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VMF-513, VMF(N)-513, VMFA-513, VMA-513
"Flying Nightmares" Unit History

The Flying Nightmares!


VMFA-513 In the beginning . . .

Marine Attack Squadron 513 was first commissioned as VMF-513 on 15 February 1944 at Marine Corps Auxiliary Field Oak Grove, North Carolina, flying the Grumman F6F "Hellcat." The squadron was transferred to Marine Corps Auxiliary Field Walnut Range, Arkansas, in September 1944. In December of the same year, the squadron moved to Mojave, California, where it was redesignated VMF(CVS)-513. On 15 June 1945, VMF(CVS)-513 departed San Diego, California, aboard the USS VELLA GULF and participated in carrier operations in the Pacific, making stops in Ewa, Enewetak, Saipan, and Guam. In addition, they provided close air support for the 3d Marine Division during the battle for Okinawa, Japan.

Night Fighter On deck

VMF(N)-513 Night Fighter On deck in Korea

Between WW-II and the Korean Conflict, VMF-513 operated from MCAS El Toro, California. Transitioning to the F4U-5N, the squadron was redesignated VMF(N)-513 (Night Fighters). In August 1950, the squadron deployed to Japan under operational control of the U.S. 5th Air Force.

Commanding Officer's Note:

The squadron nickname "Flying Nightmares" was coined by the VMF(N)-513 Commanding Officer, LtCol James R. Anderson, USMC, in March 1951. At this time the squadron, with its 15 F7F "Tigercats" and 15 F4U-5N "Corsairs," were flying out of Pusan West and providing the sole night fighter air defense and interdiction support to all UN forces engaged with the numerically superior CHICOM enemy. In this month alone, the squadron flew 2,086 hours in 604 night combat sorties, inflicting severe damage on the CHICOM'S tactical and logistical units. Colonel Anderson thought that "Flying Nightmares" most appropriately described his outfit --certainly from the CHICOM's perspective-- and it quickly became a legend in both Korea and in the annals of Marine Corps Aviation. The oil painting below is on display at the MCAS Yuma Officer's Club.

Night Radar Kill of MiG
The first night radar Kill

During the summer of 1952, VMF(N)-513 received the F-3D "Skynight," the squadron's first jet aircraft. With the new jet fighter, VMF(N)-513 made aviation history with the first radar kill on an enemy jet aircraft at night and was credited with 10 confirmed night kills during the Korean Conflict.


Donated by Jerry Marcheso AIO/NFO VMF(N) & VMFA 513



The strip alert planes of Marine All Weather Fighter Squadron 513 were frequently launched in rotten weather to help someone aloft who had become lost or disoriented. We took our "all weather" designation very, very, seriously. At our daily 1600 briefing we sang various ribald chanteys and recited bits of poetic doggerell. We also were not above a little horseplay from time to time.

Once, when our Army meteorologist issued a forecast calling for ceiling and visibility to be unlimited (and we all ended up desperately low on fuel seeking alternate runways as home plate --K-6-- went below minimums), we held an award ceremony and dressed him in sackcloth and ashes. He was then awarded a hand-made medal (a "C" ration can lid and skivvie cloth) named the "Royal Order of the Adiobatic Lapse Rate--with the distinguished Dingleberry Cluster."

Bob Lorch has rescued this poem from that era for our edification:

Twas a dark and stormy night
Not a Fury was in sight
The Banshees were tied down the line
When a PILOT with no fear
And his RO full of cheer
Were told to quickly launch Ol' No. 9

Seems a Groupie--he was lost
And he did not know the cost
Of flying in the weather when it's bad.
He had vertigo of course
And he didn't know the source:
His partial panel flying was so sad.

Oh, he panicked on the guard
Squawking "Mayday" mighty hard
When Atsugi radar heard his frantic plea
Radar told him not to sweat
They would get him down, you bet
So they launched Ol' No. 9: an F3D.

Well, they climbed up through the stuff
And they didn't find it rough
'Cause on instruments they knew they had the word.
Oh the gear was turned up strong
And it wasn't very long
'Til an intercept was made on that lost bird.

Yup, they found him in a cloud
And they were so mighty proud
That swept winged wonder is so very fast.
But your speed is no great help
When the pilot starts to yelp
So it's sure the Big Blue Whale will last.

Instrument flying's here to stay
And we'll never see the day
When the F3D won't get us in the sky.
VFR is such a joy
But it takes more than a boy
To fly IFR --you plumbers-- Semper Fi!


Following the war, the squadron operated out of NAS Atsugi, Japan. On 26 July 1958, VMF-513 received the F-4D "Skyray" aircraft. In October of 1962 VMF(AW)-513 was relocated from NAS Atsugi Japan to MCAS El Toro, California. The outfit was effectively disbanded in Japan and reformed in El Toro under a new C.O., who organized new pilots and maintenance Marines to operate the now "old" F-4D Skyrays as the Flying Nightmares awaited delivery of the brand new F-4B Phantom II. This occurred in early 1963 and most of the the Nightmare pilots did their transition training at nearby NAS Miramar, at the Navy's replacement squadron.

Former Nightmare Bill Gordon's image of VMFA-513 F-4B carrying 
eighteen 500 lb. bombs; four 2.75 inch rocket pods and four Sparrow air-to-air missiles
Former Nightmare Captain Bill Gordon sent two images of VMFA-513 F-4B's carrying eighteen 500 lb. bombs; four 2.75 inch rocket pods and four Sparrow air-to-air missiles in the Fall of 1964

VMFA-513 F-4B carrying 
eighteen 500 lb. bombs; four 2.75 inch rocket pods and four Sparrow air-to-air missiles

On 1 August 1963, the squadron was redesignated VMFA-513 and by the end of the year, the Nightmares were exclusively flying F-4's, the third Phantom II squadron in the Marine Corps. They trained in the F-4B at El Toro through October 1964, when they deployed once again to NAS Atsugi, Japan. In June of 1965 the Nightmares replaced VMFA-531 in Da Nang, Viet Nam for five months of combat and, for a while, were the only Marine jet fighters in country. This one-year overseas deployment ended in October of 1965 and the squadron executed another wholesale personnel rotation; this time reforming at MCAS Cherry Point, N.C.

Former Nightmare Kevin Grennan's image of 513 F-4B loading ordnance in Da Nang
Former Nightmare Kevin Grennan's image of a VMFA-513 F-4B "Phantom II" loading ordnance in Da Nang, Vietnam


At MCAS Cherry Point, the squadron flew the F-4B "Phantom" until 30 June 1970, when it was recommissioned as cadre, awaiting delivery of the first Marine AV-8A "Harrier" on 16 April 1971 and redesignation as VMA-513. In 1971-72, VMA-513 participated in the Navy's Interim D Sea Control Ship evaluation and the DOD's Sortie Rate Validation Test. Upon reassignment to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, VMA-513 departed the U.S. during July 1974 aboard the USS TRIPOLI for MCAS Iwakuni, and a six-plane detachment left in September 1974 for a six month Mediterranean cruise aboard the USS GUAM. During November 1976, VMA-513 returned to the United States and was assigned to Marine Combat Crew Readiness Training Group 10 at MCAS Yuma, Arizona (redesignated Marine Aircraft Group 13 on 1 October, 1987). As the squadron departed for the U. S., it left behind a six aircraft detachment, initiating six month rotational detachments at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.

Author Photographed This VMA-513 AV-8A At NAS Kingsville TX In 1982
Nightmare AV-8A at NAS Kingsville Airshow, 1982

During the 1980's the Nightmares continued to deploy around the world; going to the Western Pacific, an Atlantic deployment with Spanish Navy Harriers aboard the USS Guam, numerous deployments to Nellis AFB, NV; Cold Lake and Alberta, Canada; NAS Fallon, NV; Twenty-nine Palms, CA; and sending detachments aboard the amphibious assaults ships USS Tripoli, Peleliu, and Tarawa. In October 1987, the squadron received the improved AV-8B Harrier II, which it employed in February 1991 in support of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit during Operation Desert Storm; logging 103 combat sorties with no losses. At this time, VMA-513 effectively conducted combat operations from austere sites in Southwest Asia. The Nightmares returned home with all of their assets and no loss of life or major injury. VMA-513 has long been known for its aviation firsts, which--in addition to those mentioned earlier--include the first kill of a supersonic drone with a sidewinder missile in 1964, the first USMC squadron to transition to the AV-8A "Harrier" in 1970, and the only squadron in the world to simultaneously employ all three variants of the AV-8B in 2001.

All three variants of the AV-8B Harrier
Summer-Fall 2001: VMA-513 simultaneously employs all three variants of the AV-8B. This image taken by the VMFA(AW)-225 "Vikings" on 18 July

Now operating both the "Night Attack" and "Radar" variants of the Harrier from MCAS Yuma Arizona, the Nightmares continue to exercise and develop "Fixed Wing" STOVL concepts in support of Marine Expeditionary Forces with detachments of six aircraft aboard LHA and LHD forward-deployed aircraft carriers. In March of 2002, the Flying Nightmares passed 45,000 mishap-free flight hours, the best safety record in the history of V/STOL aviation. The Nightmares carry their proud tradition of aggressive tactical air support into the 21st century, attacking in concert with Marines on land and sea; anytime, anywhere. Semper Fidelis!

The AV-8A over Japan

Plaque in the Nightmare Room
Plaques in the "Nightmare Room" at MCAS Yuma, AZ

Plaque in the Nightmare Room

Plaque in the Nightmare Room

MCAS Iwakuni, Japan
Nightmare AV-8A's On the ramp at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan

We Come At Night
Naval Aviator Wings