The Flying Chiefs

"The "Flying Chiefs" of Fighting Two were almost universally regarded as the "the hottest outfit afloat" for most of their existence."

The Second Fighting Two

In September 1925, President Coolidge had appointed a board known as the Morrow Board to study the needs and problems of aviation in general. One of the facts established by the board was that in the Navy, the supply of pilots constituted a heavy drain on the officer personnel. As a result, the Board recommended that a study be made of the desirability of increasing the use of enlisted men as pilots in naval aviation. Following this recommendation, Congress adopted a fixed ratio of 30 percent of the officer strength as the number of enlisted pilots. This percentage represented an increase in the existing number so employed. With a view of employing these additional pilots to the best advantage, the Navy Department decided to organize an enlisted man's squadron. On 4 January 1927, Fighter Squadron Two was assigned to the Command of Aircraft Squadrons, Battle Fleet. The squadron was organized on a basis of one officer section leader per section and two aviation pilots per section. Most of these e nlisted pilots (enlisted rate AP) were Chief Petty Officers. LCDR J. M. Shoemaker was the first commanding officer of the re-organized squadron. Six VE-7s were assigned and training was commenced on 5 January 1927. These planes were soon replaced by the Curtis F6C and then the FU-1 and Fighting Two was re-designated VF-6 on 1 July 1927.

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From July until September 1927, the squadron participated in the Fleet Air Concentration at San Diego, which was followed by the assignment to duty on board the battleships of the Battle Fleet. One plane was assigned to each battleship, and the remaining planes were based with the Aircraft Squadrons at North Island, San Diego. The battleship-based planes were the FU-1 type. The FU-1s operated from catapults as seaplanes in conjunction with the Observation Wing until June 1928 when they returned to San Diego for gunnery practice and tactical maneuvers. Each squadron had developed insignia by which it became known and remembered. There had been some re-numbering and an alpha symbol was added to the squadron number to indicate the fleet to which it belonged (B - Battle Fleet, S - Scouting Fleet, M - Marines). In San Diego there was no re-numbering except on 1 July 1927 when the "B" was added to the Battle Fleet squadrons. There were eight operational squadrons in the Aircraft Squadrons, Battle Fle et, on 1 January 1928. VF-2B was commanded by LCDR G. F. Chapline. Fighting Two by then was composed primarily of enlisted pilots. Its insignia was the CPO Chevron and a shield bearing the word "Adorimini." The story of the second Fighting Two is best told by LT G.F. Ocskay, who was once an APC with Fighting Two:


In 1929 the squadron was transferred aboard USS LANGLEY and made the annual cruise. We delivered nine Hawks to Pensacola and brought ten back to San Diego. We had only one spare in those days. After we arrived in San Diego, we turned in the other ten and received Fighting One's worn-out F2Bs. They were a wonderful stunt ship, but not as rugged as the Hawk. The squadron made the 1930 and 1931 cruise on the LANGLEY with these F2Bs and the only one we lost was Nap Harshnam's. He became lost from the squadron and landed off the coast of South America. He was picked up five days later by a tramp steamer. We left eighteen F2Bs on the field at Guantanamo and Fighting Two was transferred to the LEXINGTON which at about the same time received sailing orders to proceed at full speed for the scene of the earthquake at Nicaragua.


After returning to San Diego, we received Fighting Three's worn-out F3Bs, which were supposed to be good high altitude fighters. Those good F3Bs were the best gunnery ships and dive bombers we ever had. The squadron really knocked out the gunnery score that year. That is the year I was lucky enough to get 60 hits out of 60 rounds of ammunition and four-out-of-four in bomb hits with drops on a 45x90 foot target. Only the 45 foot square center counted as a full hit, and umpires flying around the target at 1,500 feet made sure you were out of the dive at that altitude.


The squadron should have been good because everyone in it was handpicked. Most of the pilots had 1,000 hours or more when they were transferred to Fighting Two. I only had about 700 or 800, so I was transferred to them with the understanding that if I did not work out, I would not remain with them. I served nine years in the squadron and in that period broke one wheel on the carrier and forgot to let my wheels down on another occasion.


The "Flying Chiefs" of Fighting Two were almost universally regarded as the "the hottest outfit afloat" for most of their existence. Composed largely of enlisted Naval Aviation Pilots (NAPs), Fighting Two boasted an extremely high order of skill and experience. VF-2B was transferred to the Scouting Fleet in 1932 and was re-designated VF-2S. In 1933, Fighting Two returned to the Battle Fleet and once again became VF-2B. The drill of switching the last letter in a squadron designation was stopped in 1937. Fighting Two finally became simply VF-2. At the time of Pearl Harbor, VF-2 flew F2A Brewster Buffalos and only acquired Grumman F4F Wildcats the following spring. The F2As, though relatively fast, proved unsuitable for sustained carrier operations owing to unacceptably weak landing gear. The squadron's first combat occurred during the two-day Battle of the Coral Sea, the world's first engagement between aircraft carriers. On 7 May 1942, the CO, LCDR Paul Ramsey, led the escort of LEXINGTON's strike against the Japanese light carrier SHOHO. "Ramsey's Lambsies" claimed six confirmed victories and three probables during the mission, including two by Ramsey himself and three by LTJG Paul Baker, a former NAP. The next day, the enemy carriers SHOKAKU and ZUIKAKU exchanged air strikes with the U.S. force. LT Noel Gayler's Division lost three planes and pilots on strike escort. In defending LEXINGTON and YORKTOWN, VF-2 lost another pair of fighters. While the squadron claimed 11 kills during the day, its carrier "Lady Lex" succumbed to torpedo damage. With their carrier gone, the "Flying Chiefs" of VF-2 were dis-established on 1 July 1942, but their legacy lived on. Several of Ramsey's pilots became aces in other squadrons, including future Commanding Officers Noel Gayler, Bill Eder, and Scoop Vorse.