The VFA-32 Swordsmen originated on Feb. 1, 1945 as VBF-3, after VF-3 was split into two squadrons. VBF-3 joined Carrier Air Group THREE onboard USS YORKTOWN (CV 10) operating in the Pacific theater. Flying F6F-5 "Hellcats", VBF-3 pilots became the first Navy carrier-based pilots to attack the homeland of the Japanese Empire. During the heavy action on that day, the squadron shot down 24 Japanese aircraft for which the Swordsmen received the Presidential Unit Citation. In 1946, VBF-3 transitioned to F8F-1 "Bearcats" and redesignated as VF-4A. In August 1948, the squadron became VF-32, with the transition to the F4U-4.
At the outbreak of the Korean conflict, pilots from VF-32 were flying F4U-4 "Corsairs" onboard USS LEYTE (CV 32). From October 1950 to January 1951, VF-32 participated in strikes against Korean targets including Wonsan Harbor, Puckchong, Chonjin, and the Chosin Reservoir. A significant event for the Swordsmen occurred on the 4th of December, 1950 during a strike against the Chosin Reservoir. ENS Jesse L. Brown, the first black Navy fighter pilot, was hit by anti-aircraft fire and forced down in North Korean territory. A squadron mate, LTJG Thomas Hudner looked down and saw his friend trapped in his aircraft, reaching up to Hudner for help as the plane caught fire. LTJG Hudner crash landed his aircraft alongside ENS Brown in an attempt to rescue him, but his efforts were in vain. The President awarded LTJG Hudner the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic effort and ENS Brown the Distinguished Flying Cross. After operations in Korea, the squadron returned to the East Coast where they became the first operational unit to fly the Grumman F9F-6 "Cougar", the Navy's first swept wing jet fighter. VF-32 made subsequent deployments onboard USS TARAWA (CV 40) in 1953 and the USS TICONDEROGA (CV 14) in 1955.
In 1956, VF-32 became the first Navy squadron to transition to the new F8U-1 “Crusader”. While deployed onboard USS SARATOGA (CVA 60) as a unit of Carrier Air Group THREE, VF-32 participated in the Lebanese conflict of 1958. During the Cuban missile crisis in late 1962, VF-32 flew 96 sorties in support of photoreconnaissance flights and intelligence gathering missions. The Squadron changed home port from Naval Air Station Cecil Field, Florida to Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia after returning from cruise in 1965. VF-32 detached from Carrier Air Group THREE, ending a relationship that had lasted continuously since the squadron's inception.
VF-32 deployed on the USS FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (CVA 42) in June 1966 as a component of Carrier Air Group ONE and sailed for Southeast Asia. The squadron flew 940 combat sorties in five months, building a highly successful combat record and losing no aircraft or aircrew. In May 1968, VF-32 deployed on USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67) for her maiden voyage. In 1971, the squadron received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for actions in support of SIXTH FLEET operations during the Middle East Crisis. In 1974, VF-32 introduced the F-14A "Tomcat" to the East coast, embarking on their first Atlantic Fleet deployment in June 1975. On that cruise, the Navy awarded VF-32 the Admiral Joseph Clifton Award as the Navy's top fighter squadron. In October 1977, VF-32 became the first fleet squadron to fly against the Air Force F-15, setting the stage for regularly scheduled dissimilar air combat training between the Air Force and the Navy. The Gypsies of VF-32 again deployed for the Mediterranean on USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67) in June 1978. VF-32 conducted the first fleet test and evaluation of the new and highly successful Television Camera System. The Swordsmen also deployed with AIM-9L missiles for the first fleet captive-carry evaluation. A mid-cruise missile exercise, "BUZZARDEX", was an unqualified success with firings of AIM-54A PHOENIX and AIM-7F SPARROW missiles at five Mach 2.5 targets.
In October 1979, VF-32 completed an unprecedented 10 years of accident-free flying. In those 10 years, the squadron flew over 33,000 hours with 17,000 of those in the F-14A "Tomcat". In 1980, the Swordsmen received with the Admiral Clifton Award. The Swordsmen enjoyed an accident-free Mediterranean cruise onboard JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67) in 1980 and 1981.
In 1982, the squadron completed another accident-free Mediterranean deployment onboard USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62), achieving the 1982 COMNAVAIRLANT Battle "E" and CNO Safety "S”. VF-32 flew combat air patrol missions and provided TARPS imagery for air strikes on Syrian positions in Lebanon and in support of American forces in Grenada. The deployment concluded with participation in NATO exercise "TEAMWORK 84" in the Norwegian Sea. After a quick turnaround, the Swordsmen made a third deployment onboard USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62) from October 1984 through February 1985 to the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.
The Swordsmen rejoined CVW-3 in February 1985, deploying onboard JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67) in August of 1986 for another Mediterranean cruise. VF-32 participated in a variety of NATO and combined exercises, and celebrated a second decade of safety. On January 4, 1989, a section of "Gypsy" Tomcats, while conducting routine operations north of Libya, were vectored on two approaching Libyan Fighters. After attempts at a peaceful intercept, and with hostile intent evident, the section of Swordsmen fired AIM-7 and AIM-9 missiles downing two Libyan MIG-23 Floggers. The combat proven Swordsmen returned to Oceana in February of 1989.
In August of 1990, the Swordsmen deployed to the Red Sea in support of Operation DESERT SHIELD. Combat operations over Iraq from 16 January to 28 February 1991 marked the sixth decade of Swordsmen participation in armed conflict.
Throughout Operation DESERT STORM, VF-32 aircrew logged 1,445 combat flight hours on 403 missions, including 38 combat TARPS missions. Returning from the Red Sea in 1991, the Swordsmen won the 1991 AIRLANT Grand Slam missile firing competition with an unprecedented 17 of 17 scored kills.
VFA-32 and the JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67) again deployed in October 1992. The Gypsies conducted several air-to-ground operations while on cruise, marking the beginning of the Tomcat STRIKE/FIGHTER mission. The Swordsmen returned home to NAS Oceana in April 1993 highlighting the year with presentations of the Golden Wrench, Battle "E", and Clifton Awards.
From May 1994 to November 1998, the Swordsmen participated in a number of combat operations to include: Operation RESTORE DEMOCRACY in Haiti, Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in Iraq and in Bosnia/Herzegovina in support of Operation DENY FLIGHT. The Gypsies brought digital imagery to the TARPS mission, receiving the Meritorious Unit Commendation for their cutting edge work with Digital TARPS.
From December 16 to 19, 1998, Carrier Air Wing THREE participated in combat operation against Iraqi targets in Operation DESERT FOX. The Gypsies expended over 111,000 pounds of precision guided munitions while participating in 16 strike missions and 38 sorties. The Tomcat achieved many firsts; the first GBU-24's to be dropped by the Navy in combat, the first multiple (“consecutive miracles”) GBU-24 drop by any platform in combat, the first combat use of the LANTIRN targeting pod, the first autonomous F-14 delivery of a GBU-10/16/24, and the first use of Night Vision Devices (NVD) in combat. The combat proven Swordsmen completed this historic deployment and returned to NAS Oceana in May 1999.
The Swordsmen deployed again in November 2000, for the maiden voyage of USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75). This time they spent four months in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH as the only deployed Tomcat squadron in the world. Swordsmen Maintenance also won the coveted CVW-3 Golden Wrench award for have a completion rate of over 99.7% in two back to back line periods. VF-32 returned home to Oceana on 23 May 2001.
In December of 2002, the Swordsmen deployed once again on board USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN-75) to the Mediterranean Sea in support of Operations NOBLE EAGLE, NORTHERN WATCH, and IRAQI FREEDOM. Participating in liberation efforts, the Swordsmen released over 402,000 pounds of ordnance on targets in Northern Iraq during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Once again, VF-32 set a Tomcat benchmark being the first fighter squadron to release multiple JDAM. Having contributed significantly to the liberation of Iraq, the battle hardened Swordsmen returned to Oceana in May of 2003.
During their 2004-2005 deployment,VF-32 spent four months in the Northern Arabian Gulf in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. On their last Tomcat cruise, they flew over 413 combat missions and dropped 21 tons of ordnance ensuring the first successful Democratic election in Iraq. The Swordsmen returned to home port on April 18, 2005 transitioning to the FA-18F Super Hornet and re-designated VFA-32.
From November 2007 to December 2010 VFA-32 left Oceana and embarked on the USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN-75) for two deployments in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF), Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF), Operation NEW DAWN (OND) and Coalition Maritime Security Operations (MSO), providing continuous CAS and tactical reconnaissance for Coalition ground forces throughout Afghanistan and Iraq. The Swordsmen maintenance professionals worked over 21,000 man-hours on 12 FA-18F aircraft that resulted in an impressive 98.57% sortie completion rate.
VFA-32 achieved the Safety "S" for the outstanding performance and mishap free operation during the work up cycle and deployment in 2009- 2010. VFA-32 holds an impressive record of aviation safety, flying 7,193 extremely high tempo mishap-free hours. The Swordsmen earned the 2010 and 2012 Secretary of the Navy Safety Excellence Award.
Since their inception, the Swordsmen have carried the fight to the enemy in eight consecutive decades. In every instance, they have responded with pride, professionalism and deadly accuracy. The Swordsmen have a proud tradition of service with honor, an unrivaled spirit, and unmatched dedication. The Swordsmen will continue to meet all challenges head-on. Committed to excellence, we are proud to go where duty calls.