Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 (VMFA-323) is a United States Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet squadron. The squadron is based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 11 (MAG-11) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW) but deploys with Carrier Air Wing 9.
On April 9, 1945, the Death Rattlers flew into Kadena airfield in support of Operation Iceberg during the Battle of Okinawa. Combat operations commenced the following day. Between then and the Japanese surrender in August, the Death Rattlers racked up 124 Japanese planes shot down without a single loss. Twelve Death Rattlers became aces.
After the war, the Death Rattlers were based at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, where they conducted training exercises. It was around this time that the squadron appeared in the 1949 movie Sands of Iwo Jima.
The squadron was re-designated Marine Attack Squadron 323 (VMA-323) in June, 1952. The Death Rattlers left Korea in July 1953. Once back home, the squadron began flying the F9F Panther and then the F9F Cougar, a swept-wing version of the Panther. In 1956 the squadron adopted the FJ-4 Fury, with which it deployed to the western Pacific in 1957. That year, the Death Rattlers flew armed patrols over the Quemoy and Matsu islands to support Chinese nationalist forces.
In 1964 the squadron returned to MCAS Cherry Point, where they received their present designation of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 (VMFA-323). This same year, the Death Rattlers began flying the F-4 Phantom II. During the Dominican Crisis in 1965, the Death Rattlers provided air cover while American citizens were evacuated.
On September 14, 1982, VMFA-323 transitioned to its current aircraft, the F/A-18 Hornet. In October 1985, the squadron deployed again aboard the USS Coral Sea (CV-43), this time to the Mediterranean Sea. In spring of 1986 during Freedom of Navigation exercises held in international waters and airspace off the coast of Libya. Later on April 15, 1986 provided SAM suppression and fighter Combat Air Patrol (CAP) sorties during Operation El Dorado Canyon.
In 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999, and 2001 the Death Rattlers flew missions in support of Operation Southern Watch.
On 2 November 2002, VMFA-323 deployed aboard the USS Constellation as part of CVW-2 to conduct Operation Southern Watch. While on this deployment, the Death Rattlers transitioned from Operation Southern Watch to Operation Iraqi Freedom conducting sorties into Baghdad on the first night of the war.
On May 2, 2005, two F/A-18C Hornet fighter jets from VMFA-323, BUNO 164721 and BUNO 164732, collided over south-central Iraq, during a sortie from the USS Carl Vinson, killing the XO and a Junior officer.