Marine Aircraft Group 41 is a United States Marine Corps reserve aviation unit based at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas that is currently composed of one F/A-18C squadron, one KC-130 squadron a maintenance and logistics squadron and an engineer and Air Trafiic Control squadron.
Because of the shortage of aircraft carriers early in the war, land-based Marine air was used to neutralize by-passed enemy bases in the Central Pacific. As an ever increasing number of escort carriers became available, it was decided Marine planes would be placed on board. In 1944, MAG-41 training to subordinate squadrons included carrier duty and the further development of close air support for the Marines on the ground. MAG-41 was the first Marine aviation unit to receive and train with the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver. By the end of the war, thegroup had trained nearly twenty fighter, dive bomber and torpedo squadrons for combat.
Marine aviation strength during World War II peaked at five Marine air wings that included 31 groups, 145 squadrons and 112,626 Marines, of whom 10,457 were pilots. During that time, MAG-41 held the distinction of having the largest squadron in Marine aviation history. With the war over, MAG-41 officially deactivated in October 1945, but with the new doctrine of carrier-based aircraft being set, Marine aviation would go on to become an integral part of future amphibious operations.
On July 1, 1962, the group was reactivated as part of 4th Marine Aircraft Wing at Naval Air Station Dallas, and designated a Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment. At that time MAG-41 consisted of three fighter squadrons, (VMF-111, VMF-112, VMF-413,) and two medium helicopter squadrons, (HMM-777, HMM-762.) The fighter squadrons flew the FJ-4B and AF-1E Fury, while the helicopter squadrons flew the UH-34 Seahorse. The following year, VMF-413 and HMM-762 were deactivated. By August 1963, VMF-111 and VMF- 112 made the leap into supersonic flight with the F-8A Crusader. Vought, the manufacturer of the Crusader, had a plant adjacent to the runway of NAS Dallas, making the transition more than convenient for squadron pilots and support personnel.
On October 22, 1965 VMF-111 was deactivated with personnel and aircraft to be absorbed by VMF-112. In July 1967, the unit formally known as the “Wolf Pack,” from its glory days of World War II with 140 kills in the Pacific, changed its name to the “Cowboys,” and redesigned the squadron insignia to reflect the local Dallas Cowboys NFL team.
In 1970, another Crusader squadron, VMJ-4, flying the photoreconnaissance version of the fighter, the RF-8G, joined the unit. The unit eventually received reworked models of the Crusader, the F-8K, and later, the F-8H in 1971. With the added allweather capability of the F-8H, VMF-112 was redesignated VMF(AW)-112 on November 1, 1971. The squadron continued to operate various models of the F-8 until the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II replaced the aircraft. When the squadron began to acquire the F-4, it was re-designated as Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112 in 1983.
Former MAG-41 Commanding Officer, Col. Rick “Pack Rat” Packard (far right) presided over the restoration and re-dedication ceremony of a H-34 Seahorse currently on static display at NAS-JRB Fort Worth, Texas. MAG-41 als o continued to advance in rotary-aircraft operations. In 1972 the “Flying Armadillos” of HMM-777 traded its aging UH-34Ds for the CH-53A Sea Stallion and was redesignated as a heavy Marine helicopter squadron. HMH-777 was deactivated due to massive budget cuts in 1980, however, on Oct. 1, 1980, the squadron’s personnel and aircraft were reformed as the Bravo Detachment of HMH- 772, which was based in Willow Grove, Pa. For the next thirteen years, the Dallas detachment supported 4th MAW, including a deployment to Okinawa in support of Desert Storm, yet in 1993 the Reserve heavy-lift squadrons were realigned, and both HMH-772 detachments were deactivated. Det. Alpha was reactivated as HMH-769 but HMH-777 was not so lucky. On April 1, 1993, Col. George “Woody” Woodroof, the last commanding officer of HMH-772, Det. Bravo, retired the squadron colors in a brief ceremony to close the final chapter on the “Flying Armadillos” and what has, so far, been the final chapter of rotary aircraft in MAG-41.
During Desert Storm, modern Marine aviation proved to be powerful and versatile as advanced aircraft set the tone for combat operations. Although MAG-41 was proud to have the last Phantom II squadron in the Marine Corps, a change was needed to propel the group into the twenty-first century. In July 1992, VMFA-112 received their first McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet, and subsequently launched a “Phantom “Pharewell” to bid a last farewell to their F-4J/S. In the coming months more Hornets began to appear on the “Cowboy” flightline until the squadron received their entire compliment of 11 “A” models and one two-seating “B” model. On October 8,1992, Capt. Joe “Crop” Riley flew the first Hornet sortie for the “Cowboys” and began a new chapter for “Flying Leathernecks” of MAG-41.
VMFA-112 has since reconfigured its aircraft to the F/A-18A+ platform. The aircraft have undergone improvements in radar, navigation, and night vision systems. VMFA-112 has also worked alongside Naval Air Weapons Stations-China Lake testing the AIM-9X Sidewinder (Air Intercept Missile) as well as the Joint Direct Attack Munition. In August 1994, MAG-41 gained a squadron of 14 KC-130T Hercules, when Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234 was reassigned from NAS Glenview, Ill. After the move the group quickly gained the title of the “Rangers” from the Major League Baseball team located minutes away in Arlington, Texas. Within months of their arrival to Dallas, VMGR-234 surpassed 73,000 accident-free flight hours.