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# 1463 AV-8B Harrier II Plus, VMA-223

£10.00

Tail Number

166287 '10'

Unit

VMA-223
Size: 43.8 cm x 29.2 cm
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Purchased products will not feature the Squadron Prints watermark. Squadron Prints Lithograph No. 1463 - 166287 '10', Marine Attack Squadron 223, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.

Marine Fighting Squadron 223 (VMF-223, nicknamed the Rainbows, and later VMA-223, the Bulldogs) was first commissioned on 1 May 1942 at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Ewa, Oahu, Hawaii flying the Brewster F2A Buffalo. The squadron left Hawaii for combat during World War II equipped with the Grumman F4F Wildcat, fighting over legendary battlefields such as Bougainville, the Philippines, and Okinawa. VMF-223 became the first fighter squadron committed to combat in the skies over Guadalcanal. VMF-223 arrived at Henderson field at 1700. Just hours later in the morning of the 21st of August, the pilots of VMF-223 in their Wildcats caught the enemy reinforcing at their beachhead and unleashed a fury of strafing runs, greatly debilitating the enemy’s efforts. These were the first shots fired in anger by VMF-223. Only 19 hours after arriving to the battlefield, the Rainbow squadron got its first taste of aerial combat. The Squadron Commanding Officer, Captain John L. Smith, became the first to down an enemy Zero. The victory came at a cost of one F4F bagged by the enemy, which was still able to crash land at Henderson Field. Two months of grueling air-to-air and air-to-surface combat in miserable conditions concluded with 83 enemy aircraft destroyed by VMF-223. This feat was considerably impressive due to the objectively better performance of the Japanese Zero fighters over the Wildcat. Overall, VMF-223 lost 11 aircraft and eight pilots in the skies over Guadalcanal. On 27 May 1943, the VMF-223 officially changed its moniker to the Bulldogs. Shortly thereafter, the Bulldogs received their new aircraft, the F4U-1 Corsairs. The squadron continued to train on their new aircraft in preparations for redeployment, which came in early 1944. VMF-223 arrived in Bougainville on 25 January. Combat operations began immediately with numerous harassing attacks on enemy logistics trains, thereby crippling the Japanese ability to resupply their forces. Bougainville would be characterized by intense enemy shelling of the Bulldogs' home airstrip, which would eventually destroy the Squadron’s ready room, one Wildcat, and two Corsairs. The Bulldogs eventually had to relocate to Green Island on 13 March 1944 in order to escape the enemy artillery barrage. The Bulldogs returned to Bougainville on 1 August. The Squadron carried out incessant and successful attacks against enemy installations and personnel until combat operations on the island were secured in December 1944. The Bulldogs made their appearance in the Philippines in early January 1945, operating out of Guiuan Strip in Samar. Though the pilots of VMF-223 had difficulty finding viable targets — the enemy having collocated many of their installations with the civilian population — they were still able to attack lines of communication as well as enemy airfields. In April 1945, the Bulldogs supported Operation VICTOR, which eventually succeeded in dislodging the well-fortified enemy from the Philippines. The Bulldogs continued their combat operations over Okinawa in June 1945. The Squadron achieved numerous air-to-air successes, eventually finding that enemy aircraft would rather turn and leave rather than fight the airborne Marines. Two months later, the war would be over. The Bulldogs were credited with 144 1/2 downed enemy aircraft throughout their service in the Pacific Theater. On 1 September 1950, VMF-223 joined MAG-14 aboard MCAS Cherry Point and became primarily a training squadron. The Squadron trained countless pilots in the F9F-4 Panther for combat operations on the Korean Peninsula. However, the Bulldogs themselves would not be deployed for combat operations for some time. The next opportunity to see combat came in December 1965, when the Bulldogs began operating out of Chu Lai, Vietnam in support of Operation HARVEST MOON. Every Bulldog pilot flew in combat by the time the Operation concluded. Through monsoon rains and mortar attacks, the Bulldogs continued to support Marines on the ground in Operations MALLARD, DOUBLE EAGLE, and UTAH until February 1970. VMA-223 had experienced both great successes in the devastation they brought upon the enemy and terrible tragedies in the aircraft, aviators, and Marines lost in Vietnam. After 5 1/2 years of nearly constant combat operations, the Bulldogs had gained some well-deserved rest. It was in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001 that the Bulldogs would once again return to the battlefield. VMA-223 found itself on the offensive in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, and later for Operations SOUTHERN WATCH and SOUTHERN FORCE aboard the USS Kearsarge with the storied “Harrier Carrier.” Over the next few years, the Bulldogs found themselves operating from a diverse set of environments: sometimes from the decks of an LHD, other times from the austere settings of small Forward Operating Bases, and still other times from a large Joint Force Airbase. From these various locations the Bulldogs directly supported the Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen on the ground via Close Air Support, Aerial Interdiction, Convoy Escort, and Reconnaissance. The Bulldogs had the honor of providing air cover for two pivotal moments in Iraqi history — the Iraqi Constitutional Referendum vote in October 2005 and the National Parliamentary elections held in December 2005. VMA-223 would never be far from the action in the early 21st century, whether it was operating in the skies over Afghani mountains or over the cities of Iraq. In 2011, VMA-223 supported Operation ENDURING FREEDOM out of Kandahar, Afghanistan. The Bulldogs deployed in late October 2011 to support Marines in Regimental Command (Southwest). The squadron received 15 indirect fire attacks in the first month of deployment alone. The Bulldogs did not waver, following up with 711 flight hours in direct support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in the very next month. Over a six month period, the 10 jet squadron (minus) flew 3,366 hours and 848 sorties with 11.3 tons of ordnance expended, performing countless sorties supporting the Marines on the ground in oftentimes challenging conditions. The squadron returned home in April 2012. The fight in the Middle East only increased in intensity and in October 2015 VMA-223 was tasked with direct support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. It was on this deployment that the Bulldogs became the first Harrier squadron to carry and employ six Joint Direct Attack Munitions from one aircraft. Moreover, the Bulldogs became the first tactical jet squadron to employ Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System in combat, using the laser-guided 2.75" rockets to destroy targets on the ground while minimizing collateral damage. This new improvement in weapons technology was undoubtedly integral to the release of 208.1 tons of ordnance across 668 sorties. The squadron returned to MCAS Cherry Point in March 2016.