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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Post World War Two into the 1950’s
1960’s to the 1980’s and beyond
Given the museum is located at the former US Navy Top Gun school they could not get away without displaying a couple of former Adversary aircraft that were used to simulate enemy aircraft in training missions. In this case a Northrop F-5E Tiger II in the markings of Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401) “Snipers” and a McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 (VMFAT-101) “Sharpshooters”. I love the Soviet style colour schemes these aircraft were painted in. Just a little different from the usual low visibility drab grey!
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!