VF-84 Jolly Rogers

Most aviation enthusiasts think of VF-84 as the Jolly Rogers (see patch below), but the squadron designation and the name have not always been synonymous. It's the biggest example of the US Navy's confusion on the history of its squadrons.

The First Jolly Rogers:

It started with VF-17, the first Jolly Rogers, in January 1943. They flew the F4U Corsair as shown in the Navy photo below. Note the skull and crossbones on the nose.

VF-17 was broken up and reformed again in April 1944, this time flying the F6F Hellcat. The combined war record of both the original and reformed VF-17 squadrons made it the highest scoring Navy squadron of WWII with 23 aces and 313 victories.

In 1946, the squadron was redesignated VF-5B, and in 1948 it became VF-61. By April 1959, the squadron was disestablished.

The First Fighter Squadron 84:

In May 1944, VF-84 was formed as the Wolf Gang. Like VF-17, it also flew the F4U Corsair. Because of a kamikaze attack on its carrier, the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), the squadron came to an abrupt end on May 11, 1945.

Though it was reformed as an F6F Hellcat squadron, the war ended before it was assigned to carrier duty. The squadron was disestablished in October 1945 but posted a war record of 92 victories with 9 combat aces.

The Second VF-84

The Korean War saw the formation of Reserve Fighter Squadron VF-921, the Sidewinders, in 1951. In February 1953, they were redesignated VF-84. July 1955 saw the squadron redesignated once again to VA-86.

The Second Jolly Rogers

When VF-84 became VA-86 in July 1955, an entirely new Fighter Squadron 84 squadron was born at NAS Oceana flying the FJ-3 Fury. It was originally known as the Vagabonds.

Photo above shows an FJ-3 Fury (139234) of the Vagabonds on the USS Forrestal (CVA-59), circa October 1957.

When the original Jolly Rogers was disestablished as VF-61 in April 1959, its wing commander became commander of the new Fighter Squadron 84 at Oceana. He requested that the new squadron take on the Jolly Rogers name. His request was approved in April 1960.

The new Jolly Rogers first aircraft was the F-8C Crusader, which they flew from 1959 to 1964. Next up was my favorite, F-4 Phantom II (1964-1976).

Photo above shows two McDonnell F-4B Phantom IIs (151491, left aircraft, and 151472) from the 'new' Jolly Rogers. Note the skull and crossbones on the tail.

Their last aircraft, and the one most thought of as the Jolly Rogers, was the popular F-14 Tomcat. Photo above of an F-14A Tomcat (160380) was taken by Horace Sagnor in June 1977 at Hamilton, ON, Canada.

They flew the Tomcat until 1995 when the squadron was disestablished. Photo below shows their retirement patch.

The Final Jolly Rogers (so far)

When the 84th was deactivated in 1995, the VF-103 Sluggers changed their name and insignia to that of the Jolly Rogers. They currently fly the F/A-18F Super Hornet out of NAS Oceana (see photo below of 166620).

Along the Way:

If you should happen to be in the Allentown, PA, area and want to see a Tomcat in Jolly Rogers markings, you're in luck. VFW Post 7293 in Whitehall has an F-14A Tomcat (158617) beautifully restored and maintained in those markings.

The aircraft came to the VFW post from the Top Gun school at NAS Fallon, Nevada.

Photos below by Horace Sagnor.

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