"Live by the Sword. Die by the Swordsmen."
The Swordsmen have enforced United States Policy during 20 deployments in two different aircraft on all corners of the world. Attack Squadron ONE FOUR FIVE began as Attack Squadron 702, a group of weekend warriors at Naval Air Station, Dallas, nicknamed the "Rustlers". VA-702 was established on 1 December 1949.
On 20 July 1950 the squadron received orders to activate and proceed to Naval Air Station, San Diego, where they trained in the Douglas AD-1 Skyraider. On 2 March 1951 the Rustlers departed for the Korean zone aboard USS BOXER (CV 21), making them part of the first reserve group to see combat in the Korean conflict. After six line periods of thirty days each in the combat area, VA-702 returned home, having dropped over 2,300 tons of high explosives on the enemy.
In August 1952 the squadron, with an entirely new roster of pilots, again departed for Korea aboard USS KEARSARGE (CVA 33). The pilots and men set an exemplary record against the enemy during a six month tour of continuous behind the line operations. It was during this second combat tour, on 4 February 1953, that the squadron was redesignated Attack Squadron 145.
Attack Squadron 145 returned in March 1953 to begin a new training cycle which lasted twelve months. The air group was then sent to the East Coast for temporary duty in the Mediterranean Sea. From February to August 1954, the squadron cruised aboard USS Randolph (CVA 15) with CVW-14. At this time the squadron was flying the AD-4 Skyraider.
In September 1954 the "Rustlers" commenced their third training cycle, and deployed to WESTPAC aboard the BOXER in June 1955. It was during this eight month cruise that they established the squadron flight record of 1,094.7 flight hours in one month.
The squadron returned to NAS Miramar in February 1956, and began to replace the AD-4 with the AD-6. At this time the squadron changed their nickname to the Swordsmen. In January 1957 the Swordsmen boarded USS HORNET (CVA 12) for a six month tour of the Far East.
In May 1958 the Swordsmen headed to Norfolk, Virginia to board USS RANGER (CVA 61) for a cruise around Cape Horn on her delivery voyage to the Pacific Fleet.
During February 1960 the Swordsmen returned to USS ORISKANY (CVA 34), and set a new Pacific Fleet record for the most night carrier landings during carrier qualifications, accumulating a total of 196 night landings in just two nights. From May to December 1960 the squadron cruised to the Far East aboard ORISKANY.
This pattern of life followed the squadron from 1961 to 1964. The Swordsmen were constantly training and deploying on goodwill tours as a part of the peacetime United States Navy. With the outbreak of hostilities in the Southeast Asia, the Swordsmen were once again summoned. In August 1964 they began their first combat tour in the South China Sea aboard USS CONSTELLATION (CVA 64) as part of Air Group FOURTEEN.
After two additional combat deployments aboard RANGER and USS INTREPID (CVS 11) the squadron moved to NAS Whidbey Island in 1968 for transition to the A-6 Intruder. Training in the complex radar and computer system of the A-6A was completed in time to make a fourth combat cruise in 1969 aboard USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65).
Fifth and sixth combat cruises aboard RANGER followed, with the squadron now assigned to Carrier Air Wing TWO. The sixth and last combat cruise to Vietnam was highlighted by the Pave Knife laser guided bombing system. As a result fourteen highway and railroad bridges in North Vietnam were destroyed in only three hours. This significant capability brought recognition to the A-6 Pave Knife weapons system as one of the most potent weapons systems in a limited war environment.
Upon return from the next WESTPAC cruise in 1976 the squadron began the transition from the combat proven A-6A to the more sophisticated A-6E, and approximately 18 months later to the A-6E CAINS. This model of the A-6 represented a significant increase in reliability and electronic solid state sophistication over the vacuum tube technology of the A-6A.
In early 1980 the Swordsmen completed work-ups for their 1980-81 WESTPAC deployment. As the Iranian hostage crisis completed one full year, the Swordsmen entered the Arabian Sea aboard RANGER. Completing this deployment, which was highlighted by the ultimate release of the American hostages, the squadron again began a period of transition by upgrading to the A-6E TRAM.
Integration of the A-6E TRAM and the Harpoon anti-ship missile during the 1982 WESTPAC deployment enabled the Swordsmen to significantly expand the strike capabilities of the Battle Group.
In January 1984 the Swordsmen again deployed to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans on board USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63). During this cruise, the KITTY HAWK ran over a Soviet Victor class submarine in the Sea of Japan. The squadron participated in TEAM SPIRIT '84 off the Korean Coast and set new records for long strike capability spending three months in the North Arabian Sea during the Persian Gulf crisis.
The squadron returned in August 1984 and began an extensive turnaround training cycle. The Swordsmen put to sea again to participate in RIMPAC '86 in June 1986, a cornerstone of which was an unprecedented EMCON transit which led to RANGER being designated as "The Stealth Carrier".
In August 1986 VA-145 became the first Navy A-6 squadron to participate in a surge deployment. Aboard RANGER the Swordsmen operated in the cold weather environment of the North China Sea, the Bering Sea, and the Northern Pacific Ocean.
RANGER and Carrier Air Wing TWO were called upon short notice to participate in TEAM SPIRIT '87 during March-April 1987. The Swordsmen successfully executed Joint Forces Close Air Support and Air Support Radar Team bombing missions into South Korea.
The Swordsmen deployed aboard RANGER in July 1987 on a WESTPAC/IO cruise. The squadron spent three months in the North Arabian Sea providing escort air cover for the reflagged Kuwaiti tankers and U.S. Navy warships. The squadron also took honors as the CVW-2 "Top Tailhook" squadron for the entire deployment.
Following the 1987 cruise the "Swordsmen were selected as the squadron to introduce the A-6E System Weapons Integration Program (SWIP) aircraft to the Pacific Fleet in June 1988. SWIP provides increased survivability in today's sophisticated combat environment. It also gives the A-6 improved electronic countermeasures, enhanced Harpoon capability and the ability to fire the High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM). Additionally, SWIP aircraft can carry Laser and IR Maverick "smart' weapons and the Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM).
In February of 1989, the Swordsmen put to sea again aboard RANGER for a WESTPAC/IO cruise. In addition to the historic first WESTPAC A-6 SWIP deployment, the Swordsmen spent three months in the North Arabian Sea making port calls in Hawaii, the Philippines, Singapore, Diego Garcia, Australia, Thailand and Hong Kong. While returning from cruise through the South China Sea, a Swordsmen crew spotted a sinking barge leading to the rescue by RANGER of 39 Vietnamese "Boat People". As on the 1987 cruise, the Swordsmen again earned "Top Tailhook" honors for the deployment.
During a busy workup cycle the Swordsmen won their fifth consecutive Intruder Derby. Showing their expertise in all facets of the competition, they took top honors in Intelligence, Combat Simulator Flight and first, second and third place in the night complex bombing event.
On 8 December 1990 the Swordsmen deployed two weeks early with the RANGER and our new A-6 sister squadron (VA-155) in response to Operation Desert Shield. After celebrating Christmas at sea and New Year's in the Philippines, the RANGER entered the Arabian Gulf on the 15th of January. On 17 January 1991, the Swordsmen fired the first Naval Aviation shot of Desert Storm - a HARM missile - which was also the first HARM missile fired by an A-6 in combat. Over two million pounds of ordnance were delivered by aircrews that flew over 40 missions each. During the course of the 43 day conflict VA-145 destroyed or severely damaged 33 tanks, 48 artillery pieces, 41 naval vessels, 25 missile components, 23 conventional and chemical munitions bunkers, 13 oil facilities, seven communication sites, five hangars, eight piers, two barracks, a bridge, a power plant and rail yard and mined four critical lines of communications. The Swordsmen flew 1358.8 combat hours, 1120.3 of these were at night, leading to the squadron motto during the war, "Swordsmen own the night!" Returning triumphantly they stopped in the United Arab Emirates, Pattaya, Hong Kong, Philippines and Hawaii before flying home to Whidbey Island. Upon return from the cruise, the squadron won the sixth consecutive Intruder Bombing Derby.
In early 1992, the Swordsmen commenced work-ups for RANGER's last deployment. During the year the Swordsmen were awarded the 1991 COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E", CNO Safety "S", Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy, and the RADM C. Wade McClusky Award as the best Attack Squadron in the Navy. After winning their seventh consecutive and an unmatched eighth overall Intruder Bombing Derby in July, the Swordsmen deployed in August for the final time with the RANGER/CVW-2 team for a Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf deployment in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. For three months the Swordsmen patrolled the skies over Southern Iraq enforcing the United Nations sanctioned no fly zone. On 3 December 1992 the Swordsmen and RANGER received orders to proceed to Somalia to participate in Operation RESTORE HOPE. The Swordsmen once again demonstrated the great flexibility of the United States Navy by enforcing United States policy anywhere in the world at a moment's notice.
Four months after the Swordsmen returned from their six month deployment, VA-145 was on the CONSTELLATION for her transit from Mayport, Florida to San Diego, California around the Horn of South America. The transit consisted of flight operations comprised of CQ training for the boat and the aircrew, war-at-seas and joint operations with Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru. On board CONNIE, the Swordsmen completed 100 percent of their sorties and returned to the boat to achieve the highest boarding rate in the air wing during the transit. The Swordsmen will be remembered for the pride and professionalism in which they have displayed throughout their history.