Semper Fi – Flying Leathernecks Marine Corps Aviation Museum

I recently wrote on one of my other blogs about the US Marine Corps war memorial in Arlington, Virginia which pays tribute to all Marines, but specifically depicts the more traditional image of the grunts on the ground. In this case it depicts the Marines taking Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima in World War Two.

Marine Corps War Memorial Arlington
Marine Corps War Memorial

While out in California this past summer I went to the Flying Leathernecks Aviation Museum which is dedicated to Marine aviators and the aircraft they flew to support the Marines on the ground and at sea. The museum is located at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (the former US Navy Top Gun school) just north of San Diego, California and it contains a fantastic collection of aircraft, weaponry and artifacts. “Leatherneck” is a nickname for a Marine.

USMC McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawk Flying Leathernecks Aviation Museum California
USMC McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawk at Flying Leathernecks
A-4M Skyhawk Flying Leathernecks MCAS Miramar
This particular Skyhawk is painted up with the national flags of all the current and former operators of the Skyhawk including my homeland Australia
First Lieutenant Alfred A. Cunningham, United States Marine Corp — designated Naval Aviator No. 5 and the first Marine pilot
First Lieutenant Alfred A. Cunningham, United States Marine Corps — designated Naval Aviator No. 5 and the first Marine aviator

Marine Corps aviation first began on May 22nd, 1912 when the first Marine pilot to be, reported for training duty in Annapolis, Maryland (First Lieutenant Alfred Cunningham graduated in August 1912). In 1914 the first Marine section of the US Navy flying school was established in Puerto Rico and by 1915 a Marine Corps aviation company was created with a strength of just 50 men (10 officers and 40 enlisted men).

By February 1917 the first Marine Corps aviation company was ready for combat duty and Marine aviators saw service in a number of roles when the USA joined the fight in World War One that same year. By 1918 and the war’s end, the Marine Corps aviators had proved their mettle and permanent air bases were established by 1919 and the rest is history! Where ever the Marines go their aviators will be their to move them and protect them from above.

The first Marine Corps aircraft - a Curtiss C-3
The first Marine Corps aircraft – a Curtiss C-3

Today the Marines fly a variety of fixed wing and rotary aircraft from combat jets and helicopters to transports and support aircraft. These operate from land bases and at sea. Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F/A-18 Hornets / Super Hornets along with McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II’s provide the sharp edge supported by Bell AH-1 Super Cobra / Viper helicopter gunships.

pilot training pipeline US Marine Corps aviation
The path of a Marine Corps aviator

Throughout their history the Marines have flown some of the greatest aircraft to grace the skies and you can see many of them in the aviation museum at MCAS Miramar. The restored aircraft dating from World War Two onwards along with some captured Iraqi equipment are displayed outdoors but with the good relatively dry weather out west they are well-preserved and you can easily wander around them to get a great view of each one.

World War Two

Grumman FM-2 Wildcat
Grumman FM-2 Wildcat
US Marines North American SNJ Texan
North American SNJ Texan
Vought F4U Corsair Flying Leathernecks
Vought F4U Corsair

Post World War Two into the 1950’s

Douglas F3D Skyknight night fighter Flying Leathernecks Aviation Museum
Douglas F3D Skyknight night fighter
US Marine Grumman F9F-8P Cougar MCAS Miramar
Grumman F9F-8P Cougar – a very unique looking recon aircraft
McDonnell F2H Banshee USMC MCAS Miramar Leatherneck Museum
McDonnell F2H Banshee
North American FJ-3 Fury US Marines
North American FJ-3 Fury
Douglas F4D Skyray
Douglas F4D Skyray
Douglas F4D Skyray with its ray like wings
Douglas F4D Skyray with its ray like wings
USMC Sikorsky HUS UH-34 Sea Horse
Sikorsky HUS UH-34 Sea Horse (operated well into the 1960s and the Vietnam War)

1960’s to the 1980’s and beyond

A-4 Skyhawk US Marines MCAS Miramar
There are plenty of Skyhawks on display
McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk
McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk
USMC Vought F-8E Crusader Flying Leathernecks Air Museum California
Vought F-8E Crusader “last of the gun fighters”
USMC Vought RF-8G Crusader MCAS Miramar
Vought RF-8G Crusader
USMC McDonnell Douglas F-4S Phantom II
McDonnell Douglas F-4S Phantom II
USMC McDonnell Douglas RF-4B Phantom II
McDonnell Douglas RF-4B Phantom II
USMC Grumman A-6 Intruder Flying Leatherneck USMC Aviation Museum
Grumman A-6 Intruder
Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight - this particular one "Lady Ace 09" was one of the last to evacuate Marines from the US Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam in 1975
Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight – this particular one “Lady Ace 09” was one of the last to evacuate Marines from the US Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam in 1975
USMC Rockwell OV-10D Bronco
Rockwell OV-10D Bronco
US Marine Bell AH-1J Cobra & Sikorsky CH-53A Sea Stallion Flying Leatherneck Museum MCAS Miramar California USA
Bell AH-1J Cobra & Sikorsky CH-53A Sea Stallion
US Marines McDonnell Douglas AV-8A Harrier V/STOL attack
McDonnell Douglas AV-8A Harrier V/STOL attack
US Marines Bell UH-1N
Bell UH-1N
Iraqi Bell 214ST captured by the US Marines in 1991
Iraqi Bell 214ST captured by the Marines in 1991 (value $2.5M)
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum MCAS Miramar US Marines
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet

Given the museum is located at the former US Navy Top Gun school they could get away without displaying a couple of former “Aggressors” that were used to simulate enemy aircraft in training missions. In this case a Northrop F-5 and an F/A-18 Hornet. I love the Soviet style colour schemes these aircraft were painted in. Just a little different from the usual low visibility drab grey!

Northrop F-5 Tiger II "aggressor" USMC
Northrop F-5 Tiger II “Aggressor”
USMC Northrop F-5 Tiger II "Aggressor" MCAS Miramar
Northrop F-5 Tiger II “Aggressor”
USMC McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet "Aggressor" Flying Leathernecks
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet “Aggressor”

I can thoroughly recommend a visit to the Flying Leathernecks Aviation Museum. If you time your visit right, you might also get the chance to see some active aircraft taking off from MCAS Miramar which is always cool too!

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3 thoughts on “Semper Fi – Flying Leathernecks Marine Corps Aviation Museum

  1. Deano — nice brief and a wonderful photo essay. “Leatherneck” comes from an old uniform in the 18th Century with a leather enhanced stand-up collar for sabre slash protection. I especially like the recce F9F in these photos — the extended snout with its camera bays are indeed distinctive, I agree,

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    1. Thanks for that and also for the background info on “Leatherneck” – very interesting! Yes that F9F looks pretty cool. There were a few more aircraft there too that I didn’t post.

      Like

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