My most recent album purchase comes in the form of a grouping of photos from a member of the ground crew of the VMF-542 Night Fighter Squadron. Comprised of USMC (Marine) pilots flying the F6F Hellcat, the 542nd flew missions in the PTO during WWII. The album is a great little glimpse into the mysterious world of the night fighter squadron during WWII.
Marine Attack Squadron 542 was initially commissioned as Marine Night Fighter Squadron 542 (VMF(N)-542) on March 6, 1944, at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. Upon commissioning, the squadron was assigned the F6F Hellcat. They were relocated to San Diego, California in mid-summer, 1944 in preparation for a move to the combat zone. Late in October, the squadron arrived at Ulithi, in the Caroline Islands and immediately began flying combat air patrols.
Later in 1944, VMF(N)-542 deployed to the Pacific theater. By early April 1945, most of the squadron had deployed to take part in the Battle of Okinawa. Night operations against the enemy began on April 15 with missions being flown from Yontan Airfield, Okinawa. Second Lieutenant Arcenaux was the first squadron pilot to down an enemy warplane with a night fighter on April 16, 1945. While stationed at Yontan, the Tigers were credited with destroying eighteen Japanese airplanes and carrying out rocket attacks on the Ryukyu Islands chain of Amami, Amami Ōshima, Tokunoshima, Kikai Shima, Miyako Jima, and Amami Gunto. For these actions the Tigers were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. Between April and August 1945, Major Robert B. Porter and Captain Wallace E. Sigler became the first night fighter aces on Okinawa.
Following a short tour of occupation duty at Yokosuka, Japan, VMF(N)-542 was transferred to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California. Training during this period was oriented towards night and all-weather fighter tactics and resulted in the squadron being re-designated Marine Night All-Weather Fighter Squadron 542 (VMF(AW)-542) in 1948.