

Unit Award Inclusive Dates Covering Unit Award

Navy Battle E Ribbon


01 Jul 1951 30 Jun 1952

01 Jul 1959 30 Jun 1960


01 Oct 1977 30 Sep 1978

01 Oct 1979 30 Sep 1980

01 Jan 1984 31 Dec 1984

01 Jan 1991 31 Dec 1991

Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal

24 Oct 1962 21 Nov 1962

15 May 1969

25 May 1969 27 May 1969

05 Jun 1969

07 Jun 1969 15 Jun 1969

25 Jun 1969

06 Jun 1983 14 Jun 1983

27 Jul 1983 30 Aug 1983

01 Sep 1983 19 Oct 1983

27 Oct 1983 20 Nov 1983 Meritorious Unit Commendation

09 Sep 1970 05 Oct 1970

30 Mar 1988 30 Sep 1989

Navy Expeditionary Medal

29 Apr 1980 16 Jul 1980

22 Jul 1980 08 Dec 1980

25 May 1983 27 May 1983

Navy Unit Commendation

15 Jan 1969 27 Aug 1969

29 Apr 1980 10 Dec 1980

21 Jul 1983 20 Nov 1983

27 Oct 1984 24 Apr 1985

17 Jan 1991 07 Feb 1991

Vietnam Service Medal

14 Jun 1966 13 Jul 1966

27 Jul 1966 31 Aug 1966

08 Sep 1966 01 Oct 1966

19 Oct 1966 09 Nov 1966

23 Jul 1967 30 Jul 1967

12 Aug 1967

27 Jan 1969 01 Mar 1969

12 Mar 1969 05 Apr 1969

17 Apr 1969 10 May 1969

28 Jun 1969 15 Jul 1969

27 Jul 1969 16 Aug 1969

Kuwait Liberation Medal

7 Jan 1991 28 Feb 1991

Southwest Asia Service Medal (includes Desert Storm)

14 Jan 1991 20 Apr 1991

Joint Meritorious Unit Commendation

05 Apr 1991 16 Jul 1991

  • The award covers the competitive year 1948.

† The award covers the competitive year 1967.

External and Internal References

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