The history of Fighter Squadron FOURTEEN dates back to the origins of Naval Aviation. Its record of continuous active service began in September of 1919, which makes it the Navys oldest active squadron. Since its inception the squadron has flown twenty-two different type aircraft, had its designation changed fourteen times, operated from twenty different aircraft carriers, as well as several battleships, and has had seventy-two Commanding Officers (the seventy-third is now in command).
Over the years the squadron has been assigned many different missions, including patrol and observation in its early years, and scouting, attack, and fighter missions when it became associated with carrier-based operations.
The TOPHATTERs began carrier operations onboard the Navys first aircraft carrier USS LANGLEY (CV-1) in 1926. The squadron, then designated Fighter Plane Squadron ONE, established a record for carrier landings in a single day. Flying the TS-1, they logged one hundred twenty-seven traps by the end of flight operations.
In 1929 the squadron was assigned to USS SARATOGA (CV-3), where it began as a fighter squadron and transitioned to a bomber squadron. Throughout the 1930s, the TOPHATTERs flew the FB-5, F2B, F8C-4 Helldiver, F-4B, F11C Goshawk, BFC-s and the SB2U-1 Vindicator aircraft. In 1939, while flying the Vindicator, the TOPHATTERs were transferred to the Atlantic Fleet and the USS RANGER (CV-4).
The TOPHATTERs proved to be formidable foes during World War II. While embarked on USS RANGER (CV-4) the squadron provided air support for the invasion of North Africa in November of 1942. During the four days of November 8-11, the pilots destroyed sixteen enemy aircraft. Flying the SBD Dauntless dive bomber, the squadron participated in the first American naval air strike against German forces in Norways inner channel.
In November 1944, the squadron transferred to the Pacific Fleet and participated in the Leyte Campaign while embarked on the USS BUNKER HILL (CV-17). After transferring to USS ESSEX (CV-9), the squadron bombed fortifications on Formosa in January 1945, supported the assault on Iwo Jima in February, participated in the first naval carrier strike on Tokyo, and completed Pacific combat operations with strikes on Okinawa in early march 1945.
In 1949, while flying the F-4U Corsair, the TOPHATTERs accepted their current designations as VF-14, as well as the role of all-weather interceptor. In 1954 they transitioned to the F3-D Skynight and in 1956 the F-3H Demon. In May of 1963, the TOPHATTERs transitioned to the F-4B Phantom II and on 23 January 1964, they became the first Phantom squadron to operate onboard the USS FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (CVA-42).
In June 1966, after moving to their present home base at NAS Oceana, the TOPHATTERs deployed to the China Sea to conduct air strikes and support missions against military targets in North Vietnam. During this combat deployment, the squadron flew 1,688 hours on 967 combat sorties and delivered 651,624 pounds of ordnance, in addition to flying its traditional combat air patrol and fighter escort missions.
In June 1975 the TOPHATTERs became the first Atlantic squadron to deploy with the F-14A. In October1978, the TOPHATTER aircrew set an all-time F-14 flight hour record when they flew 977 hours in one month while deployed in the Mediterranean.
In August 1980, the TOPHATTERs deployed to the Mediterranean Sea with Carrier Air Wing ONE onboard the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV-67). During this deployment, VF-14 won the Silver Anchor Award and in 1980 COMNAVAIRLANT Battle "E" Award for their combat readiness, the second year in a row.
In July 1981, the TOPHATTERs joined Carrier Air Wing SIX. The squadron deployed again in June 1982 onboard USS INDEPENDENCE (CV-62), and in July was named the "Best Fighter Squadron" by Commander, Fighter Wing ONE (COMFITWINGONE) for their superb performance in the Fleet Fighter Air Combat Readiness Program (FFARP) against the VF-43 Adversary squadron.
October and early November 1983 found the TOPHATTERs logging more combat time in support of Operation "Urgent Fury" in Grenada. After playing an integral part in the liberation of Grenada from Cuban insurgents, VF-14 proceeded east to the Mediterranean to participate in contingency operations off the coast of Lebanon. In early December of 1983, the TOPHATTERs were again called upon to provide combat air support for the elements of the multi-national forces in Beirut.
On 1 April 1985, the TOPHATTERs returned to the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV-67) and Carrier Air Wing THREE, where they spent the rest of the year on a turnaround training schedule which included eleven detachments to various parts of the United States and Canada.
On 18 April 1986, the TOPHATTERs and the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV-67) departed for the Mediterranean once again and were extended on deployment due to the Lebanon Hostage Crisis. Upon their return to the United States, the TOPHATTERs were again proclaimed the "Best Fighter Squadron" by winning the 1987 FFARP award.
In 1989, VF-14 was presented with the COMNAVAIRLANT "Grand Slam" award in recognition of their perfect missile firing record. The Competition for this annual award included all East coast F-14 and F/A-18 squadrons.
On 10 August 1990, eight days after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV-67) was ordered to emergency deploy to the Red Sea in support of Operation "Desert Shield". During the months leading up to the war, the TOPHATTERs played an integral role in enforcing the Iraqi embargo. On the morning of 17 January 1991, the TOPHATTERs once again flew into combat when they joined U. N. forces in the air assault on Iraq.
In December of 1991, VF-14 became one of the first squadrons to begin training for the Tomcats new air-to-ground mission. After low altitude flight training and several strike related schools, the TOPHATTERs tackled the Tomcat Advanced Strike Syllabus (now designated AARP) and put their new skills to the test during Air Wing work-ups in Fallon, Nevada.
In October 1992, the TOPHATTERs again headed east for their 92-93 Mediterranean deployment. Once past the Rock of Gibraltar, VF-14 immediately began flying air superiority and reconnaissance missions in the Adriatic Sea in support of U. N. policies in the former Yugoslavian Republics. During this deployment, the TOPHATTERs also participated in several highly successful exercises with Egypt, Morocco, and Turkey, while continuing to support operations off the coast of the former Yugoslavia and Operation "Provide Comfort" in Iraq.
On 1 April 1994, the TOPHATTERs detached from Carrier Air Wing THREE and joined Commander, Fighter Wing Atlantic, while awaiting reassignment to a Carrier Air Wing. They continued their turnaround training through several air-to-air, air-to-ground and carrier qualification detachments.
Recently, VF-14 detached to Twenty Nine Palms for a Combined Arms Exercise (CAX) where the air-to-ground mission was pushed to the limit. In 1995, the TOPHATTERs also were the testbed for the Tomcat air-to-ground rockets program. Fighting FOURTEEN, the Navys "Oldest and the Boldest", completed 76 years of distinguished service in September 1995. At the end of 1995 the TOPHATTERs were awarded the Fighter Fling Banner Blaster award for their superior performance in the air-to-air gunnery arena.
1996 has been a busy year for VF-14. In January 1996, the
TOPHATTERs became part of Carrier Air Wing EIGHT and once again rejoined with the USS JOHN
F. KENNEDY (CV-67). In March, the squadron deployed on the USS STENNIS (CVN-74) for its
shakedown cruise. In May, the squadron was recognized as the Fighter Wing Bomb Derby
champions. June took the TOPHATTERs on a forty day cruise aboard the USS JOHN F.
KENNEDY (CV-67) to Ireland and England. Next, VF-14 has been deployed onboard USS JOHN F.
KENNEDY for a six months visit to the MED and other operating areas, including the Gulf.
They succesfully returned from the cruise at the begining of October 1997, adding a new
Golden Wrench to the tail of their F-14s and earning another COMNAVAIRLANT Battle
"E" Efficiency Award!.
During March 1998 Carrier Air Wing Eight and VF-14 changed their home to the nuclear powered aircraft carrier U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The new assignement brings new challenges to the Oldest and Boldest Fighter Squadron in the Navy! Durig the summer of 1998 the squadron succesfully completed the air-to-ground portion of the SFARP during a ten day detachment to NAS El Centro and took part in the TSTA I and II exercises aboard U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The end of 1998 saw the Tophatters take over the new F-14A DFCS, then go to Fallon, NV for airwing training. They finished a busy year by taking part in the 6 week COMPTUEX.
1999 started with work-ups in preparation for the coming deployment. Then, the 26th of March, VF-14 deployed with CVW-8 aboard the nuclear powered aircraft carrier U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) for a scheduled six month deployment to the Med and the Gulf. During this deployment, the squadron, together with the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Battle Group, was successfully involved in NATO's Operation Allied Force AND in Operation Southern Watch, marking the first time ever that a Carrier Battle Group has been succesful in TWO operation theaters within the same cruise.
Among the many awards held by the TOPHATTERs are two Presidential Unit Citations, the Navy Unit Commendation, two Meritorious Unit Commendations, five Battle stars, four CNO Aviation Safety awards, and seven COMNAVAIRLANT Battle Efficiency "E" awards - the last one for 1997!. They were also presented the most coveted trophy of excellence in the fighter community - the Admiral Joseph C. Clifton award - at the Association of Naval Aviation (ANA) convention in May 1998. This award was soon followed by an equally prestigious and exceptional honor - the Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy, awarded annually to the most improved combat unit (ship, submarine, or squadron) in Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT). This award has never before been won by an F-14 squadron, and it is perhaps this last award which says the most about where Fighting Fourteen has been and where it is going as the squadron sails into the next millennium.
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You can also read this un-official squadron history submitted by one of our visitors.
VF-14 "The Oldest and Boldest"